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Malcolm Jolley: Doomscrolling? Here’s news you can use about a well-priced bottle of wine

Commentary

There’s always news, but it seems like there’s been a lot lately. Even a news junkie like me needs to take breaks between doomscrollingDoomscrolling or doomsurfing is the act of spending an excessive amount of time reading large quantities of negative news online. and flipping between windows on my laptop filled with the latest horror and anxieties.

At times, I am glad to have glass of wine with me to get through the evening news on television. (Though we’ll keep to coffee for the morning paper.)

One way to avoid news-fuelled depression is to get to work. Part of my work is to scan the wine news, which is, generally speaking, an altogether more pleasant experience. Most of the time, the worst it gets is that I realize I have been scooped by a colleague on a subject I thought was idiosyncratically unique.

If someone else decides to write about Viogner, the same week I was planning to, then the story idea will need to wait a few weeks, so as not to invite accusations of plagiarism. Not that there isn’t a lot of borrowing in this field, anyway. It’s more a case of professional courtesy.

Like sections of a newspaper, or different pages on a website, wine news comes in various categories. Most “as it happens” wine news, is really trade or business news. Wineries get bought and sold. Winemakers quit one job for another. Someone who made a lot of money doing something else has decided to lose some of it by starting a winery.

Sometimes the trade news is really more like community news. Making wine is still largely a family business, so it’s often more than an obituary when a matriarch or patriarch of renown house dies.    Likewise, it’s not unusual to find a profile of a young winemaker, sometimes still in their twenties, who’s taken the reins in the cellar.

Lately, more and more wine news is environmental catastrophe news. Fires in the Okanagan, floods in Central Italy, an early frost in Burgundy. Wine is made on the littoral between temperate and tropical climate zones and weather is consequential enough to be newsworthy. This year French wine production will overtake Italy for the first time in a long time because of lousy weather east of the Maritime Alps.

Other environmental news include specific campaigns, like the one get rid of unnecessarily heavy bottles. They require more energy to ship, but studies show consumers equate a big heavy bottle with a pricier wine.

News might also be about “sustainable practices,” like a big winery going organic, or a new kind of certification and labeling system. Or more esoteric ones, like the establishment of an online registry of old vines around the world.

There’s crime news too. Fake wine news usually means exactly that. There is almost always some story out there about wine fraud. It’s a pretty easy crime to switch a label, and the luxury wine business is run on scarcity and demand. And with the astronomic price of genuine fine wine, there are more and more reported heists of the stuff. (Come on Hollywood, give us a wine heist movie.).

These crimes might be fuelled by aspirational lifestyle wine news. Who wouldn’t want to go to a tasting of five decades worth of one of the most famous “Super Tuscans” in a palazzo in Venice? Or sympathizes with the Australian investor who is selling off his large collection of Domaine Romanée-Conti, because he thinks it would be “unethical” to drink it at tens of thousands of dollars a bottle?

Wine news also comes in mainstream and independent channels, including the increasingly ubiquitous Substack platform, which allows for more in-depth reporting. In truth, most of the people who write for the former also write for the latter. And I suspect we read each other in all formats as much as we can.

In any event, here is some wine news that you can use, if you choose. It’s come straight from the field, and it’s about a bottle of wine I found at my local shop that tells a story in itself.

From Western Sicily, the Caruso & Minini label is a two decades old collaboration between winemaker Stefano Caruso and his daughters, Giovanna and Rosanna, and Mario Minini a wine marketer and packager from Lombardy with projects across Italy. The company and their wines are succinct expression of the shift towards fine wines in Sicily since the 1990s.

The 2021 Caruso & Minini Naturalmente Bio Catarratto is a $20 odd dollar wine ($21.95 in Ontario) that drinks like something twice the price. Bio is short for biologica, meaning organic, and Catarratto is the name of the indigenous Sicilian white wine grape from which it’s made. Catarratto competes with Sangiovese as Italy’s most planted grape, but has had a less noble reputation until recently.

Catarratto was the mainstay of Marsala, the sweet fortified wine for which Sicily was best known until growers began making their own fine wines. There’s a lot of it planted in Sicily, but until winemakers got serious about making fine wine with it in the last 20 years, not a lot of interesting things being done with it, as demand for Marsala waned.

