Thursday, March 13, 2014

Josh Jensen wants to ban 'domestic wine'

Josh Jensen, American winemaker
Calera owner/head winemaker Josh Jensen hates "domestic wine."

The term, that is. He went on a rant about it at In Pursuit of Balance earlier this week. He says "domestic" is a mildly insulting term, associated with household servants.

He says the equivalent would be to say "foreign" wine, rather than "imported." "When I first started making wine, Jack Davies at Schramsberg used to call European wines 'foreign' to make a point," Jensen said.

The term Jensen prefers for wines like his is "American wine."

Jensen says he has complained to restaurants that they should change their wine lists to read "American," not domestic.

"I ran down a list of our top 40 distributors," Jensen said. "35 of them used the word 'import' in their name. None of them used the word 'domestic'."

I think Jensen has a point. Words have power. I don't know if "domestic" still has the "Downton Abbey" feeling he's talking about, but when I roll it around in my head, it does feel lower in quality than "American."

Try it. Say it out loud. "Would you like a domestic Pinot Noir?" Now, "Would you like an American Pinot Noir." Try it with cars, with grapefruits, with any product.

Josh, you won me over: no more "domestic wine" for me, except in trade stories. But I don't care what you call yourself on your website, I'm not going to call you "generalissimo."

Readers, what do you think?

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6 comments:

Kyle Schlachter said...

I don't know if rant is the proper word to describe his answer to a question... though the topic is slightly interesting.

Mark Andrew Sinnott said...

I don't think 'American' is a proper substitute. Sounds a bit like an attempt at patriotism. Why not just use the local/regional label, e.g. Oregon (or Willamette) Pinot, Columbia Valley Cabernet, Paso Syrah.

Mike Dunne said...

"Domestic" is perfectly legit and honorable; in this context it simply means "United States;" what's to apologize for? "American" wine could be from Canada or Mexico as well as California. Lobby instead for wine lists to go by specific region or varietal and style.

kcp said...

I have no problem with domestic--feels generic though I understand Jensen's critique. But American? No way--sounds more than mildly jingoistic. "I want an American Pinot! No. Make mine domestic.

Jim Klein said...

...And lets drop wine "writer" for the more lofty term "journalist"

colinasvit said...

Used in context of another alcoholic beverage, beer, it is in line with Mr. Jensen's critique. You will never see "Pliny the Younger", listed under domestic beers. Even though craft beers are made in the U.S.A., they would react the same way if dumped in with the "domestic" labels.