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‘History is messy’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This short week, Hub readers discussed Canada’s unique penchant for celebrating Victoria Day, whether or not the BC Conservatives should consider a merger, Parks Canada’s descent into identity politics, and the implications of the ICC issuing arrest warrants for Israel’s leaders.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

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Canada stands alone in still celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday. That’s a fitting thing, even in our post-colonial times

Monday, May 20, 2024

“Indeed, the birthday commemoration is one of the needed cultural anchors of historical awareness, appreciation, and wisdom for this ongoing, flawed, yet successful collaborative project that we feel in our hearts to be, and to call, Canada.”

— Paul Attics

“Marking Victoria Day recognizes and confirms our historical connection to a great nation from which we forged our political institutions and traditions.”

— RJKWells

“Canada has a tenuous hold on a future separate from our cousins south of the border. Cancel the few distinct traditions we have, expunge our history, write the monarchy out of our Constitution and our younger generations will all have to learn a new song.”

— Michael B

The BC Conservatives are cruising and could even form government—why on earth would they consider a merger?

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

“In the past, many BC Conservatives voted Liberal because they knew the provincial Conservatives had no chance of winning. As the BC Conservatives have gained momentum many folks that are looking for real change from the socialist-leaning NDP government are moving towards the Conservatives. The BC Liberals have not done enough to distinguish themselves (fundamentally) from the NDP. Rather, they have focused on how they would handle certain hot topics differently.”

— Rick Whitehead

Parks Canada chooses identity politics over giving Sir John A. Macdonald his due

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

“Among the many challenges facing a new government will be to reengage Canadians in their history, which by most measures should make us proud, and tied to this is encouraging immigrants to understand their new country’s history and cultural environment.”

— Graham W S Scott

“You cannot view or judge 19th-century historical events (or any other century for that matter) through a 21st-century lens. Realities and norms were not always consistent decade to decade, century to century.”

— Don Palmer

“For me, the interesting thing about history is that you can learn from it. Now what you learn is certainly determined by the authors, so here we must be careful. History, as written, often narrowly describes an event or person to convey some point. In doing so, it often excludes the points of view of others. Much like a court of law or government, history (including monuments) should submit the many different points of view on a matter.”

— Bill Hertha

“History is messy and no one is all good, particularly when applying current thinking to events and decisions 150 years ago.”

— Gord Edwards

An Israeli soldier flashes a V-sign from an armoured personnel carrier as they head towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Ariel Schalit/AP Photo.
Prosecuting Israel for defending itself would mean the end of the liberal international world order

Thursday, May 23, 2024

“There are times when words carry weight. And there are times when you need to hit back hard. The attack on Israel is one of the latter.”

— Tom Barnett

“If when the dust settles there is evidence Israel politically acted deliberately in an inappropriate way during the battle against Hamas then that may call for consideration by the court, but for it to proceed now against Israel would be totally premature and unjustified.”

— Graham W S Scott

Canada truly is broken when it comes to our destructive drug policies

Friday, May 24, 2024

“We don’t let people, generally, openly consume alcohol in public places, like in playgrounds or on public transit. Why do we tolerate this type of behaviour with respect to drug use? I don’t understand the reluctance to call out heavy and stupid drug use behaviour because it will ‘stigmatize’ those individuals. That’s exactly the attitude society follows with respect to use of tobacco and apparently that’s okay and seems to be getting the desired results (fewer people smoking).

— Wester

“This is a wicked problem and it starts in human hearts. The isolation of the addict, the greed and ruthlessness of the suppliers, and yes, the naïveté and ideological blindness of the activists and governments. I don’t know what the solution is, but if what we’re doing doesn’t work, as happened in B.C., we have to stop doing it.”

— Darlene Craig

Malcolm Jolley: A new wino hope in Northern Bourgogne

Commentary

I am a history buff and prone to romanticizing the past. When I imagine the times before, all of the problems of today do not yet exist, and the problems that existed for the people who lived through them are forgotten. These fantasies extend into wine writing.

How easy it would be to only have to know the names of a few first-growth labels in France and the odd hill in Napa? A familiarity with a few famous houses in Champagne and maybe Porto would quickly lend the credentials of a “wine expert.” Not only that, most of these wines would be more or less affordable and available to regularly taste.

In my business, among writers my age (52) or younger, it’s not uncommon to mix a bit of self-pity and envy and complain amongst ourselves how much easier our elder betters must have had it. And yet, as one of the most respected of them, Jancis Robinson, continually points out, for all the insane price inflation and voluminous complexity of the modern wine world, the quality of wine has never been better, at all price levels.

