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2010 : The Wine Future Starts Here

20 Feb

2010 : The Future Starts Here

Two things strikes me as we move into the second decade of the 21st
century, firstly like the years from 2000 to 2009, we are still not in
a decade that has a bona fide name, the twenties and thirties are our
first named decades, so if you thought the noughties was an irritating
name, then how about the teens from 2013 onwards.

Secondly and this is much more annoying, its 2010 and we are not in
flying cars, we have no base on the Moon and our computers still have
not reached the malevolence of HAL in 2001 A Space Odyssey, unless you
count crashing and taking a days worth of work with them.

My general predicting ability as a 10 years old therefore is highly suspect.

Last years wine predictions faired a good deal better. I predicted the
death of En Primeur, fine wine bargains as Asia too pulled out of the
Bordeaux market, a return for wine education and wine clubs,
warehouses and better budgeting, a carbon footprint obsession going
mainstream in wine and lastly a reality check for Irish Restaurant
wine list prices. That’s reasonably good out of 10, but there were of
course no goes, unhappily 2009 did not see my hoped for Zinfandel
breakthrough nor any sign of wine’s appellation controllee system of
intense oversight being applied to Irish Foods to create a high value
claim for Irish foodstuffs.

On the contrary Irish food has become a by-word for illness and
disease, German winemakers I encountered during the summer had not
heard of Bord Bia, but they all knew about our Dioxin filled ham,
sausages and black pudding from last Christmas’s disaster and
subsequent withdrawal from shelves across Europe.

While more recently French winemakers enjoyed adding Bantry Bay
Mussels trading as Bantry Bay Seafoods and the food poisoning of 219
French citizens with unsafe levels of biotoxins, to their chuckling
about the Celtic Tiger’s vanishing trick.

The issue here of course is that we are operating a policing action on
Irish food rather than the ideas of the wine world which is regulating
excellence.

If we did however set up Grand Cru and Premiere Cru butter, cheese,
eggs, bacon and even mussels, then Grand Cru Black Pudding, AC
Clonakilty, or better still a commodity like eggs could sing out from
European shelves.

Top Ten Tips For 2010

Happening

1. Fine Wines Prices Return To Earth Just In Time For The Recovery
2. Renaissance in Irish Whiskey
3. The Long Overdue Rise of Malbec
4. Rumblings In Irish Whiskey
5. India’s wine growing future
6. Portuguese and German Red Wines Break into the Irish Wine Lover’s Imagination
7. The Rise of Northern Wines, UK, Denmark …Ourselves
8. The €15 Bottle of Actual Champagne
9. The Northern Shopping Wine and Spirits River Dries Up
10. Wine Regulation Model to Build a Glorious Future For Irish Brands
[One More Time Then]

Not Happening

1. Flying Cars
2. Moon Base
3. New World Wineries Come To Terms With The New Climate Reality
4. VAT And Excise Duty In Ireland Harmonised To An EU Average
5.

Fine Wine Prices Return To Earth Just In Time For The Recovery

Well the ESRI has now predicted that we are likely to see the Irish
Economy come out of recession sometime during the summer of 2010,
almost a year after the French and German economies turned the corner.
No one will be complaining however, we will just be relieved.

And, here is a counter-intuitive prediction.

By July 2010, the campaign and offerings from all of the great
Chateaux still involved in selling wine En Primeur, will have begun
and they will mostly have issued prices. The 2009 summer was, very,
very good in France. A dry sunny June and July, a moist August but
still warm and a great harvest. The wines are likely to be good, but
having taken a real beating last year when the Asian buyers deserted
them and the US buyers, like ourselves were very cautious about the
future, we can expect to see, very realistic prices to lure buyers
back.

Interest rates will still be at their historic low. People will feel
better across Europe. The first round of wines will be snapped up, the
Bordeaux Chateaux will see their mistake and ramp up the prices for
their late July and August offers.

The advice – even still, stay clear of the whole sick rollercoaster.

This is because interest rates will rise after the summer this will
dampen down shop prices in 2011 and by the end of that year you will
be able to buy a few bottles for near enough the lure price of next
year. If you buy late July you will be stuffed, again.

En Primeur no longer makes sense, we want permanently reasonable Fine
Wine prices when we want to buy and drink wine not when we buy into a
complex mechanism for propping up French Chateaux cash flow.

Another year of no or low En Primeur sales might just break the
current En Primeur addiction for Chateaux and bring them back to
thinking about wine drinkers not investors.

The Northern Shopping Wine and Spirits River Dries Up

The Minister For Finance finally reversed the Vat and excise duties
that he bludgeoned the wine trade with Christmas 2008, seemingly in
recognition of the damage he and the government had done to trade in
the Republic with 6 mile tailbacks at the border a frequent occurrence
with shoppers flocking north, apparently for the cheaper wine, beer
and spirits.
Well, again I have a slightly contrarian view here too.

