Wine Whine

WHERE DOES WINE COME FROM?

Boy this is a weird one — but interesting for all that. Started off simply enough: I wanted a bottle of wine, and so I popped into an off-licence which was a cage that sold spirits, cider, beer and so-called ‘wines’ from California and Australia.

Naturally, I left immediately.

[Picture of a glass of red wine]I visited another off-sales, and it was much the same. I tried here and there, until I threw in the towel and went to a supermarket. Although they were pushing ‘New World Wines’ from Australia, New Zealand and the USA, at least there were some proper wines from Europe!

I cannot believe the way things have changed — the public cannot easily buy proper wines! What is going on?

Decades ago we joined the EEC — the European Economic Community, and even though the name has changed to the EU, the whole idea was supposed to be all about improving trade — trade with France and Italy for example.

  • Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine by far. If the supermarkets and shops were representing production, then Italian wine would take up more than the half-metre width on two or three shelves I found tonight, it would take up half of the aisles.

France is the best wine — a simple and acknowledged fact. France is a large producer, but not represented on the high street — why? Don’t the British public want quality?

That all aside, let’s look at New World Wines:

For a start they don’t have to be all wine, any wine or live up to any definition or standard. There is nothing to stop an ‘Australian’ wine from being made in the UK or anywhere else. It can be a mix from many countries and years and grapes and just-about-anything else. Grape juice, alcohol and topped up with tap water would be OK.

[picture of wine being poured into a glass from a bottle]That’s the thing about European wine, the rules are strict, and it is all very serious and steeped in tradition and history. It’s mainly about geography and year. From the region, through the villages and hillsides to a specific house or Chateau, European wine is labelled and certified. The Name or Appellation is controlled, as are the denomination and origin — everything is protected and it’s authenticity certified and documented.

There are four major categories of Italian wines:

  • Vino Da Tavola
  • Vino a Indicazione Geografica (IGT)
  • Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC)
  • Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Wines in France are categorised under the following wine grades:

It is not difficult to get a clue and root out a good bottle of wine — but only if they are available in the first place. New World Wines just do not have a similar system — they do not even have to be wine in any technical sense, they can be chemically manufactured in a lab; there’s nothing to stop that happening.

What I am saying here is that our shops should at the very least represent these wines. I cannot believe that we do not even get offered the choice, especially when they are our neighbours and trading partners.

From a ‘green point of view’ — how many miles does a Californian or Australian wine have to travel? Wouldn’t it be better to buy and sell more locally, merely to save the planet?

[Picture of wine bottles stored on their sides]Somebody somewhere has sewn it all up. Some corruption has taken place, for I have scanned Haddows, Threshers, Oddbins and the rest — as well as local off-sales, pubs and supermarkets — and the real, genuine, authentic European wines are simply not available, and that is just weird!

Where you do get them, it is a ridiculously small display, and the bottles are all upright — yet even a village idiot knows that it not good for them!

Not so long ago you could walk along Kilmarnock Road in Shawlands and know it was the start of the European wine season — the third Thursday each November — marked by the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact the national news always used to carry the story of the race to get the first bottle opened in Britain!

All my adult life I have managed to celebrate the new wine, just as I have celebrated Christmas, New Year, Easter and St.Patrick’s Day!

However, and sadly, last November I searched in vain for a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau — the staff at Oddbins had never even heard of the wine or the celebration! I had to order a bottle over the Internet, and it was the first time I had failed to get a bottle on the 3rd Thursday.

Another tradition going and almost gone. Things are definitely getting worse.

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