Talking Wine – April 2012

Here is a warning. Do not get persuaded by some smooth talking salesman to get involved in fine wine investment. Whilst there are a number of extremely reputable companies who know what they are doing there are an equal number of companies who take your money and never ship over the goods. Buying ‘en primeur’ as it is often known involves buying the latest vintages whilst they are still maturing in cask. It will be at least two years until you see your wine and then you will often be told that it has arrived in a bonded warehouse but it is suggested that you pay a small annual premium and the wine (now in bottle) will be kept in perfect storage condition until required. All well and true if you are dealing with Berry Brothers or Farr Vintners but these scam companies are quite clever and they use names which suggest pedigree – such as Barclay International or Beaumont Vintners for example. The problem is that they have never shipped over the wine. They will send you reports and bits of paper verifying ownership but when you come to sell or take possession of the wine the bond have never heard of you or them! So under NO circumstances part with your money until you have done your research. This is not our area of expertise so if you want some advice we will help you find the right company with whom to work.

Croatian wines are set to re-establish themselves in the market place once they have joined the European Union next year. They have 33,000 hectares under vine and plan to substantially increase the 5% they currently export. There is a strong wine culture in the country and the wines show a distinct Mediterranean character based around three indigenous grape varieties. An understanding of the international marketplace will be essential for the Croatians – from what I gather many of their wines undergo serious oak ageing and I just wonder if this is what the public in the UK is looking to buy. No doubt there is considerable expertise on hand to advise this fledgling export market so let’s just see how things develop.

Another juicy wine scandal has come to a conclusion with a Californian judge having approved a class action settlement entitling many wine drinkers to a refund nearly a year after a dozen Frenchmen were convicted of selling fake Pinot Noir to huge companies like Gallo and Constellation who then bottled it under brand names like Red Bicyclette, Redwood Creek and Woodbridge. French customs officials uncovered the scam to sell 18 million bottles of fake Pinot Noir when they realised that the region was exporting more wine than it produced. The lesson here is surely to be aware of branded products.