30 Nov 2010

Which major wine region or country could you do without? For ever?

The wine writer Tim Atkin caused a bit of a stir this week by asking on Twitter and Facebook: "If you had to choose, which major wine region or country could you do without? For ever." Almost one hundred people voted (and an unspecified number of people were offended).

It was obviously all a bit tongue-in-cheek: clearly no true wine lover would ever willingly close themselves off from any region or country through choice. But it's an interesting thing to think about.

Reluctantly, I originally opted for the USA, purely on cost grounds. I've really enjoyed many of the American wines I've tried, it's just that here in the UK good American wines generally cost more than good wines from other countries. Tim Atkin himself makes the same point here.

But then I thought again, and I changed my mind. I just instinctively feel like there are lots of American wines I'm yet to try, and that I'd really like to try. Maybe it's because of the film Sideways romanticising the vineyards of California in my mind. But there are plenty of high-quality American pinots, cabernets and (the much-maligned) zinfandels out there, not just from California but also increasingly from places like Washington state.

So I opted for Germany. I can say now that no professional wine writers will have chosen Germany. Or I'll be surprised if they did. I may be wrong, but many professional wine writers in the 70s and 80s probably wouldn't have been seen dead championing German wines, but they are in fashion again now among those in the know. As with many things, as they became less popular among the general public, they became more popular among enthusiasts. Sharp rieslings and, increasingly I think light reds like pinot noirs, have found favour of late. But if pushed, I personally could (reluctantly) do without these. A shame, as I've not really explored the world of German wine yet, but there are plenty of countries producing interesting whites and lighter reds that I could turn to. And I have to be honest, I don't really buy German wine. Perhaps that's something that should change.

It doesn't come naturally to rule out any country's wines. Perhaps it would be a nice exercise for everyone who took part to buy a nice bottle from the country they gave as their answer. I'll do that myself with Germany, to prove it was nothing personal.

And a positive from all this is that it reminds you about the great wealth of choice we now have as wine drinkers. There's never been a better time as a consumer to go into a wine shop and take your pick.

In case you were wondering, the USA and Bordeaux were the winners (losers?) in Tim Atkin's poll. Controversial eh. At least if nothing else it's a fair old world-new world split.

As an aside, I thought it was interesting that Chile was a popular choice as the country people could do without, especially seemingly among wine writers or those who spend a bit more on their wine. Personally, I'd never have chosen Chile. Great value wines if you're spending up to a tenner, and a country I think will only offer even more exciting wines in future (like most of the new world). I can see that if you tend to spend £20 or more on a bottle, you might not usually buy Chilean. But also perhaps Chile and Germany are two sides of the same coin in the sense of what's fashionable, with enthusiasts seeking to differentiate themselves from the rest.

Which country's or region's wines could you do without?

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