IN A number of ways, we have never had it so good as far as
drinking wine is concerned. In the UK, the range of wines available
is phenomenal. I was at a tasting recently where hundreds of
different wines from more than 20 countries could be tasted. Of
course, the scene was dominated by suppliers such as France, Spain,
and Italy, but there were newcomers such as Turkey, Slovenia,
Serbia, and Brazil.
The appearance of this last is not surprising, as the country's
image around the world will be raised by the Football World Cup
this summer, and then the Olympic Games in two years' time. Brazil
does have an important area under vines, but two factors restrict
the production of quality wine.
First, domestic demand, until recently, has been almost nil -
those who can afford to drink wine have preferred to drink imported
wine. Second, although Brazil is one of the largest countries in
the world, no part of it has either a Mediterranean climate, or a
dry climate with water-availability. Excess humidity is a regular
problem, and the vines that succeed in such conditions produce
Despite these problems, over the past decade the quality of
Brazilian wine has improved immeasurably, and the producers'
efforts seem largely concentrated on the production of sparkling
wines. (When I was last there, I was told that the Serra Gaúcha
region, in the south of Brazil, is the third best region in the
world for sparkling wines.) Now, as much as 38 per cent of the
quality wine produced in the country is fizz.
These sparkling wines come in two distinct styles, which were
known locally, until recently, as Champanha and Asti. There are
some interesting dry wines, bottle-fermented and made for the Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay grapes, just as in Champagne, and
lower-strength (7.5%) Muscat-based sweet sparklers, similar to Asti
I have the feeling that it will be wines of this latter type
which we shall see on this market, as they should be more
price-competitive in their field. It appears that Tesco and M&S
will soon be featuring Brazilian wines on their shelves.
As I have said, there were a number of lesser-known
wine-producing countries at this tasting. I was most impressed with
the red wines from the Stobi Winery in Macedonia: both their Petit
Verdot Barrique 2011 and Syrah Barrique 2011 are packed with rich,
full fruit and soft tannins, and should retail for about £12.99
At a more approachable price, and available from several good
wine-merchants is an old acquaintance of mine from Mexico, L. A.
Cetto Petite Syrah 2010, at less than £10.
Such tastings show how broad the range of wines is for those who
are prepared to seek them out. Even in countries such as Spain,
France, and Italy, there are regions whose wines we have never
known which are now becoming available.
Good news from another direction is that sales of Fairtrade
wines were up by 15 per cent last year. The Co-op and M&S were
leaders in this field.