Sat 19 Jul 2008
“Discover the Eco-Chic Wine Choice!”
Ha, what a slogan! And “Eco-Chic” describes precisely the relationship to ecological concerns that many Americans of a certain class — white, affluent, subtly guilty — aspire to: an itemization of easy cures to the world’s ecological problems, some of which, as you no doubt are aware, pose dire hazards to the continuation of life on earth. The French call this class le gauche caviar, “caviar leftists.” I call them “Emo-Environmentalists.”
On the other hand, the phrase “eco-chic” itself exudes boundless cynicism. The slogan comes from PR materials sent out by Boho Vineyards — “We were Boho before it was chic” — to promote the Boho Vineyards Chardonnay 2006, Central Coast, that comes in three-liter “eco-friendly” bag-in-box packaging made from 95 percent recycled kraft paper using only soy-based ink. This “Premium Cask” — notice how each of those words is meaningless — presses to Mother Earth a “carbon footprint … 55% smaller than the four 750ml bottles it replaces.” The Boho wines are distributed by Underdog Wine Merchants, a division of The Wine Group, Inc., the country’s third largest wine producer, after E&J Gallo and Constellation.
The way the wine inside this “eco-friendly” packaging is described, however, makes evident the fact that this is plain old regular “non-eco” chardonnay: “We selected the grapes for our Boho Chardonnay from our cool climate vineyards specially selected to emphasize the crisp and aromatic character that are [subject-verb error] so important to the Boho style. The grapes were harvested cool and fermented at cool temperatures in the winery to maximize the fruit flavors.” Etc. Etc. In other words, the box is “eco-friendly”; the wine is not.
I read this Boho chardonnay material just after taking a gander at the “Eco Checklist: Easy Ways to Live Better” in the August 2008 issue of Food & Wine magazine — right, the issue in which wine-writer Lettie Teague actually wrote that “when picking a wine, I care more about the integrity of the people making it (or for that matter selling it) than the method they chose,” yeah, and I’m going to stop reading books written by assholes — a publication that tries so hard to be hip that sometimes it’s cute and sometimes, as now, it’s just freakin’ annoying. I mean the cliche-detector at the magazine operates at nil level! These people make themselves so easy to parody that it’s like shooting free-range, organically fed fish in a barrel fashioned from trees grown in sustainable forests by workers who wear only clothes made from recycled paper.
Talk about eco-chic/emo-environmentalism! Of course there are the usual admonitions to abandon plastic water bottles for reusable aluminum containers (such as the ones designed by Japanese artist Shinzi Katoh) or the compostable plates made from fallen leaves (VerTerra, $9 for 10 plates). You can “upcycle” — a new cliche — stained shirts by baking them in the oven (330 degrees) with blueberries and sugar, leaving your friends and colleagues to wonder, “Where did all the fruit flies come from?” You can “Set a Stylish Green Table” by using Dansk’s resurrected “Classic Fjord” flatware that uses sustainable teak ($100 for a five-place setting) or handblown pitchers made in a wind-powered studio in Portland, Ore. (Esque, $200). Or you can drink Del Maguey Minero Mezcal, a “warm, smoky mezcal … made from organic agave by independent family producers” ($70).
In your kitchen, you can choose Michelle Kaufmann’s mklISLAND, “ideal for small, energy-efficient homes (from $5,250).” Or you can “Take a Green Vacation,” such as one through Aventouras, which books “intimate trips in seven countries [that] include stays at a guesthouse in the Andes and dinner with a Costa Rican family” that no doubt serves only organic food on plates made from fallen leaves. The State Department, by the way, reminds us that for safety reasons the American Embassy in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, places official visitors in large suburban hotels rather than in hotels in the center of the city, and further advises Americans to avoid “areas of high concentrations of bars and clubs, especially at night.” Just so you know.
Am I being a total bastard here? Sorry, but being able to tell your dinner party guests that every item of food or decor on the table comes from sustainable or organic sources isn’t the same as 1. Not driving. 2. Driving a lot less and driving more slowly. 3. Using public transportation as often as possible. 4. Writing to your representatives in your state capital and in Washington and telling them that they will no longer receive your vote if they don’t support efforts toward weaning America from fossil-fuels and if they don’t support efforts to find alternative fuel and energy sources, like wind power. Wind is there, and those wind turbines are pretty damned beautiful. 5. Supporting Human Rights Watch in its efforts to see that the people (for example) who work in those organic agave fields in Mexico receive decent salaries and health care. 6. Thinking about the big picture in terms of urban culture and the local livability of urban and architectural design. Get a seat on your architectural and design review board. Attend meetings of design and zoning boards. Be vocal; become an annoying busybody. And wear your sustainable clothes.