Reasons to be optimistic

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Reasons to be optimistic

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I was originally going to write today about things in the world of wine that worried me. For example, I’m anxious that wine shouldn’t be so expensive that normal people can’t afford interesting wine. I’m also worried that the high-point-scoring critics will win the day and those of us who like to actually write, as well as rate wines, will be squeezed to the margins. And I’m also a little concerned that big, ripe, spoofy red wines will become the new norm – the aesthetic standard of fine wine.

But instead, after a couple of days where I have tried some really interesting wines, I’m going to focus on reasons to be optimistic.

First, there’s more interesting wine being made today than any time in history. Winegrowers are finding interesting terroirs outside the established classic regions and are producing really interesting wines with a sense of place. There’s the new world, where Australia, New Zealand, California, South Africa, the rest of the USA and even Chile and Argentina, where the fine wine scene has a sizeable element who are looking to make profound, elegant, detailed wines from special sites. If you are UK based, look at the portfolios of Indigo, Caves de Pyrene, Carte Blanche, Winemakers Club, Raymond Reynolds, H2Vin, FMV and many others, and they are all full of interesting producers.

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And when I travel, I discover so many new, fantastic things. The next generation of winemakers are well travelled, and invariably value elegance over power, and want to express their place. It’s really encouraging.

As a punter, it’s becoming easier to access interesting wine, too. There has been an explosion of wine bars and restaurants in London with interesting wine lists. You wouldn’t believe how much of  a desert London was for interesting wine in the on trade 10 years ago, compared with how interesting it is now.

I lament the increase  in prices in some of my favourite wine regions such as Burgundy and the Northern Rhone. When I started drinking wine in earnest in the late-1990s, there were lots of classic wines much more accessible in price than they are now (although I was earning less then, so they were still expensive in comparative terms). But now there are so many wines that are out of reach of people on normal incomes, like me. Having said this, if you are interested in great wine and aren’t obsessed by wine as a status symbol, for every wine that has passed into the realms of unaffordability, a dozen have sprung up that are qualitative equivalents at a more sane price.

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And there’s the internet. Information is now so much more widely available. With social media, you can be drinking a bottle and simultaneously engaging with the winegrower on twitter or instagram. You can read what others have to say about the same wine. And you can see where the wine came from and what the vineyards look like. That is brilliant.

The last two days? I had a brilliant Dry River tasting yesterday morning when Wilco Lam visited with a bunch of wines in tow. Then this morning, a vertical of Angelus with Hubert de Bouard, spanning 2000-2012. And this afternoon: the Austrian trade tasting, with so many great surprises, as well as a few old favourites. The wine world is a very exciting and dynamic one, and it’s a privilege to be part of it.

5 Comments on Reasons to be optimistic
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

5 thoughts on “Reasons to be optimistic

  1. Morning Jamie- You mention the New World but omit South Africa. Do you not think there is a groundswell of interesting, authentic wines being made in South Africa? I would argue a greater “real wine” movement exists in South Africa than, Chile, for example, which you do mention. Fair enough, SA, sort of falls between old and new world, but the omission did strike me somewhat and wondered if it was just an oversight?

  2. “I’m anxious that wine shouldn’t be so expensive that normal people can’t afford interesting wine.”

    Of course the chances of us plebs being able to drink Dry River and Angelus are pretty minimal!

  3. Good to be optimistic, there is enough bad news around as it is.

    I am rarely in the UK but when I am I think I have perceived a less-interesting supermarket offering over the last 10 years. I am aware that Waitrose may have a good list but I couldn’t find one last time I was over.

    Have supermarkets dumbed-down and played safe or has the interest past to their own label “Finest” or equivalents?

    No doubt all the wine shops you mention are brilliant, but if you happen to be in central Oxford or Rochdale and need a couple of bottles of something interesting, without spending all day researching where to go, it just seems harder than it was.

  4. Andrew – I completely agree with you. I’ve remarked here and elsewhere for a while now that the UK supermarkets’ wine offerings are dismal. Heaven knows why, given that there are regular interviews in the wine press with the MW heads of buying. Take Sainsburys – they used to have a decent list with the kind of big brands that I like (e.g. d’Arenberg). But over the past year or so they’ve eased out a lot of independent stuff and focussed on their own branded range (some of which is good, to be honest, but a lot is just overpriced and mass-produced). I wander into Sainsburys now and it’s almost exclusively their own “taste the difference range” or the global giants. And when Villa Maria Private Bin sauvignon blanc is on sale for £11, you know they’re just out to take the piss.

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