Talking Wine – December 2011

Bad news! Red wine’s reputation for preventing heart attacks has now been disputed by health experts who have declared that alcohol can do you damage. The alcohol policy commission has challenged the ‘myth’ that light drinkers are at less at risk than non drinkers. Oh well – just when I was getting into it!! The conclusion is obvious – choose carefully the articles you wish to read on the subject and act accordingly. I for one am less grumpy after a glass or two and certainly enjoy my food more – that surely is a social benefit that cannot be overlooked!!

Shock Horror! The Bordelais have not declared the 2011 vintage to be the ‘Vintage of the Century.’ Apparently 2011 brings us back to reality after two superb vintages. This is a relief because, quite frankly, I do not think that the market could cope with another great vintage. So you can expect en primeur prices to come down by about 20%, but if you are going to invest choose your wines carefully. You need to ask yourself why you are investing. Is it as part of a balanced investment portfolio with a likely sale when the time is right or is it to drink in the future for your own enjoyment? If it is the latter there may be no need to dig that deep – there are still some good value smaller Châteaux on the market so work out your strategy and take the appropriate advice

The public tend to associate American wines with California but of course other states do produce some excellent wines as well, not least Oregon and Washington state where some of the Pinot Noir is on par with the great wines of Burgundy. But what surprised an audience of 60 people in the Oxford shop last month was the quality of wines from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I was over there last year and whilst some of the wine making is still a little crude and designed for the home market, there is enough evidence to suggest that this could become a great wine producing state. In particular the Viognier grape does well producing wines with fruit, balance and acidity whilst Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are responsible for some stunning deep rich reds. Even with the prices set high we sold a 4 figure amount on the night – testament to the quality of the wines and a tribute to our discerning customer base!

I have always supported the idea of minimum pricing for alcohol. This is based on the fact that when my son and his friends were at University they would pick up trays of ridiculously cheap beer in a supermarket, go back to their house, get roaringly drunk and then hit a nightclub where they rarely paid an entrance fee and had no need, nor could afford, to buy further drinks. Nothing was put back into the local community and the supermarket concerned, selling well below cost price, was encouraging loutish behaviour with all the implications that go with it.

Whilst in England there has been no move to set minimum pricing, the opposite is true north of the border but last year the SNP failed in its attempts to introduce a 45p per unit price which would mean that a 14% bottle of wine could sell at no less that £4.72. Medics however are calling for this to be as high as 60p a unit which would make the price £6.30. Will a decision ever be made and legislation passed? Incredibly (for politicians) this might just actually be getting a little closer!