Devil's Advocate - wine has to taste of where it was produced. Doesn't it?

Robert Joseph wonders why a beverage made from grapes is casually treated so differently to one made from coffee beans or tea leaves.

Reading time: 1m 50s

Robert Joseph - the Devil's Advocate - with coffee
Robert Joseph - the Devil's Advocate - with coffee

It’s always the coffee. Or the tea.

It gets me every time I hear yet another speaker being applauded for saying that ‘wine has to taste of the place where it is made’ by a wine industry audience that is about to troop into the foyer where it will line up for a cup of… what?

A hot liquid from parts unknown.

I cannot be the only person to be struck by the disconnect (to use an ugly recent term) between the way we see wine and the way we look at other beverages with noble histories and agricultural backgrounds.

Of all the countless events I’ve attended, the only one I can recall where the attendees were made aware of the origin of the contents of their cup was in Australia, where a local specialist company was among the sponsors and keen to show off and boost awareness of its wares.

Ah, someone helpfully said, when I pointed this out, “coffee is becoming more like wine.”

And he’s right, of course. If you live in the right part of the right town and shop in the right supermarket, it is easier to buy Brazilian or Peruvian coffee than it used to be. And for those who really care, it is even possible to get coffee from an individual plantation. But vanishingly few people do that. Most happily opt for a Lavazza or Illy or supermarket own-label. In 2020, instant coffee represented $25bn of the $104bn global market. And given the significantly lower cost of instant, that means that a lot more than one cup in four was produced by adding hot water to powder or granules.

Most of my wine friends would probably have little or no time for instant coffee, but I have other friends – people who enjoy good wine, by the way – who actually prefer it. Which I understand, just as I understand my wine friends’ – including plenty of producers – readiness to enjoy a glass of Aperol spritz.

(If there is anyone who wants to tell me that particular beverage – which I also enjoy – is any more ‘natural’ or ‘fine’ than a good instant coffee, I look forward to hearing from them).

Where some wine, coffee, tea, beer and cider come from matters hugely – to some people. Just as some – not necessarily the same – people care intensely about the origin of the chicken or salmon on their plate.

For most, however, these are drinks and foods. And, despite my belief in terroir, when I look at the lengthy list of all the bad stuff going on in the world right now, their way of viewing them is really not something that bothers me very much.


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