Oeno Econ: Thoughts On Austerity

If you follow economics in any fashion at all, and certainly if you’ve been following the European Debt Crisis, then you’ll likely be familiar with the term “Austerity.”

And so there I was, driving my “normal” commute from Santa Cruz to Monte Bello, listening to NPR like the good lil’ NorCal-dwelling lad that I am, and along comes yet another story about the imposition of/necessity of/potential of/ramifications of “austerity” measures, and I got to thinking, where else did I just see that word?

Of course! Austere!

It’s the 9th word in Robert Parker’s Wine Glossary! Which is, mind you, a document of no small repute in my industry. (If you’re interested, you can find it here).

And so I got to thinking, what does austere mean economically, vs. what does it mean oenophilically?

From the website Investopedia.com:

Definition of ‘Austerity’

A state of reduced spending and increased frugality in the financial sector. Austerity measures generally refer to the measures taken by governments to reduce expenditures in an attempt to shrink their growing budget deficits.

Investopedia explains ‘Austerity’

Austerity measures are generally unpopular because they tend to lower the quantity and quality of services and benefits provided by the government. Beginning in 2009, several nations were forced to embark on unprecedented austerity measures. These measures were necessitated by budget deficits that soared to record levels because of actions these countries took to stimulate their economies following the massive credit crisis and global recession of 2008.

And from eRobertParker.com:

austere: Wines that are austere are generally not terribly pleasant wines to drink. An austere wine is a hard, rather dry wine that lacks richness and generosity.

So, see any parallels?

To me, it looks like this; imagine the scenario as one in which there is an entity that provides something, and an entity which receives something. In the case of economics, this is the government, and its people. In the case of wine, this is the producer of wine, and the consumer/drinker of wine. In each case, “austere” essentially becomes a description of that which is on offer. And this descriptor is a comparative descriptor; it states that the entity on offer is “lower” in quality than it could be (or perhaps than it was expected/desired to be). In describing said entity’s offering as “austere,” one is essentially noting a lack of “generosity” or “richness”; something that is “reduced.” (Which, by the way, offers another interesting parallel, as “reduced” is a wine term as well! See below for more on this …)

Of course, my favorite parallel between the two definitions is this:

“…generally unpopular…” and “…not terribly pleasant …”

So, how about some other shared terms betwixt the worlds of economics and wine?

Here’s a test: Can you guess which of the following terms are in Robert Parker’s Glossary only, which terms are in The Economist’s “Economics A-Z” only, and which terms are in both?

Arbitrage

Backward/Backwardation

Balance

Closed

Elasticity

Flabby

Lean

Rich

Stale

Sustainable

Volatile/Volatility

Yield

Answers forthcoming!



Categories: Business of Wine, Oeno Econ, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Philosophy, Wine Tales

Tags: , , ,

1 reply

  1. Interesting! The definition of austere for wine is a bit different to what I’m used to, though. I don’t tend to think of austerity (in wine at least) as always being a bad thing. I’d assume a wine described as austere was dry, tannic and with little primary fruit character. It might well make up for this by having elegant structure & minerallity — or not!

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