I was asked a couple of weeks ago to do a small "critics corner" feature for harpers so here it is...
The fine wine market has hit a bit of a lull of late, hardly breaking news or surprising , but I am not sure this is such a bad thing. It will be great to focus on selling wines where people’s interest is in drinking them, whether that is now or in 20 year’s time. I have found over the last 2-3 years that there is a massive overuse of financial terminology creeping into to the world of wine and for me it is a shame, it de-personalises and over simplifies wine. I am not naive and realise it is good for merchants, agents and brokers when wines prices are flying high and there is a frenzy but surely we have got to a stage where supply and demand (by which I mean bottles being drunk or bought by drinkers) have to be re-introduced to each other.
Wine investment as a by-product of the fact that supply goes down and therefore people have to pay more to incentivise people to sell is fine and has gone on for years but if prices are manipulated by the fact that so much is in “funds” or “portfolios” it can’t be healthy in the longer term. The market has to reflect what people will pay to open a bottle of a wine not what they will pay on the basis someone will pay more at a later date, surely that is a slippery slope?
To be more positive and go back to the drinker I don’t think they/we have ever had it so good, wines in the £10-£50 a bottle range have surely never been as good? I realise that is a large bracket but then people’s budgets are very different. Wherever you look, Italy and Piedmont in particular for me, there is great competition, diversity or styles and exceptional quality which can only be good. This forces even the established names to constantly review what they do in the vineyard and cellar. So whilst the investment angle may have dropped off the radar let’s all enjoying selling and better still drinking some great bottles, magnums and bigger in 2012.
The 2010 Burgundy tastings will be a good place to start with the excitement of a week where pretty much all the offers are out and a large group of growers travel to the UK to engage with their customers it is always a great week to be in the trade. Especially with 2010 looking a good to great, if small, vintage. There is real passion amongst those who buy and drink Burgundy and whilst you get some high prices at the top end the wines are produced in genuinely minute quantities and in most cases would sell to drinkers for more, a lesson to be learnt?