Dubious countries which shook off bad taste behind

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The Independent Online
For those whose greatest tippling pleasure comes from what they refuse to drink, rather than what they drink, times are getting hard. With the return of the fruits of the Cape to polite tables and bars, reasons for turning one's nose up at a particular bottle are almost exclusively confined to the effect of a wine on the palate.

Supermarket shelves are groaning with the produce of once-questionable countries of origin, such as Chile, Argentina, Bulgaria and Brazil. But no one gets much exercised about human-rights abuses by the government in Santiago before selecting a Chilean red, unless they confuse Pinochet with Pinot Noir. Few remember General Galtieri. The days when port was politically incorrect ended with the 1974 Portuguese revolution; Franco's death put Rioja back on the wine list; retsina came back when the Colonels went.

Bulgaria, it is true, has had some bad publicity recently, with demonstrators in Sofia demanding that elections be brought forward by a year or so, so that they can get rid of an unpopular and incompetent government, but we are still talking timing here, and not fighting for the right to have elections at all.

Only Romania has provided relief recently for conscientious abstainers, with OutRage! and Amnesty International calling on us to switch our brand loyalty away from Bucharest on the ground that the country's recently modified laws on homosexuality are still discriminatory.

The wines of the Commonwealth may offend some refined drinkers, but it is hard to see how they can be politically offended by, say, a Canadian Red or a New Zealand Chardonnay.

The last great wine boycott was directed against France during its nuclear tests in the Pacific last year. Australia and New Zealand led the boycott and the impact on France's wine exports was significant.