Hudson-ChathamMentioned in New York Times article by Eric Asimov
Buying Local Wines: Does the Idea Travel Well?
By ERIC ASIMOV
Published: May 14, 2012
ONE of the pleasures of working in wine retailing is pointing customers toward new and exciting wines, and especially to bottles that mean something to you. The sense of discovery and the sharing of a pleasant experience help to bolster a notion of community that can be fragile in a mobile society.
But Jeffrey Wooddy, the general manager of Rochambeau Wines in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., a Westchester County suburb, feels a little frustrated that his customers are not always receptive to his advice.
“People can’t wait to rush off to the farmers’ market for local produce,” he said. “But when they come in here and ask what I have, and I say, ‘A beautiful white wine from Long Island,’ they say, ‘What else do you have?’ ”
Food authorities have argued convincingly that the public benefits politically, environmentally, ethically and culinarily from eating local ingredients and supporting local agriculture. But where does that leave wine, a peculiar example that is surely both a food and an agricultural product but does not fit neatly into any category?
First of all, wine is not a fresh ingredient. With the rare exception, it is not fragile. Tender greens and delicate berries will deteriorate if transported or treated to improve their shelf life. But wine is more like cheese. Both are born as ephemeral ingredients: milk and grapes. Then, through human ingenuity, they are transformed into something more stable as well as more interesting, complex and transportable. As an old epicurean once put it, “Both cheese and wine represent man’s effort to transmute the perishable into the durable.”
Throughout history most wine was consumed locally. But even in ancient times wine was a commodity, transported great distances to trade for other goods. The United States did not forgo good wine in the days before its own wine industry developed.
Wine may be portable, but its production is not. Though wine is now made in all 50 states, the quality and characteristics of a wine depend on where it is produced. So while you will have access to a fine Colorado wine if you live in Denver, if you want Chianti it must come from Chianti. The same goes for any other great wine that reflects its origins.
If local wines are not necessarily superior ingredients, other reasons remain to favor them. Certainly, the planet would benefit environmentally if fewer hydrocarbons were burned shipping wine.
But why single wine out? The carbon footprint of shipping wine can certainly be improved (by eliminating heavy status bottles, for one), but environmental fears are not a sufficient moral imperative to stop buying a diversity of wines. It’s an impossible notion for most people anyway. If New York City were to drink nothing but Long Island wine, it might consume the region’s annual production in a week.
Perhaps a better reason for drinking local wines is to help foster a sense of community. When Max Dannis and Linda Gatter opened their restaurant Local 111 almost six years ago in Philmont, N.Y., a former manufacturing town in the Hudson Valley about 40 miles south of Albany, they envisioned a smartly designed gathering place for the town’s eclectic mix of longtime residents and city transplants. They would feature local ingredients and support the local farms. The only ingredient they omitted was local wine.
“We had customers who wanted local wines, so a couple of years ago we made an effort to add them,” Mr. Dannis said. A dozen New York wines are now highlighted on the concise list of 35 bottles, which also includes wines from France, Italy, Spain, California, Australia and Chile.
Mr. Dannis noted that the Hudson-Chatham Winery was a mere five miles away in Ghent. “In terms of our mission, to not have a good restaurant where people can go and drink their wines is a crime,” he said.
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