The full article can be found here: http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/530061/premium-wines-buck-weak-uk-market
I found the situation rather odd and somewhat comparable to our spending with beer. There has been a surge in the market for craft brewing since 2002 in the UK (covered in a previous blog – see earlier instalments from Jan/Feb!) and a rather startling increase in establishments here in Liverpool (and possibly nationwide) selling continental beers and a wider range of British cask ales which were previously rather difficult to procure.
It is unlikely in these auspicious times of austerity that people have a greater amount of money to throw at life’s little luxuries (I know, as much as I would like to argue that beer and wine are actually NOT luxury items, the squares have it otherwise…), therefore is it true that people’s tastes are actually becoming more discerning? Or, would it be more likely that speculation has piqued people’s curiosity and this is a passing phase?
The aforementioned wine story is a possible indication of the former, although there is also the possibility that increased duty has pushed the cost of wine upward and people’s usual sub-tenner tipple is suffering from inflation, but this is most unlikely when scouring the information available from sites such as the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) [http://www.wsta.co.uk]. There are also still many wines available under the £10 threshold worth investigating and many, many more in the 3 for £10 bin which are only really fit for washing the drains.
Something I believe is holding the subject of wine back from many people is not the taste, but two distinct areas intrinsically associated with wine as a hobby or as a simple pleasure. The first is pretty obvious, the (often perceived) snobbery present surrounding wine. Many people would choose to shun an independent wine merchant in favour of perusing a supermarket due to the fear of being approached by someone more knowledgeable than themselves and ridiculed for their choices. This is often a misconception; a lot of wine merchants appreciate that many people are after a bottle of wine to go with a simple meal and not often in it for the long haul.
There are those who are more discerning in their taste and also knowledgeable on the subject, who can also be insufferably obnoxious about what they drink, but they shouldn’t put people off. The second problem many face is actually a really big positive once you find a real interest in wine. The perception can often be that somehow it is a daunting task of knowing something about what you are buying’ what you should buy to go with food, what grape, what country and then region, what vintage? Speaking personally, the moments when I was truly hooked by wine were sometime back in 2004, upon tasting individual flavours and picking out aromas from a Chardonnay and a very good Carmenere (for those not familiar – the former is a white wine and the latter a red, almost exclusive to wines Chile). Once you have that epiphany, it is likely that your interest could be sparked.
It is quite possible you have been buying wine for a while and are satisfied with a £4 bottle, but if you did take a leap and not baulk at a £10+ bottle, upon tasting the difference you experience could potentially show you why the market as discussed above is seemingly changing.