Wines and whiskies

Sales down, prices up – but 2018 still had its bright mo­ments, writes David Wil­liams

The Observer Food Monthly - - CONTENTS -

David Wil­liams picks his favourite bot­tles

Alot of the news about wine in the UK this year was about what we’re not drink­ing. Sales are on the slide, inch­ing down­wards by around 2% in the past year, and with the largest spe­cial­ist wine re­tailer, Ma­jes­tic, re­port­ing a big drop in pre-tax prof­its in Novem­ber.

Not even the big suc­cess story of the past decade could ride to the res­cue: im­ports of pros­ecco fell by 7% this year – cue head­lines about the end of pros­ecco-ma­nia – while cham­pagne en­dured an even worse slump.

What’s be­hind it? Well, tee­to­tal­ism and mod­er­a­tion are on the rise, both full-time, and thanks to ini­tia­tives such as Dry Jan­uary and Go Sober For Oc­to­ber, tem­po­rary. This trend has con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of one of the wine types that we are def­i­nitely drink­ing more of: low- and no-al­co­hol wines were ev­ery­where this year, al­though for me, sadly, they were no more palat­able than they ever have been.

The main cause of wine’s strug­gles is Brexit. The fall in the pound has con­tin­ued to push up prices of wines from all over the world – com­pounded by yet an­other above-in­fla­tion duty rise in the Oc­to­ber bud­get. You’d strug­gle to find any­one in the trade who be­lieves this sit­u­a­tion will im­prove. Many of them started stock­pil­ing wine in the sum­mer, in prepa­ra­tion for no deal or an­other cur­rency shock.

Which means that 2018 was the year when £10 re­placed £8 as the point at which you can rea­son­ably ex­pect, rather than hope, to find in­ter­est­ing wine. That’s not to say there aren’t still de­cent bot­tles in the £5 to £10 range, but you have to cud­dle up to a lot more frogs to find those in­creas­ingly elu­sive princes.

One such £5.99 princeling was an ad­di­tion to the Aldi range over the sum­mer (it’s since sold out), a wine that was also note­wor­thy for sig­nalling a move to the main­stream for a pair of trends: Aldi Or­ange Nat­u­ral Wine, from Ro­ma­nia, was a cred­itable bud­get ex­am­ple of nat­u­ral and or­ange wine, both of which cat­e­gories con­tinue to pro­duce in­trigu­ing wines.

I’ve also tasted ex­cel­lent wines from Canada and China, Crete and Croa­tia, and been de­lighted anew by sparkling wine from Kent, Trentino and Li­moux. In a nor­mal year, any of these would be mak­ing the wine news. For now, Bri­tish wine drinkers may find con­so­la­tion in the idea that, even as our tip­ple gets more ex­pen­sive, the good stuff it­self has never been more di­verse.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.