January 2013 Editorial - Going up, Going down

by Jo Simon

Joanna SimonWelcome to The Wine Gang in 2013.

We’re feeling pretty chipper with our membership growing, four successful live events in 2012 and five, including our first summer fair, already in the calendar for this year (click on Events above), but there’s no pretending that it’s going to be anything other than a tough year for the wine world – for producers, traders and consumers. Be prepared for higher prices, thanks to duty increases, inflation and supply pressure after short harvests, and try to welcome them. It may be counter-intuitive, but we desperately need prices to go up in the UK if quality-conscious, adventurous importers and retailers are to survive.

Peering into the Gang’s finest lead crystal ball, here are some of the other things I see…

GOING UP

Tasmania – source of cool-climate still wines and Champagne-style sparkling wines. Despite Champagne Louis Roederer being blown out by the strong winds a few years back, investors have been pouring in recently, including Brown Brothers, who bought Tamar Ridge, and Michael Hill Smith of Shaw & Smith, who followed cousin Robert Hill Smith of Yalumba.

English sparkling – 2012 was the summer from hell and 2011 wasn’t easy, but serious producers of English fizz are in it for the long haul and are producing some stellar fizz.

German Pinot Noir – third biggest producer of Pinot Noir in the world (it must be true: you read it here in March), but only now starting to get a foothold in the UK.

Romanian Pinot Noir – Paparuda is the name; value is the game. See last November’s  report.

Elqui, Limarí and anywhere else in Chile that is high altitude, coastal, extreme north or south, or on limestone.

Vermentino, aka Rolle, Favorita, Roero et al  – grape variety that gives zesty, aromatic, textured, high quality whites in southern France, Corsica, Sardinia and northern Italy.

Unusual local grape varieties – anything you’ve never heard of before from Mediterrannean, eastern and middle European countries.

Blends of grape varieties – single variety wines aren’t dead yet, but more and more winemakers find that blends are best.

Peruvian wines – the restaurants and the recipes are here; the wines must surely follow.

Syrah from the new world – taking over from Shiraz as the name of choice at the top end.

Beaujolais, especially the ten crus – where else has had good vintages in each of the last four years?

Limestone, chalk, loess – wines that can claim any of these under pied have a headstart.

Island wines – Santorini, Pantelleria, Sardinia, Corsica etcetra – and coastal mainland wines.

Sherry bars – for rare, old and other niche sherries

Portuguese wines – whites as well as reds from indigenous grape varieties. Going places at last.

Wines from South West France – ditto what I said about Portugal.

GOING DOWN, aka WALKING THE GANG PLANK

Alcohol – big, bruising alcohol levels are so yesterday. Sorry California. Sorry Chile.

Varietal wines, unless Pinot Noir, Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc or something more obscure.

Shiraz from the new world – producers with aspirations or pretensions, or both, call it Syrah

Buying Bordeaux en primeur – who needs it?

Natural wines – adopted by a vociferous minority, but not by the silent majority who, if they wanted something that looked and tasted like cloudy cider, would buy cloudy cider.

Turkish wines – not the next big thing. Wine critics went after them, but hardly anyone bought them. Want to prove me wrong? Try the Turkish wines reviewed this month (Armit).

Marlborough Pinot Noir – a handful of producers aside, Marlborough isn’t keeping up with the leaps in Pinot Noir quality happening elsewhere. When they approach Pinot Noir, the region’s winemakers need to forget everything they know about making Sauvignon Blanc.

Rosé – who says rosé is no longer seasonal? Last summer dented our enthusiasm.

Rockbottom multibuy offers, especially three-for-£10 – legislation is on its way.


This month's roving Bunch of Fives category is: Five Wines for Bargain Hunters


January's Top Scoring Wines

Our top scorer is a superb and age-worthy Piedmontese red from Gaja, but spending £200 less can also buy a scintillating sweet wine that garnered 92 precious points from the Gang.

top wines for January 2013

Gaja Barbaresco Sori Tildin 2007

100% Langhe Nebbiolo of course, with a wonderfully alluring mocha touch to the deep, gamy, blood-streaked ripeness of the black, plummy fruit. The palate has superb sweetness: so much juicy, fresh crushed cherry and blackcurrant, carried along on a raft of creamy, fine tannins with the tart squeeze of acidity really lifting the finish. Still a baby, with 10 years+ ahead of it. £212.28 at Armit. Find on wine-searcher.com

Domaine de l'Ancienne Cure Monbazillac 2010

A delightful sticky made from botrytised Semillon (60%) and Muscadelle (40%), it has a gentle but very defined nose of honey and flowers. The palate is refreshingly crisp and is crammed with dried apricots, plump sultanas as well as a touch of stem ginger and orange on the finish. Price for a 37.5cl bottle is £8.25 at Yapp Brothers. Find on wine-searcher.com