Old World Wine Exploring the Legacy of Colonialism

Recently, I came across an article that rocked the wine world in Brazil.  Hundreds of workers being kept as slaves on the winery, entrapped in terrible conditions, not permitted to leave, until a few brave workers escaped and exposed the horror to the world. 

There is a well-known corporate training story about a happy little monkey who sees a bunch of bananas at the top of a ladder.  The monkey excited and a bit hungry immediately scrambles to the top of the ladder, gets hit with a blast from a water hose and comes crashing down. This happens time and time again until finally the little monkey gives up and learns that it should never take bananas from this ladder. 

This same monkey teaches its friends and family also to not take from the ladder.  Some monkeys learn the hard way getting a blast from the water hose, but eventually over time everyone just accepts that this is the way that it has always been, and no one ever tries to get the bananas. Words also have this affect. 

Where does the phrase “Old World Wine” really mean? Let’s break it down.  Old world wine primarily refers to wine that was made in Europe including Austria, France Georgia, Italy, Portugal and Spain. While “new world wine” refers primarily to countries including Australia, Canada, South America, South Africa and the United States.  Seems pretty harmless on the surface, right?

Long ago, the French, Spanish and Portuguese all established empires in the America’s.   They administered the areas directly, relied on forced labour of indigenous people and later enslaved Africans.  Profit was one of the primary motivators for taking over in the new worlds. The ‘new world’ simply put refers to lands conquered by others and built by slaves. 

Many of us have inherited the belief that “old world” wine is better. Is this also true for you? Why do you believe it? Is it because you think that wine began in these countries or because of its old wine making techniques? Mostly, you would be wrong.  While Georgia is considered to be the ‘cradle of wine’ (c. 6000BC), Iran (c. 5000BC), Greece (c. 4500BC), and China (c. 7000 BC) hold the current claim to fame for earliest known wine production in the world, and are rarely, if ever mentioned.  This gives us the opportunity to have a conversation where we challenge our previous beliefs and make changes for the benefit of others.

What you are actually referring to when using the term ‘new world wine’ is to the colonization of lands in a not so happy fashion and indentured servitude.  Not so great, right?  I leave it to you to think about whether it is better referred to as ‘wine from Europe or Canada, etc., or the old world wine’.

~Trina Plamondon is a BIPOC wine consultant, wine agent and the founder of Carpa Vino, a local wine company specializing in wine writing, events & consulting. In her blog she helps her readers discover the magic in wine in a way that is easy to understand and appreciate.

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I look forward to never knowing what compelling strangers I will meet, what I will learn & what tales they will tell. Trina Plamondon