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.
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.
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.