Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


Is "Buy Local" Always Best?

I just read a post on a California winemaker's blog which included the following plea: “Next time you are in a restaurant and see no California wine…ask to talk to the wine buyer and give them a piece of your mind.  Understand that supporting your local winery helps preserve a heritage and make our local communities more diverse and therefore stronger.”

Before moving to Portland, OR, a stone's throw from a vibrant wine producing region, I lived near New York City, a 90 minute drive to two wine producing regions.  Yet, in all my years there, the "buy local" banner never got raised.  Here, in Portland, it is rare NOT to encounter local wine in shops and restaurants.  I've been to some Italian restaurants with tons of Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, but only a token nod to Italian wine.  Honestly, the argument for buying local is fully understandable. In an economic climate like the one we are in today, we should support our local businesses. It helps our neighborhoods and, ultimately, ourselves, by keeping our spending money in our communities.  Of course, that's not to mention the issue of a smaller carbon footprint when you buy local.

On the other hand, a routine of buying strictly local can certainly limit one's choices. I have yet to come across a domestic nebbiolo, cabernet franc, chenin blanc, or riesling that approaches its European counterpart in quality, balance, etc. So what should you do the next time you are in a restaurant or wine shop?  Go for that cheap import or support the (often) more expensive local wine?  It's a tough decision, and not on for which I have the answer.