Diners at the Borderless Wine Festival last month in Washington.
D.C. MUST CREDIT: Handout photo by Maya Oren
Diners at the Borderless Wine Festival last month in Washington. D.C. MUST CREDIT: Handout photo by Maya Oren

How do you choose a wine?

By The Washington Post Time of article published May 17, 2019

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Whether it tastes good and how much it costs, are the basic criteria of any wine purchase. 

Beyond that, how do you whittle down the choices to decide which wine to pluck from the shelf and place in your basket?

How about a wine made by a refugee dreaming of restoring his country's wine traditions? You might help promote Middle East peace, or ease poverty in one of the world's poorest countries.

More likely, you filter by where the wine is from. That could be wine preference, political preference or a reflection of what's for dinner tonight. 

Do you favour heavy bottles, believing the wine inside must be high quality? A lot of people do, judging by the number of wineries using heavy glass. Perhaps a pretty label, a map or even some fanciful artwork will catch your eye. 
Some wines even use virtual reality to draw you in to an interactive experience, in which you download an app and point your phone at the label, which then comes to life. 

There is a saying in the wine industry: The label sells the first bottle, the wine sells the second. Quality means nothing if people won't buy it, but marketing is ultimately superfluous if the wine is no good, and marketing today is increasingly about the story behind the wine.

And it's not just wine. We may pay a little more for organic produce at the supermarket, believing it's better for the environment, or at a farmers market to support a local farmer. They are statements about how we want to live our lives and the kind of world we want to leave to our children.

So why not buy a wine made by Abdullah Richi, a Syrian refugee who trucks indigenous Syrian grapes grown in conflict-ridden areas of his homeland across the border to his Dar Richi winery in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, and dreams of someday reviving Syria's wine traditions? 

Or Cremisan wines, made in an ancient monastery near Jerusalem with grapes trucked across security checkpoints from vineyards in Palestinian territory? 

Or a Bolivian tannat, grown in some of the highest vineyards of the world, whose profits will help lift some of South America's poorest farmers out of poverty? 

You won't find those wines in the traditional lists of the world's top vino.

Those pointed questions are posed by Peter Weltman, a journalist turned evangelist wine importer, with his company called Borderless Wine. 

Weltman preaches a gospel of sorts, in which wine belongs to everyone and is not confined by national borders or political disputes.  Wine has been telling the world's story at least since the invention of the bottle, Weltman argues.

"The wine bottle was invented to travel, so it is one of the best ambassadors for the place where the wine originates," Weltman says

Younger customers are more interested in the narrative behind the wine than its rating from critics. Generation Z wants to know where a wine came from, what its story is.
If you have a chance to buy a wine made in Syria using indigenous Syrian grapes made by actual Syrians, you make a connection with Syria and its people that goes beyond war and the images on the news.

And that connection may take us beyond the simple calculation of price and taste that initiates our purchasing decisions. A story can be delicious, after all, and it can liberate us as wine drinkers and help those who make the wine.

Wines break down the normative barriers that tell us what is good and what we should drink, s o choose a wine with a story and a cause and take a stand while you pull a cork.

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