I have just come from a tasting of 64 champagnes put on by Fine & Rare Wines. The tasting was blind and the results of the wines tasted by Fine & Rare, myself and Her Majesty Jancis Robinson MW (unpaid I should make clear) will soon form part of an offer to be made by Fine & Rare Wines based on growers’ champagnes. Good for them. We’re so subservient to the Grandes Marques in this country that we rarely take the time out of our comfort zone to look for really interesting and characterful champagnes made by growers.
It was all going so well. New Zealand wine was up 30% last year (to October) with an average bottle price of £6.25 compared to the next country, France, with £4.82, and whoa!, at the bottom of the Big 10 pile, South Africa at £3.84. Just before this year’s annual New Zealand tasting came the announcement of a raft of New Zealand sweet wines for tasting. These were only admitted to the UK on 14 December after the European Union had banned them for having more than 15% potential alcohol.
Government advisers have been coming out of the woodwork with some pretty alarmist statements about alcohol. First we had David Nutt who said that ‘if you want to reduce the harm to society from drugs, alcohol is the drug to target at present’. Not a very happy choice of words. We now have the government’s chief doctor, Liam Donaldson, telling parents not to give their offspring alcohol, even watered down because ‘the more they get a taste for it, the more likely they are to be heavy-drinking adults or binge drinkers later in childhood’. Is that so?