Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Partisan Palette

The Ancient Romans had a saying that people should never mix politics and wine. It's more of a truism than a saying. There have been many a holiday dinner that has served as evidence of how this one simple rule can vastly improve your life. 

But these are not normal times. The oddness of our current political landscape - both outside and inside the Beltway - means it is next to impossible to keep politics separate from wine. Add the fact that our current president bought a Virginia winery that is now run by his family, and the climate is right to smash the two together and see what happens. That's what we decided to do recently with the support of Vanessa Moore of UnWined Virginia and her great staff of wine lovers. 

Given how polarizing President Trump is, we wanted to see what would happen if we got Democrats and Republicans in the same room and had them do several wine tasting flights - with each flight including at least one wine from the Trump Winery. Ultimately, there were two flights of three wines each. The first was comprised of sparkling wine and the second was of red Bordeaux-style blends. 

The full line-up once the wines were revealed. Like the election itself, Trump scored much better with the whites then with the blends

Our volunteers were first asked to taste the wines blind - meaning they could not see the labels of the wines - and write down their impressions. Next, they were asked to taste the wines with the labels exposed. Finally, we were going to reveal what the blind wines were and compare the taster's results. 

It was my hope that there would be a significant variance in scores once the wines were revealed. I envisioned the Democrats and left-leaning individuals  spitting out the Trump wines once they knew what they were drinking while the president's supporters would embrace them. 

Our esteemed panel discussing the wines

That, however, did not happen. Almost universally, the tasters scored the wines blind and exposed similarly, speaking to the general strengths and weaknesses of all the wines - including Trump's. The tasters, regardless of party affiliation, found the Trump sparkling wine "impressive," "enjoyable," "complex," and were, "impressed by it." The Trump red, meanwhile, was seen as, "cheap," "bland," "confused," and "made cheaply to taste expensive and failing." 

Vanessa Moore, standing at right, describing one of the wines
The Trump sparkling wine actually came out as the preferred sparkling wine. It was tasted alongside Schramsberg, one of the most well-respected sparkling producers in California and Canard-Duchene, an authentic French Champagne. 

The sparkling line-up. Trump was a crowd favorite.

As for the reds, it did not appeal to anyone. It was paired with Blue Rock Vineyard's Baby Blue Blend and Glen Manor Vineyard's red blend. Glen Manor produces one of the best reds in Virginia, and it was a very popular wine among the panel as well. Baby Blue also had its supporters. Nobody picked the Trump red as a favorite, and it was scored the lowest overall of all the wines tasted. 

The red line-up. The Trump red's approval rating was slightly lower than the President's.

The panel of tasters included both professionals including sommeliers, people who worked in wine stores, distributors, and enthusiasts comprised of casual wine drinkers, aficionados and those who wanted to see how the tasting played out. Of the tasters, slightly more were Democrats than Republicans, and none of the Republicans were supporters of President Trump. Several asked not to be included in photos or videos because they were federal employees or didn't want to be seen as either supporting or opposing the president. 

Despite the variance in personalities, professional backgrounds and wine knowledge, the tasting was very civil and even topics of politics were addressed respectfully. Not to draw universal conclusions from an event featuring only a dozen or so people, but it was at least affirming to know that Democrats and Republicans could share the same room and some wine without anybody needing to be rushed to the hospital. 

Being the son of liberal Democrats and being married to a traditional Republican (who is ardently not a Trump supporter), the Roman axiom not to mix politics and wine will continue to be enforced during the holidays, but it was refreshing to see what happened during this tasting. 

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