Presumably the £10,000 Dorchester Krug Escape Package was devised before it became clear that belt-tightening would be the order of the day in 2009. Maybe there are still a few oligarchs out there, though, who'll go for the bells and whistles deal. After a champagne breakfast in the Krug Room, you're whisked to the Eurostar in a Rolls-Royce Phantom and check in to Paris's five-star Hotel Meurice for a three-Michelin-star dinner. Next day you're driven to Maison Krug for a tasting with Olivier Krug, returning to Paris for dinner at Alain Ducasse – and then back home for baked beans on toast and Tesco's Finest Prosecco. How the other 0.0001 per cent live.
Speaking of Tesco's Finest, the traditional Venetian sparkler could be one of this year's winners as the new thrifty drinking class's "champagne". It generally does a better job than Spanish cava of keeping the palate satisfied, as evidenced by those from Tesco and M&S and others in the market. In fact there are plenty of good-value sparkling wines around that will substitute nicely as aperitifs, especially champagne-method sparklers from Tasmania and New Zealand, and crémant de Limoux from the Languedoc, all for around a tenner.
In table wines, we may well see a drift downwards in the classic European regions, from cru classé to good cru bourgeois in bordeaux, from the great vintages of 2000, 2003 and 2005 to the respectable but more reasonably priced vintages of 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006, from premier cru burgundy and top rhônes to cheaper village burgundy and rhône. This will be accompanied by a shift from the pricier, "classic" regions of Europe towards the Mediterranean south and beyond, to the better-value regions of the New World.
In France, the Languedoc will be the region to scour for tasty, affordable reds, as well as Gaillac and Cahors. The new-wave Spanish reds from Castilla y Léon, Campo de Borja, Bierzo, Montsant and Calatayud along with monastrell-based reds from Jumilla will generally offer better value than "classic" rioja, ribera del duero or priorat. Best-value Italian reds will be the richly fruited aglianicos of Basilicata and Campania and dark cherryish nero d'avolas coming out of Sicily. Robust Portuguese reds from Alentejo and Douro are the ones to go for. On the white front, Italy's deliciously full-flavoured verdicchio, fiano and falanghina will compete for attention with refreshing dry Spanish albariño and Austrian grüner veltliner.
The shuffling of the New World pack is likely to see Australia lose its competitive edge to South Africa, Chile and Argentina. Argentinian reds, juicy malbec in particular, should play a starring role in 2009. And just as Australia loses out on the reds front, New Zealand sauvignon could find itself ousted by sauvignons from South Africa and Chile. Look to Chile, too, for some of the best-value pinot noir, certainly better value than burgundy. One temptation to avoid in 2009 is the lure of the dreaded supermarket "great value" wines written about ad nauseam; suffice to say that value isn't the word, especially now that Mr Darling has made wines under £6.07 dearer.
The best way to save money on wine this year is to give up drinking for a month. Whether embarking on a health kick or doing it just to prove to themselves that they can, a growing number of people are sacrificing wine in January. It's not as bad as it sounds, especially if you have a good juicer to knock out a few killer combinations. On which note, a very happy and frugal new year to all readers.Reuse content