Please Do Not Let “Wine Racism” (over a grape!) Become a Thing

Let’s nip something in the bud right now. Whether you want to call it varietism or whatever, do not be the jerk who wants to equate people disliking a grape with being “…the enological equivalent of a wine racist.”

Pinotage by Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof - 76833 Siebeldingen, GERMANY

Poor Pinotage.
Photo by Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Wikimedia Commons

Seriously! No! Just…wow.

I really can’t fathom what was going through the mind of Californian & South African wine producer Dave Jefferson when he decided to blow that dog whistle in his spat with Wall Street Journal wine writer Lettie Teague.

Why, might you ask, is a privileged white man “hypothesizing” over whether an almost equally privileged white woman is possibly a “wine racist?”

Is it because of how Ms. Teague treats people of color? Is it because of her reviews of minority-owned wineries? Oh no. No, no, no.

It’s because she doesn’t like Pinotage.

A freaking grape!

Note: the editors have since changed the wording to “wine bigot” which, as any LGBT person will tell you, isn’t much better.

You can try to work through Jefferson’s whole tirade against Teague, bizarrely published by, but it won’t make any more sense. Though Denzel Washington will make an out-of-the-blue cameo just to add some more WTF-ery.

Alas, Jefferson’s debased defense of Pinotage’s honor isn’t the first and, fretfully, won’t be the last appropriation of the seriousness of racism for the silliness of being offended at what other people like or don’t like to drink. Last month, during the marketing holidays of Sauvignon Blanc Day and Chardonnay Day, social media spats erupted over whether distaste for New Zealand Sauvignon blanc or oaky, buttery Chardonnay were examples of “varietism.”

Give me a break!

I know your reaction is probably to roll your eyes and wave away such nonsense. I get it; mine was too. But there is a real risk in letting this continue unchecked. When we anthropomorphize the “struggles” of wine grapes with the language of racism and bigotry, we’re not just creating a false equivalency–we’re diluting it.

We’re desensitizing the sting and meaning of the words racism, racist, bigot and bigotry. These words are supposed to hit hard because the pain inflicted by racism and bigotry hits harder. And for an industry still reckoning with its diversity issues, we can not let this dilution slip into our language.

Varietism isn’t a thing.

Being “racist” or “bigot” because you don’t like a grape isn’t a thing.

But being a jerk who dog whistles about it certainly is a thing.


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