IT MAKES a great headline for a New Year column: "The world is
about to run out of wine." It has a certain milleniarist ring to
it. Are we to see queues snaking back from our local off-licences?
Will there be rioting in the streets? Of course not. But there is a
problem. For example, there have been three small vintages in
succession in Burgundy.
In Bordeaux, the price of basic wine has risen by 40 per cent
over the past six months, and there is a fear that traditional
markets, such as the UK, might be lost for ever, as consumers
slaking their thirst with wines from elsewhere.
Why should we not worry? There are several answers. For example,
in this country, wine consumption has fallen by three per cent in
the past year - probably because most people have less disposable
income. Second, wine is not a finite resource: extra vineyards can
be planted, and yields can be increased.
Perhaps the most important reason lies in a headline I read
recently: "China to overtake France as world's largest wine
producer in five years' time". The increase in the consumption of
wine in China has been largely blamed for the shortage of wine in
the world, although in my experience they have bought largely the
most expensive and the cheapest wines, with little in between.
Much of the most expensive has been given as gifts, and the
current anti-corruption drive may lead to a fall-off in this
market. In 1998, the annual consumption of wine in the country was
a third of a litre; by 2010, it had risen to 1.1 litres. Production
of wine in the country, over the same period, however, has risen
from 3.5 million hectolitres to more than 13 million
What should be our reaction to all this? In the short term,
supply of some wines will not meet demand. This will lead to price
rises. If you favour Burgundy or claret, I suggest you buy what you
can afford from a reputable wine merchant. But buy for consumption,
not as a speculation. There are two main reasons for this: first,
if you buy wine with no intention of drinking it, it means that
less is available for the genuine consumer. Second, prices are just
as likely to go down as they are to go up, and all wine has a
One other reason for not speculating in wine is that there
appears to be a colony of "wine investment managers" ready to take
your money, promising vast riches in the future. Almost every week
there is a story of such companies' going into liquidation, leaving
their investors with empty pockets.
I suggest that you carry on as though you had never read this
article. There are still a host of good wines out there, waiting to
be drunk. Here are some of my suggestions for the New Year. In red
wines: Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Douro 2011 (£8.49);
Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Aldi,
£6.99); Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa Valley Shiraz 2010 (ASDA,
For white-wine lovers: Chablis 2012 (Lidl, £7.69); Cono Sur
Bicicleta Viognier 2012 (ASDA, £7.50), and, for those with a sweet
tooth, De Bortoli Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon 2008 (Waitrose,
Have a relaxed 2014.