For the past twelve years, I have been flying to London on the last week in April to participate in the world’s largest wine competition. The Brits seem to have cornered the market on vast international wine contests. England mounts the International Wine and Spirit, established in 1969; the International Wine Challenge, founded in 1984; and then there’s the biggest of them all – the Decanter World Wine Awards, a relative newbie that burst onto the scene in 2004.
To know if wine is too expensive, clarifying a few issues is a starting point: for who is wine too expensive? And which wines are too expensive? The wine industry is broad and includes many different players (producers, importers, distributors, retailers and end consumers among others). Looking at statistics, it seems that average export prices per country are very reasonable. However, many elements contribute to make wine very expensive (brand name importance, importer/on-trade margins, taxes and customs duties, political changes). But the industry at many levels is making efforts to keep wine affordable for both clients and consumers alike.
Of all American Presidents, the one who knew wine best and cared about it most was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson acquired his knowledge during his time as the US ambassador to France between 1784 and 1794. During his tour of duty, he travelled extensively through the wine regions of France and beyond to those of Germany and Italy. According to James Gabler in his book, ‘Passions: The Wines and Travels of Thomas Jefferson’, in the garden of his Paris residence on the Champs-Elysées, Jefferson experimented with grape growing. He planted vine cuttings acquired from such famous vineyards as Montrachet, Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot, Hochheim and Rudesheim.
Appassimento and ripasso are two euphonious terms that are now firmly established in the wine lover’s lexicon. They refer to methods - one ancient and one modern – for concentrating and augmenting a wine’s flavour. While the words are Italian, coined in the Veneto region, the concept of appassimento was first practiced by the Greeks and then by the Romans who would leave grape bunches to hang on the vine to allow them to desiccate, thereby concentrating their sugars.
Wine lovers, I have found, are unrepentant collectors, not only of bottles of wine but all the paraphernalia that does along with wine - labels, corkscrews, corks and even those little metal discs under the cage of champagne bottle stoppers. And, of course, wine books.