I was thinking about Robinson’s sentiments earlier this year in a high-ceilinged room in the Abbey de Saint-Germaine d’Auxerre. Auxerre is a finely preserved medieval cathedral town and department seat of about 35,000 people that’s roughly 150 km southeast of Paris. And, if you’re perspective runs from north to south, it’s where the wine region of la Bourgogne begins.

I was aware of the Auxerrois wines, but only vaguely, in the way that a Google search might have been required to remember exactly where they came from. As I sniffed, swirled, swished, and spat through these unfamiliar wines in the old Abby chapel, I was glad to have more things to learn in a complicated wine world.

A map of the la Bourgogne (Burgundy) wine region will typically focus on the narrow area that runs south from Dijon almost to Lyon, with the town of Beaune more or less in the middle. Depending on the scale, to the top left or in an insert in the top left, will be Chablis and maybe to the left (west) of that famous village the the Côtes d’Auxerre, near the town.

Auxerre is far enough north to be about as close to the southernmost vineyards in Champagne as the northernmost on the Côte d’Or near Dijon. Aside from flinty Chablis, this area would have been best known for growing grapes bound for Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wine. Global warming and the fine wine world’s insatiable thirst for Bourgogne’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are changing that.

In the old high-ceilinged room in the Abby in Auxerre were about two dozen tables of producers of the Grand Auxerrois, pouring Côtes d’Auxerre wines. Though many of the producers there also make Chablis, the Chardonnay they were pouring did not come from that specific appellation, since it would have its own show and tasting the following day. I was there on a press trip as a guest of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, as part of the weeklong series of ratings and events called Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne.

The vignerons pouring the wines were, for the most part, relatively young (20s, 30s, 40s) and markedly cheerful. Their youthfulness may have been a reflection of their willingness (or duty) to work an event on a Sunday evening, but I chose to see it as an indicia of a new spirit and energy in the Northern Bourgogne region. Likewise, I took their enthusiasm and happy demeanour as a sign that they knew their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay table wines are having a moment in the wine world, and things only look to improve for the Auxerrois.

Not all wine tastings are joyful events. Most are a mixed bag of enthusiasm for some tables and avoidance of others. As I have written before, tastings in Bourgogne tend towards an embarrassment of riches, but most of the pleasure south of Auxerre comes with met expectations. It’s not surprising when a Grand Cru tastes good, and whatever personal epiphanies may be revealed within the glass, it’s not news.

What was great fun about the tasting in Auxerre was the sense that this was ”New Burgundy.” There was news to bring home. The supply of well-made, food-friendly, cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the limestone-dominated soils of the Eastern Middle of France had neither been exhausted nor priced out of reach. A new wino hope.

A vineyard in Northern Bourgogne. Credit: Malcolm Jolley.

The Grand Auxerrois region includes wines labeled Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, reds and whites that come from a number of villages, as well as a number of others, most notably Bourgogne Chitry and Bourgogne Tonnerre. It has three Villages appellations, including Saint-Bris, which is applied only to white wines made with Sauvignon Blanc or Gris; the only place where these grapes may be used officially.

In terms of new-wave Bourgogne, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the Chardonnays of Vézelay and the red wines of Irancy. Both are newish Villages appellations, established in 2017 and 1999, respectively, and both are hitting their stride. Longer growing seasons due to global warming mean they are competitive with the wines of Bourgogne to the south, but they each retain a certain northern raciness and minerality, perhaps from the chalky soil they share with Chablis.

These days, the phrase “affordable Burgundy” is not quite an oxymoron, but it is relative. The Villages will start at around $30 a bottle in Canada. The wino math is that a comparable bottle from, say, Beaune, might be twice the price or more.

I opened a bottle of 2018 Irancy I had bought off the shelf recently with a friend whose wine budget is bigger than mine and who has a predilection for finer Pinot Noir de Bourgogne. He’d brought a Mercurey from one of the bigger houses, which we drank and was lovely. My Irancy was my follow-up after dinner.

The wine was generous with raspberry and classic red fruit notes, underpinned by a touch of forest floor earthiness and a fine silk touch of tannin. Impressed, my friend picked up the bottle, studied it, and then asked, “Where’s Irancy?”

“Think red Chablis,” I replied. Maybe wine’s not so complicated after all.