10 Jan 2011

6 Wine wishes for the New Year

There is a strong tradition, in France and elsewhere, which leads people to emit wishes for things that they would like to see happen in the coming year. This fairly useless practice is nonetheless symptomatic of some of the subjects that currently preoccupy us. Having been totally self-centered in the resolution I published here on December 31st for the new year (modify a motorbike I own), I will now attempt to be a little more altruistic, as well as giving this a professional slant by limiting my wishes to the field of wine. If it is true that most of these wishes apply, first and foremost, to the country in which I live (France), many of them can easily be extended to situations in other wine-producing and consuming countries.  

Wish number 1
That the French government declare wine to be a national priority, national heritage or some other formula that actually gives it the status and promotional assistance which its position and financial importance (the wine & spirits industry is France's 3rd biggest earner in terms of balance of payments) merit. In this, France would join countries like Spain and Argentina which have already taken such a step.

Wish number 2
That the powers-that-be cease creating new wine appellations all the time, and start, on the contrary, to drastically reduce their numbers. A reasonable goal would be to halve the actual number of 480 or so (for AOPs alone). If one adds in the IGP category the numbers rise even further! Most of these are quite meaningless in terms of helping to sell the stuff, and the whole system is totally counter-productive. In any event, it is the winemaker who makes the wine and determines its quality, not the name of the appellation.

Wish number 3
That all French wines work together to promote themselves on export markets, and stop shooting themselves (and each other) in the foot (or elewhere) by thinking and playing individually and not as a team.

Wish number 4
That people stop using the silly term "natural wine". It is erroneous and misleading, as no wine can be "natural", with the possible exception of vinegar. If they want to talk about no added sulphur, or some other part of their wine-making pratice, that is fine, but the whole concept of "natural wine" is ridiculous. In general I would like to see all such labels and phoney sub-categories (and that includes organic) disappear. Wine is about taste, not labels. And the simplistic self-righteousness of those who bandy these labels about is often nauseous.

Wish number 5
That the vast majority of restaurants, brasseries and bistrots in France who rip off their customers by charging far too much for indifferently chosen wines that are usually badly stored and served finally understand that wine is not just a milk-cow in their miserable business plan, but can be fun, attractive and help build them a reliable consumer base, also generating image and reasonable profit. If they need to see how this can be achieved, they should take a couple of trips to Italy, England, or several other countries. There are even some good examples in France! Only then will they be allowed to winge about the drop in wine consumption.

Wish number 6
That screwcaps or glass stoppers become compulsory for all bottled wines. This will ensure that any of the minor drawbacks than can sometimes occur with these closure sytems, such as reduction for certain wines, get solved quickly. We can then move on and enjoy all wines for their true worth, and not for the part of them that the totally unreliable cork stopper deigns to leave unscathed by premature oxidation or other inacceptable deviations.

And just what are the chances that we see just one of these wishes fulfilled? About the same as seeing the end of war in the world, I am afraid, the definition of a optimist being a "realistic pessimist". We can, however, live in hope.