Talking Wine – August 2011

There is no doubt that China is distorting the Fine Wine market. At a recent Christies auction in Hong Kong at least one bottle of wine went for more than a Harvard education – £45,000 to be precise. This was for Château Latour which normally fetches less than Château Lafite-Rochchild. It’s a crazy world and the demand for fine wine, rather like art, seems resistant to the global economic crisis. Some of the wine will be drunk, some hoarded and some traded but ultimately the market will surely have to settle or will the growing number of Chinese millionaires who acquire a taste for fine wine maintain the momentum?

Many Bordeaux producers and most of the critics hailed 2009 as the “vintage of the century” after almost perfect wine growing conditions and yet 2010 is also being hailed as the same with prices likely to match those of 2009. One critic cynically remarked that this was the eighth “vintage of the century” but there is no doubt that the quality is very good indeed. These wines are sold early whilst still in barrel, the process being known as buying “en primeur”. After two years they are bottled and investors hope to make a quick turn or indeed keep the wine for long term drinking or further investment. Britain and the US have been the traditional futures market with top wine critic and writer Robert Parker having a massive influence over the whole process. However recently Bordeaux has been concentrating heavily on the Asian market and Parker warns that it is “a very dangerous game to raise prices as the global economy is very, very fragile”. Not everyone agrees with him with Simon Davies of Fine and Rare Wines saying “Whenever a big new player comes into the market, the last big player moans they cannot afford it. Whilst the world’s most important wine critic is still American, I’m afraid that a new wine superpower is on the rise – and that’s China !!”

Back in blighty I can report on good press for the local Hendred Vineyard. In the English and Welsh Wine of the Year Competition they were awarded Silver medals for their Callaghan’s Furlong 2010 and Hendred Brut NV and also a Bronze medal for their Rockpit Rosé. The Fulong and Rockpit Rosé are both stocked by The Oxford Wine Company – they are lovely clean and fresh fruit driven wines with good acidity. Steve and Vivienne Callaghan have done a great job in revitalising this small vineyard and I suspect there is more to come from this enterprising and energetic couple.

We hope to soon be stocking some Greek wine. We often get asked for it but over the years I have yet to find something I enjoy and I am afraid I am not going to stock anything simply for the sake of it. However at the London Wine Trade fair this May I can actually report that I tasted some interesting Greek wines including a half pleasant Retsina. We have to retaste and confirm the price and quality but we should have something on the shelves by the end of the summer.