The year begins, as always, with Burgundy, as producers and importers offer samples of 2013 for the en primeur tastings. The Burgundians have not had an easy time for the past few years – the weather seems determined to prove that ever-advancing technology is still the servant, not the master – and 2013 was no exception, with a cool, wet spring, summer hailstorms (again) and a humid September. Still, Jancis Robinson suggests that while this vintage is ‘far from opulent, it is fresh and focused’ – so with expert guidance, we should all be able to keep ourselves in fine Burgundy for the next few years.
And also in port – Cockburns, impressively, are celebrating 200 years in the business, which seems to bode well for the next century at least. (The picture above is of the cellar in their Vila Nova de Gaia Lodge.) And if you’re at all worried about preserving your wines for that length of time, you needn’t be: the next advance in careful wine storage may turn out to be taking it out of the cellar and placing it in the sea, according to a Napa Valley winemaker inspired by the discovery of shipwrecked champagne that’s still bubbly after over 200 years.
Protecting rarities and older vintages is a crucial aspect of the challenging, absorbing – and occasionally all-consuming – pursuit of great wine. But so is replenishing the stock with younger wine, and lovers of Champagne will be delighted to hear that not only was last year the second-highest year for worldwide Champagne sales on record, but profits were up too, suggesting an increasingly discerning follower of fizz. This is great news for those hoping to see the grower Champagne market increase in size: these small winemakers operate on smaller margins than the grandes marques and so an enthusiastic fan base is crucial if they want to emulate their nickname, and grow.
Lastly, no update would be complete without a look at the thirsty giant that is China: the country’s newfound passion for red wine looks likely to overcome a brief decline in sales brought on by government anti-extravagance measures, and China will regain its place as the world’s biggest consumer of red wines after a year in which France wrested back that honour.
Drink the Menu: Restaurants with great winelists
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in tiny Neal’s Yard, in London’s Covent Garden, is an offshoot of the Paris place of the same name; this is less fine dining than fine drinking, with food to match. The wine list is simply superb, with a full page of grower Champagnes and some lovely rarities from places like the Jura or even Georgia although, as the name suggests, this is the place to go for French wine: the Burgundy and Bordeaux lists in particular are mouth-watering.