A champagne toast to America

Byline: | Category: Culture, Government, Regulations, wine | Posted at: Monday, 9 January 2012

I strongly recommend John Tamny’s oped on Forbes.  Here’s the money quote about Americans:

“We’re an ideal, not an ethnicity. Thank goodness.”

I’ve long argued that same point to any who would listen.  I’ve lived about a third of my adult life in three foreign countries on two different continents and traveled to many more.  What I’ve come to realize is that there are very few places on this globe where you can become a nationality because you want to.  I could move to Japan, learn the language and promise to forevermore use only chopsticks.  Doesn’t matter.  I can never become Japanese.  But someone from Nagasaki can move to Nashville and be just as American as any redneck you’ll ever find on Second Avenue.

All we ask is that to become American that you first recognize that it is freedom that makes us great.  But also recognize that freedom is a two-way street.  It means that as others extend the freedom to you to be you, that you give them the same courtesy in response.  In little things, it means that if you want to wash your car on a Sunday, in America you can.  And if you’d rather spend that day at rest, you can do that too.

In bigger things, as Tamny points out, it means that you mustn’t be a slave to tradition.  I’m a student of wine, so let me use an oenological example.  For a wine to be a champagne, it must be made: in Champagne-a region in France, made from only a few select grape varietals, and made according to the méthode champenoise.  Given that Champagne is so far north and grapes grown there are often under-ripe, it was usually the case that the only way wines from there could be made palatable was by the addition of a little sugar.  It was that late addition of sugar to the bottle that gave rise to the bubbles.  Now, if you’re a believer in global warming, you might believe that this would be a good thing for the vintners of Champagne, as it would allow their grapes additional time to ripen and therefore create another avenue to sell their wines.  But you would be wrong.  For a wine to be labeled “champagne,” remember, it must be made in the méthode champenoise–the traditional way of making a sparkling wine in Champagne.  So the Champage producer who would like to make a still wine from his grapes would be out of luck.  Why?  Because he bucked tradition, and tradition dictates (not to mention law and international treaty) that for a wine to carry the word “Champagne” anywhere on the label (remember, Champagne is a region, not a synomym for sparkling wine) it must be a sparkling wine.

Okay, so you don’t care for wine, and you especially don’t care for pretentious French wines.  Fine.  But Tamny’s point applies to industries far and wide.  When tradition dictates what is within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do, someone else will find a better way around your stupid tradition, and when they do, they will take away all your customers too.  That’s the American way.  Or–Tamny’s point–it used to be the American way. 

“. . . Entrepreneurs by definition disrupt the existing and accepted commercial order, and considering how many on the planet tend to cling to what already exists and is comfortable, many around us would naturally deem us a bit scruffy for always rocking the economic boat.”

And, while we’re on the subject of wine . . . it is the American way that has made it the case that since 1976, knowledgeable wine afficianadoes have recognized that the greatest red Bordeaus and the finest white Burgundies in the world come not from France, but from California–where until recently experimentation and entrepreuership were encouraged in not just the wine industry.

Read the whole thing.  And may we Americans continue to make some of the world’s greatest wines.

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