Take one crystal ball, add hindsight, a generous splash of wishful thinking, shake and stir, and there in a nutshell you have the world of wine in 2007. Hindsight, we know, is a wonderful thing, but in wine it's 90 per cent of wisdom for the simple reason that great wine bides its time. For quality wines, your best guide to tomorrow is to take a good look back at the vineyard yesterday, last year, or a decade ago. The 1996 champagne vintage, for instance, remains the greatest since 1990. This year could be a last chance to pick up some of the classics from that year: Dom Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill, Jacquesson, Billecart-Salmon Grande Cuvée and Bollinger RD.
The biggest splash made last year was by Bordeaux and the great 2005 vintage. Icons sold for such extravagant prices that they made preceding vintages look cheap. Bordeaux splits increasingly into the investment and drinking camps. In the latter, 2001 and 2002 produced good wines, 2004 very good wines, and they're affordable today because they're sandwiched between the in-demand 2000, 2003 and 2005s sought after by investors. After a cold, wet harvest, there's little prospect of a repeat performance with 2006, so the spotlight turns to the 2005 burgundies. The proof is in next week's tastings, but the omens are good (I aim to report later this month).
Elsewhere, 2001 was a great vintage for chianti classico and brunello di montalcino riservas, and excellent too for barolo and barbaresco. There's little en primeur market for these top Italian wines, which remain in barrel and bottle for several years before release. This year offers a chance to snap up some of Italy's greatest 2001 reds, while 2004 is a good vintage for straight chianti classico. 2001 was also excellent in Spain and I aim to bring news of the best rioja reserva and ribera del duero reds to buy in 2007. With a host of good value garnacha and tempranillo-based reds, Spain is putting the glug back into everyday quaffing reds (although beaujolais, too, had a great 2005 and Portugal's 2004 reds from the Douro are good).
Thanks to increasingly good-value styles from the Loire, South Africa, Chile and a good 2006 vintage in New Zealand, sauvignon blanc is gaining ground on chardonnay and viognier. Choosing dry whites this year, I'm more likely to pick out a pinot gris from New Zealand, an albariño from Spain, a grüner veltliner from Austria, a southern Italian fiano d'avellino, a Greek assyrtiko, or a Hunter semillon and Clare or Eden Valley riesling from Australia.
The screwcap revolution will gather momentum as yet another big player, Jacob's Creek, puts its entire range of wines in this country under screwcap this year. Despite the arguments in favour, Italy is digging its heel in, refusing to allow screwcaps for its top (DOCG) wines, to which one can only say: wake up, Italy.
Europe needs all the help it can get in a cut-throat wine market. Many growers haven't yet heeded the wake-up call from Mariann Fischer-Boel, the European Commissioner for Agriculture. Wishful thinking perhaps, but her proposals for greater flexibility in all aspects of production should act as a tonic in the elusive search for red wine brands with the ready drinkability of New World wines.
Of course, where there's drinkability, there's binge-drinking, and the papers will provide grist to the mills of Patricia Hewitt and Caroline Flint. Expect them to miss the point and try to "tax" binge-drinking out of sight, instead of realising that the problem needs information and education. Or maybe they'll treat us like grown-ups after all.Reuse content