Local Schmocal

Perhaps you’ve heard, now all fifty states are producing wine.

(Silence)

I’m not trying to be mean. I’m sure that there are quite a few interesting, well made, and smartly priced wines coming from Idaho, Arkansas and Ohio (among other places). And I’m quite sure that the owners of these wineries are well-meaning souls, pillars of the community and all that. And there are, perhaps, some good arguments for buying and drinking local wines. But, is there a moral imperative to buy and drink local wines? And does it hold up under any level of scrutiny? Because, I have a few problems with the entire ‘drink local’ movement.

Problem #1: How does one define ‘local’? Does ‘local’ mean just your town? Or your county? Or our state? Or is it defined as a mile-based proximity? Who decided?

Problem #2: What about the grape(s)? Shouldn’t they be local? Is it ok to buy grapes from far away and make wine with them? Are they still local wines? What about if you bought grape vines from far away and planted them and then grew grapes and them made wine from those? Local?

Problem #3: I’ve heard that by buying local, local dollars enrich the local community, which, is supposedly better than enriching the non-local community. But what if the owners of the local winery take my dollars and spend them on a vacation in Italy? How is that enriching the local community? What if they are drinking Italian wines while on vacation?

Problem #4: What if I don’t like the local wines? Do I still have to (morally) buy them?

Problem #5: What if I like the local wines just fine, but I can find a wine that I like better from a non-local source for far less money? Is that allowable, morally?

Problem #6: How about if the local winery is utilizing land that would be better used for tomatoes or cantaloupes or soybeans? What if the local winery if fulfilling no real public service? Is there still a moral imperative to drink locally?

Problem #7: How about if the local winery is employing non-locals? Does that matter? You know, like, morally. How about if they don’t pay $15.00 per hour?

Problem #8: What if I have multiple legal residences? Then what? Is my local wine still local if I take it to my vacation home?

Ok, most of my problems are silly. But, really, I think the whole issue is silly, and there is no imperative, moral or otherwise, to consume locally. Economists might suggest that such actions would be costly, as it makes good economic sense to specialize in and produce those goods and services that are efficient in a given community and trade or purchase products  from others that are inefficiently produced. Or in other words, why grow grapes when your land is best suited for hops?

My suggestion is simple (and hopefully efficient); stop looking for moral justification is your wine choice. There exist many more effective ways to support your community than by drinking over-priced wine.

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