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Pastimes >

Bouquets and rosé

by Christopher Fielden

In a number of ways, 2006 was a remarkable year for wine in Britain. First, after many years of what appeared to be inexorable growth, wine consumption plateaued. We have yet to see whether the market has reached saturation point, or whether it is taking breath before gulping down more.

Second, sales of white, as opposed to red, have increased. It would seem that this is largely as a result of the fashion for Pinot Grigio, which seems to have deposed Sauvignon Blanc as the flavour of the moment.

Third, the dramatic rise in the consumption of rosé wine has continued — more than 25 per cent up on a year ago.

Over the past 12 months, there has also been a change of mindset as far as some of the producing countries are concerned. France has at last realised that it has no divine right to sell its wines, come what may — it has to compete with the New World. There is some confusion, however, over how it should do this. Should it go down the route of big brands, as the Californians have done so successfully? I hope not, for the production of quality wine is finite, and the more that you sell of a brand, the more the quality must suffer.

Australia is suffering from a wine glut, and its response has been to flood the supermarkets with offers. Beware of these, as duty and taxes form such a large proportion of the cost of a bottle of wine that sellers have to inflate the original selling price to achieve a reasonable discount.

On the other hand, I would like to hand out some bouquets. My first one would go to the Co-op for the efforts it is making to promote Fairtrade wines. Initially, I had concerns about the quality of some of these, but now the problems have been resolved, the range is extending, and the lives of workers in South Africa, Chile, and Argentina are benefiting from the increased sales.

Furthermore, I would like to congratulate the buyers at the

Sunday Times Wine Club (www.sundaytimeswineclub.co.uk) for having dug deep into the lesser regions of Spain, and come up with some real bargains. For too long, we have been hesitant to look beyond Rioja and Cava; if you like full-bodied red wines, try some of their offerings from places such as Calatayud, Castilla, and Cariñena.

Also, the Aldi chain has some great-value wines, though my wine of the year in this category is the Muscadet from Sainsbury’s at £2.99.

Among the many mailings I receive, three of the most eagerly read are: first, that from Yapp Brothers of Mere (www.yapp.co.uk). The list is often idiosyncratically illustrated, but always contains interesting profiles of their suppliers and wines.

The second is Irma Fingal-Rock of Monmouth. Its website is www. pinotnoir.co.uk — and this is one of its attractions for me. The owner, Tom Innes, delights in seeking out lesser producers, particularly in Burgundy.

The third is Stone, Vine and Sun (www.stonevine.co.uk); it has a worldwide list of wines, and you feel that each one chosen has been picked with loving care.

Happy wine-drinking in 2007.

Christopher Fielden

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