My Top 5 Essential Wine Blogs 2012

Dean Martin starting the year right

It’s that time of year again. My favourite blogs of 2012 are niche but I have found these blogs essential in 2012 for their unique and informed perspectives:

1. Vinolent 

2. So You Want to Be a Sommelier? 

3. Not Drinking Poison in Paris

4. Bon Vivant

5. David in Piedmont

Also, I regularly check in to Matt Walls, Bordeaux Undiscovered, Caspar Bowes, Duvault Blochet, Vino al Vino, Vinography, Do Bianchi and, my hero for breaking into Wine Spectator and making it somewhat relevant, Talia Baiocchi.  Of course, there are as many great blogs out there (especially food blogs) as there are flavours found in wine and this selection merely reflects my everyday focus at work. For that reason it must also include online: Jancis Robinson, Andrew Jefford, Chris Kissack, Bill Nanson, Antonio Galloni (especially his videos) and Neal Martin.

Blade Runner – it always rains in the future

The Future 

This has been an intense year for the wine trade. The ramifications of the 2008 credit crunch are still being felt, the Olympics was a difficult time for the on-trade in London and next year will be difficult for the producer all the way through to the consumer with one of the lowest yields in Europe for some time. Less grapes inevitably pushes up prices due to higher demand. What you will get in 2013 for £5 (a little more than the average price spent in UK) will be almost a bottle full of tax.

Even in Sicily and the Veneto, the price for the grapes of everyday wines such as Pinot Grigio are affected by low volumes in the vineyard. Some may think, good riddance – but I don’t think so: it may mean people who buy wine casually at pubs or supermarkets may leave the wine category all together. If the product is not representing value at the price point people expect, and I am talking about people who pick up a bottle on their way home from work without much thought, I am afraid some may just turn away from wine as an option. The entry-level price is often the first step in the wine journey for many people. This needs to be given some thought because, just as the credit crunch has blighted a few younger people’s career through less opportunity, this will have a longer-term effect on the wine trade.

In Fine Wine, we are beginning to see changes to the En Primeur system with Latour having dropped out last year and some of the big names in Sauternes, d’Yquem and Rieussec, announcing they are not producing a wine for 2012. If you are financed by big capital (LVMH and Rothschild, respectively) this maintains the high quality expected by their customers. However, not all Chateaux can afford to miss a vintage and it does cast a shadow on the other producers (at this stage).

In Burgundy, I saw a few winemakers put their heads in their hands when talking about the 2012 vintage – some places are down by 80% in volume. On top of this, there are some concerns about the traditional wine merchant system in a global market and many new buyers would like to cut out the middle man if they could. Just as in stockbroking, this works in a strong market but problems can arise in a difficult one.

How our choices impact the environment will be an ever greater issue over the next year. I remember talking to Jean-Marie Fourrier in winter of 2011 about how the vines are “confused” by the weather; when they should be hibernating in winter and conserving energy downwards into the earth, they were sprouting towards the sky. This is not some new age mysticism – this is one of the brightest people in wine today who works closely with the land, the weather and the vines. To dismiss these warning signs about the environment would be a grave mistake. Let’s listen to the winemaker more about the environment. Can we afford not to think about the impact of our choices?

There are going to be some challenges in 2013. However, after the past 5 years, we are more than adjusted to the idea of change. It may seem gloomy, but I take inspiration from those sadistic old vines: difficult and rocky soil is important to bring out the best quality juice and that is what ultimately creates something lasting and beautiful.

Best wishes for a big 2013 and thank you for visiting WWS – your support has been tremendous.

PS If you can recommend any of your favourite wine blogs, please leave a note below.