Having just completed the auction and investment sections for the 6th edition of Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine (due out 2015), I think it would be fair to say that this is one area of wine in which Jancis Robinson MW, the Queen Bee of wine writing, finds herself holding her nose to avoid the stink. She doesn’t like the idea of wine investment, because it’s divorced from the pleasure principle behind wine drinking, but she reluctantly acknowledges that it’s part of the fine wine scene.
Heading from the scruffy, coastal city of Catania in Sicily’s North-Eastern corner, a gentle winding drive up the broad circumference of the Mount Etna takes you through towns whose faded grandeur is testament to a bygone era of great prosperity. Like a wisp of cigarette smoke, you soon see a small cloud floating above the majestic summit of the volcano, which, even in early summer, has not yet shed its white mantle of snow.
Top white burgundy apart, dry German Riesling is the greatest, most food-friendly dry white wine in the world, yet it remains under-appreciated. While Germany would like its greatest dry Rieslings to be better known, the rest of the world’s wine industry is more than happy for German wine to have a hard time exporting its liquid gold overseas. According to the Nahe producer, Martin Tesch, only half with tongue in cheek: ‘selling Riesling in England borders on an extreme sport, like underwater polo’.
There are a number of major issues in today’s wine world whose significance can too often be taken for granted or swept under the multi-layered carpet of articles, new stories, interviews and tasting notes that form the common currency of wine. We forget these issues at our peril however because they touch all aspects of wine whether we’re aware of them or not. I think anyone interested in the broader issues of wine wants to have a grasp of the world beyond the liquid in their glass,. Besides which, they all make for cracking dinner party conversation.
Taylor's Port is currently bottling its two casks of Single Harvest 1863 into 1,600 crystal decanters for will worldwide release. It is expected to retail for around £3,000. It follows the release of a limited edition imperial of 2010 Penfolds Bin 170 Kalimna Shiraz in a bespoke case with a compass designed by cabinet maker David Linley at £33,000 for the imperial (six-litre bottle).
The Hotel Mundial in Lisbon is famous for a number of features, most notably the breathtaking scene from the terrace of its traditional restaurant, Varanda de Lisboa. From here, you have a unique view of the magnificent St. George’s Castle which commands the top of the capital’s highest hill. Ahead of you, over the colourful, grand buildings of Rossio Square, the panoramic sweep of the distant Tejo River carries your eye in the direction of its outward flow towards the ocean.
I would like to start with a confession. I never took rosé seriously for a long time, in fact I hardly ever drank it at all. Unless of course it was Dom Pérignon Rosé Champagne. I used to think that rosé was the kind of wine that was only drunk by young women on girls’-nights-out or middle-aged matrons on ladies-who-lunch expeditions. I wasn’t alone in thinking this way. Many winemakers too made their rosé wine as an afterthought.
Until now, I had taken it for granted that the world’s biggest wine producer was France. Or Italy. One or the other anyway. The two European wine giants have been neck and neck for so long in the numbers game that it never occurred to me for one moment that there might be a third giant on the horizon. Well, there is, its name is Spain, and it’s no longer on the horizon. The Spanish Ministry for Agriculture has announced that last year Spain produced 51 million hectoliters of wine. That’s 7.7 billion bottles to you and me.
A recent article appeared in a British national newspaper extolling the virtues of investing in wine. To back up its case, it gave four examples of great investments. There was a case of 1978 Romanée-Conti that sold for £286,000 at Christie’s auction house in 2013, three bottles of 1869 Château Lafite that fetched £146,232 in 2010, and six magnums of 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild, which sold for £182,700 at Christie’s in 2006. Not forgetting, most laughably, the 1787 Château Lafite that sold for £105,000 in 1985. Why do I say ‘laughably’?
The Ningxia Wine Competition
‘It’s going to be quite cold during the tasting in the Cave. Please wear a warm coat’. Despite the warning from Revue du Vin de France China, the judges of the 2013 a Ning Xia Wine Tasting Competition were taken aback at the numbing cold of the cellar in the mountains in which the competition took place. Perhaps they had been lulled into a false sense of security. When I arrived after the two-hour flight from Beijing two days before, it was a balmy late September 21C at 8pm in Ningxia’s capital of Yinchuan.