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What should you be drinking in 2010? Square Meal talks to some of the country’s leading wine writers to find out their recommendations
I’d like to think that 2010 will be a year of dramatic, tabula rasa change in the wine business, but the realistic side of me tells me it won’t be. If the recession continues to make people cautious, they are going to stick to what is familiar: Aussie brands, pink California wines and Pinot Grigio. I can’t see prices rising either, despite the recent VAT increase and the prospect of a duty hike in the spring. The supermarkets are obsessed with selling wine at £4.99 and below, irrespective of quality.
There are a few beacons of light in this gloomy retail landscape, however. The 2010 World Cup should encourage punters to drink more South African wine, for a start. Not before time, because the quality of Cape Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Chenin Blancs and Syrahs is improving with every vintage. There’s also the chance for consumers to make a change to the world they live in by buying Fairtrade wines.
The other exciting news is the quality of the 2009 vintage, which looks as if it was excellent all over Europe
– the first such vintage since 1990. So look out for some really good wines from Spain, Italy and especially France in the later half of the year.
2010 looks set to be another year of tightened purse strings as the shoots of economic recovery only just begin to appear. With this in mind, less expensive
alternatives to favourites such as Champagne will continue to prove popular. Sales of the Italian fizz,
Prosecco, have seen huge growth over the past few
years and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Prices are likely to rise, however, with the imminent
arrival of DOCG status for the better wines, so my tip would be to stock up now.
With growing concern for the environment, English fizz will become an increasingly attractive option for those with a bit more money to spend. Quality is
improving all the time as the vines mature and winemakers become ever more experienced. Some top producers to look out for are Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Chapel Down, all of whose wines are available
on the high street.
The south of France, and especially Roussillon, is still a relatively unknown source of amazingly characterful, food-friendly wines. I’m a particular fan of the nutty,
mineral-scented whites from producers such as Matassa, Gauby and Laguerre. The more widely available Languedoc reds of Gérard Bertrand are
also very impressive for the price.
On a final note, for those of you who’d prefer to put your money in something other than a bank this year, the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux is looking like one to watch.
The quality of English fizz is improving all the time as the vines mature and winemakers become ever more experienced
Less is more – and I’m not just referring to what we all want to spend. I’m talking about alcohol, glass-weight and oak. We’ll be seeing more wines that have had
a few degrees of alcohol removed during processing, but I’ve yet to find one worth recommending. I’d prefer to see wines with naturally lower alcohol, but it’s not going to be easy with the 2009s
in much of France – for example, Bordeaux – because grape sugar levels were high at harvest. Still, quality looks very promising.Lighter bottles, lower carbon footprint, time to boycott environment-damaging heavyweight
bottles from South America, Italy et al. Before the year is out we can expect more packaging initiatives like Hardy’s FreshCase, a bag-in-box alternative which holds the
equivalent of three bottles but is 70% lighter (and recyclable). As for oak, there are fewer wines tasting of toast, vanilla, wood and little else, but there are still a few dinosaurs, especially
from South America.
On the retail side, changes in the law mean more shops will be selling tasting samples of wines – a brilliant way to try bottles you can’t afford, something
obscure or your everyday drinking options.
Vintages to look out for include 2008 European whites, 2007 red Rhône, 2007 and 2008 red Italian and 2004 and 2005 red Spanish. Keep an eye out for Portuguese
wines, Pinot Noir from Chile as well as New
Zealand, South African whites and the first 2009s from France, Italy, Germany and England.
Over the next 12 months I reckon that we’re going to see some pretty major changes across the wine industry. People talk about the recession possibly being over,
but it’s only just now starting to hit the wine industry really hard. This is going to be reflected in pricing and I wouldn’t be surprised if some big names go under.
Having said this, the good news is that those people shopping at the upper end of the market are going to see some great deals and some real value coming
through. I also think independent retailers are in a great position to pick and choose their specialist wines on behalf of their customers – there are some stunning wines out there, you just have
to work hard to find them!
Most interesting of all though will be seeing what the Bordelais do with the 2009 en primeur campaign. Initial reports from the harvest are good, but with so much top grade Bordeaux having been pumped into the market following the recession, it’s difficult to see how they can justify any price rises on 2008, even if it is an excellent vintage. I predict, and perhaps this is wishful thinking more than crystal ball work, that they’ll take the sensible route with a small rise in price on the 2008, potentially turning the 2009 into a ‘no-brainer’, must-buy vintage. That would be good for them, the trade and for the consumer. Let’s hope some common sense prevails.