I made several trips to the north myself last year, as I always do to
and I observed first hand what was being bought in a good selection of
supermarkets, off licences and wine shops.
Obviously as a field study by one easily distracted fellow shopper
hitting stores at random, this is not a scientific study, but this is
what I saw. In the supermarkets those that were buying wine were
tending to buy big branded wines in twos and threes, and single
bottles of own brand wines. Champagne seemed to be a large draw,
certainly there were more baskets with Champagne than you would expect
to see in the Republic. Beer, the big names featured prominently, this
seemed to be a big focus of the buying.

Once you ventured further north up towards Lisburn and Belfast and
award winning wine shop there did not seem to me to be hordes of
Republic cars cramming bottles into every spare nook in the vehicle.
Happily, the talk of huge savings and wild stampedes of shoppers
heading north did jolt the Irish wine business in the Republic into
action.
In 2009, what you could get with a €20 note in a wine shop changed
considerably and we are predicting the drying up of the last of the
northwards flowing river of bargain hunters with some further
imaginative pricing and newly sourced, non big brand wines in the
Republic in 2010.

You see the increase in interest and value in what you can get for
under €20, €15 even €10 is increasingly a result of more imaginative
sourcing, sourcing beyond the obvious or big brands with high
marketing spends who cannot or will not cut margins. This is why the
supermarket based bargains will likely become marginal and
increasingly on big brands only.

So, the Amazonian flow is likely to be quelled this year.

Whiskey Renaissance 2010

Cooley Distillery will launch whiskeys from Kilbeggan the first new
functioning distillery to be commissioned in generations and it might
just draw attention from bankers and the Department of Agriculture as
well as Tourism interests in re-igniting distilleries in every corner
of the land. Small artisan operations giving local jobs, pride and a
tourist hub.

A visit to Kilbeggan’s Locke’s distillery in its restored glory,
complete with cellar door sales of fine whiskeys, including its very
own from next March.

The Rise of Northern Wines, UK, Denmark …Ourselves

Its not quite as regular as the first cuckoo or the first Gas and ESB
price increase of the year, but I am more adamant than usual that
wines from Northern climates are going to be making it to our wine
shop shelves this year.

One of the most irritating occurrences of 2009 was an article in a
newspaper near the Liffey where people who might know better dismissed
the prospects for Irish wine without seemingly talking to the hardy
souls who are making it today.

What that newspaper might do is download my RTE Lyric documentary from
last July where I walk through vineyards in North County Dublin with
the winemaker, David Llewellyn and discuss the future of his Lusca
winery and Irish wine generally. Or they might go into one of the
shops that sell Irish wine, say Fallon & Byrne or The Corkscrew and
have a taste.

The wines are not world beating, far from it indeed, but they are
wines and they are getting better.

I would also invite sceptics to visit the 3 dozen odd, some very odd,
wineries in Wales, not exactly a sun drenched paradise, before going
on to look at the 50 or more fully active English wineries that are
producing class leading and award winning wines, and as one was
looking north, why not have a look at wineries in Sweden, Denmark and
Holland.

It’s about heat summation, cumulative sun and the kinds of wines you
choose to make.

Apples, pears, raspberries and blackberries ripen to completion in
Ireland, if you took a cheap and casual jibe at this island you could
easily find it laughable that we could grow anything but rivers and
grass.

We are unlikely to have a world beating Zinfandel come from Ireland in
the next decade, but I am putting my money on a passable set of
sparkling wines by 2020.

Whiskey Rumblings in 2010

We are also one of the few countries that have very low levels of
local commitment built into our drinks producing.

There are genuine concerns that over the medium term Irish Whiskey
could face a deep crisis in connection to the location of Irish
whiskey making.

As multinational companies come under pressure to find savings some
companies that make Irish whiskey may come under pressure to localise
some of their bigger volume items. To make their whiskey outside of
Ireland.

Could it happen. Under the present law, no, but that law has pushed
the envelope already by making the first step to removing the
integrity of the Irishness of Irish whiskey.

The problem is that the Irish whiskey legislation now allows Irish
whiskey to use non Irish grain as the basis for its fermentation and
distillation.

Irish farmers can be bypassed for cheaper or alternative grain sources
from any part of the world.

There would be quite an uproar if Cognac were produced using grapes
from Spain or Romania, but this is exactly what our politicians have
allowed to happen for Irish whiskey.

The next logical step is to remove the need to make Irish whiskey in
Ireland as long as it is made to the Irish whiskey recipe.

There could be very sound economic and Green reasons to shift the
distilleries closer to the markets and of course to where the grain is
coming from, the bulkiest and least Carbon Neutral part of the
shipping process.

It would have been unthinkable in the 1960 or 1970s that Waterford
Crystal should be made anywhere but Waterford, but as a brand without
the location imperative of terroir or local artisan craft backed up by
political and legal control nothing stopped the eventual move.

Irish Whiskey has been sent the wrong signals by our politicians, but
there is till time to change.

I know it sounds ludicrous, now, but think about Waterford.

Email the wine column at wine@sbpost.ie

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