Imagine it's a year from now. The turbulent events of 2012 seem so obvious with the benefit of a rear-view mirror. True, we'd already seen wine sales starting to spiral downwards, but isolation from Europe coupled with yet another above-inflation tax hike brought gloom if not quite doom to what was left of the high street. The new Oddbins and Wine Racks clung on. George Osborne riffled greedily through our pocket but failed to spot the gaping hole in it.
Chinese investment in Bordeaux real estate led it to be dubbed the new Chinatown. But after two great vintages in 2009 and 2010, Bordeaux flopped with 2011. Châteaux fell over themselves in the stampede to sell mediocre wines without reducing prices enough. Burgundy was France's star in 2011. Selling the fine 2010 vintage just as the Far East sent in the nose patrol to sniff out its finest wines highlighted its excellence and popularity.
Released from the crushing weight of Bordeaux and Burgundy, France's South-West took wing. We saw some stunning malbecs from Cahors, discovering the native Len de l'El grape of Gaillac and the gros and petit mansengs of Jurançon. In France's south-western corner, Roussillon found its voice with robust reds and whites made from ancient grenache. German pinot noir came of age, while Andalucia spread the briny pleasures of manzanilla and fino to the tapas bars of England.
Peace broke out in the Middle East as Israel, Lebanon and Turkey shared the spotlight on the international wine rostrum. England exceeded expectations with plaudits for its award-winning fizz, from, among others, Gusborne, Ridgeview and Camel Valley. And we toasted Croatia's accession to the EU with Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Malvasia Istriana and Tesco's Finest Plavac Mali.
We began to make out the contours of some exciting New World regions. In Australia, Victoria's Mornington Peninsula came into focus as a world beater for pinot noir and chardonnay. Beechworth and Heathcote hove into view. Argentina's Uco Valley showed new levels of refinement with the malbec grape. Chile's forgotten Maule Valley was suddenly remembered for the greatness of its old vine heritage.
As the hype surrounding natural wine abated, the natural wine movement acquired a sense of humour, even endorsing the ongoing trend towards more natural, less processed wines. A £100,000 prize was offered for anyone who could tweet an intelligent term for terroir, minerality and sustainability, but no one could do it in 140 characters, so the competition was dropped.Reuse content