Politics and Wine

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

While winemaking and terroir affect how wines taste in the glass, politics determines how and which wines make it to consumers. The relations that wine producers have with the state and with each other vary across winemaking and wine-consuming countries. This variation affects the quality, price, export profile, and availability of wine to consumers.

In France, where grapevines predated Roman times, wine and the state have had as cosy a relationship as the vines and the terroir. Indeed, the Church and aristocrats, key political allies of the monarchy, held many vineyards in feudal times and it was Emperor Napoleon III who commissioned the famous 1855 classification of the wines of Bordeaux. Crisis struck in the late 19th century as the phylloxera louse devastated large swathes of vineyards, threatening the voluminous tax receipts from wine and the livelihood of a large number of citizens engaged in its production. The state came to the aid of the growers by organizing a major campaign to pool scientific knowledge and treatments and, eventually, tamed the pest.