The international (French) grape analogue to Catarratto might be Chardonnay, which is able to either express its terroir like a chameleon, or express the technique of its maker in the cellar, or both. The 2021 Caruso & Minini Catarratto is a three part quaffer. First, a bouquet of white flowers on the nose. Second, a solid wash of fruit over the palate, with stone fruits and citrus notes (peach and mandarin), balanced by a refreshing twang of acidity. Then, a touch of honeysuckle sweetness on the finish. It’s a good ride, and decidedly moreish.

A popular clone of Catarratto is called Lucido, meaning shining, or illuminating. Perhaps there’s as much to learn in the glass as there is in the news. Or perhaps, like every good wine, it just helps to digest it.

Josh Dehaas: The stunning hubris of Bill C-69 has come crashing back to earth

Commentary

On Valentine’s Day 2018, then-Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna stood in the House of Commons to explain how Bill C-69 would “restore public trust in how the federal government makes decisions about major projects, such as mines, pipelines, and hydro dams.”

“These better rules are designed to protect our environment while improving investor confidence, strengthening our economy, and creating good middle-class jobs,” she said.

The Impact Assessment Act would not only undo the environmental protections “gutted” by the Harper government, but it would consider “health, social, gender, and economic impacts over the long term as well as the impacts on indigenous peoples,” McKenna added.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney fumed, branding C-69 the “No More Pipelines Bill.” It passed in 2019.

The hubris was stunning. Ottawa had arrogated to itself a veto over any large project, regardless of whether it crossed provincial boundaries. It would consider exercising that veto if it decided a project was “not in the public interest” based on factors ranging from “the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors” to “Indigenous knowledge provided with respect to the designated project” to “the extent to which the designated project contributes to sustainability.”

Ottawa claimed to locate the authority for this veto in a handful of sections of the Constitution Act, 1867 including its powers to regulate “Indians, and Lands reserved for Indians,” “Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries,” and the Peace Order and Good Government of Canada (POGG).

In a 5-2 decision released Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Ottawa’s monumental power grab, thanks in part to arguments made by the charity that I work for, the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

The decision is great news for anyone who wants to see more large projects like mines and highways get built. But it’s even more consequential than that. Had the decision gone the other way, it would have posed an existential threat to the unity of Canada, which is held together by the wisdom of a constitutional division of powers that leaves many big decisions to provinces.

Chief Justice Wagner’s decision correctly found that the Act was not in pith and substance aimed at regulating effects within federal jurisdiction but, rather, was aimed at regulating entire projects even where they are mostly in relation to provincial jurisdiction.

It should have been obvious from reading the Act that the federal government cannot use its power to regulate fisheries to veto an Alberta oilsands mine, or use its power to regulate migratory birds to block Ontario housing and highway construction, as environment minister Steven Guilbeault has threatened. That’s because section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 gave provinces the exclusive power to regulate “Local Works and Undertakings” and section 92A, added by amendment in 1982, gives provinces the power to regulate non-renewable resources and energy.

But that didn’t mean a victory was certain. This is, after all, roughly the same Supreme Court that found just two years ago that Ottawa can impose a carbon tax on provinces using its POGG power because climate change is supposedly an “existential threat.”

Now the federal government has no choice but to accept that it can’t block most projects, and provinces can once again assert their jurisdiction over those matters that the founders of this country—who were, let’s not forget, leaders of provinces—refused to give up at confederation.

Provinces only gave up jurisdiction over those things that a federal government was in a better position to do. That includes defence, matters that can facilitate free trade like currency and the postal service, and things like railways that no single province could achieve on its own.

The risk Canada had faced had the ruling gone the other way was a dangerous scenario in which Ottawa had been given the greenlight to illegally usurp jurisdiction over decisions that our founders had wisely left to the provinces.

Had they ruled the other way, the citizens of Quebec or Ontario, who, let’s face it, currently control the federal government, would have been able to overrule the citizens of Alberta or Saskatchewan whenever Albertans and Saskatchewanians chose to develop their resources.

Likewise, had they ruled the other way, the citizens of western provinces, who are likely to form the largest bloc of MPs in a future Conservative government, would have been able to call the shots on projects that the constitution had wisely left up to Quebec and Ontario.

Exercising this federal veto would have almost certainly reignited dormant separatist movements in Quebec and Alberta, and the separatists would have had a more convincing argument than ever: if the federal government doesn’t need to respect the constitution, why should we?

The Supreme Court’s decision has helped us to avoid that existential threat.