The growing popularity of Eastern Mediterranean wine

Wine from the Eastern Mediterranean isn’t always at the forefront of consumers’ minds. However, the region that goes from Lebanon to Croatia is home to many different types of wine. And it’s becoming more popular, thanks to new coverage in the World Atlas of Wine, the most recent edition of which has devoted pages to wine from Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus for the first time.

How is Eastern Mediterranean wine selling internationally?

Greece sells more internationally than the other countries from the region. For example, there has been an upsurge in popularity of wines from Santorini. In 2019, approximately two million hectolitres (each hectolitre = 100 litres) of wine was made in Greece.

From this volume, approximately 90% comes from the 200 grapes indigenous to the country. Around 13% of the total wine volume produced in Greece is exported internationally, and it’s worth about £71 million (82.6 million Euros).

Santorini wines are finally shifting into the fine wine bracket with prices equivalent to those of high-quality white Burgundy. This burgeoning interest in wines from Santorini is likely to have a knock-on effect for collectors and sommeliers.

Georgian wine is exporting more than ever before

Georgia, located at the apex of Europe and Asia is also increasing wine exports. In the second half of 2019, UK based importer Berkmann Wine Cellars began listing wine from a Georgian producer called Tbilvino.

According to data from the Wine Agency of Georgia, in the 12 months leading up to October 2019, Georgian wine exports increased by 20% in value and 11% in volume. It is exported to 50 different countries, with recently opened markets including Sweden, Germany, the UK, the US and Japan. Georgia exports the highest volume of wine to the Ukraine and Russia, with China in third. Interest from Scandinavia, the UK and the US is also increasing the growth of wine from this region.

Turkish wines, while traditionally not particularly successful in international markets, are also kickstarting growth plans. Varieties such as Narince made from an aromatic white grape, and Papakarasi, which makes soft fruity reds have potential for export markets.

Romanian and Israeli wines

There is also an untapped export market for Romanian wine. Philip Cox is the commercial director for Cramele Recas, the largest wine producer in the country. He says that Romania has huge potential thanks to its lengthy history of wine making, and fascinating local varieties. He also says that the country’s ‘flexible legislation’ allows wine producers to pick and choose from a vast range of varieties. Add this to relatively cheap land, low living costs and you have the ingredients for a very successful export market.

Philip says: “[Romania] now has one of the most modern wine industries in Europe, with more than 200 new wineries built in the past decade.” The producer exports to 23 countries, and is nationally distributed in Myanmar, South Korea and Japan.

Over in Israel there is no official wine group pushing for exports. However, there is an unofficial group of wine producers working together to export increasing amounts to the UK wine market.

 

The group is led by Morris Herzogf from Kedem Europe, a specialist in Israeli wine. He believes the biggest challenge is to change people’s perceptions of wine from Israel. He points out that recently sommeliers and wine aficionados are discovering that there are many high-quality wines from the region.

 

Various London restaurants have become buyers for Israeli wine, and professionals are increasingly using it to match the cuisine from the region as it becomes more popular. Winemaker Faouzi Issa heads up the oldest commercial winery in Lebanon, which is called Domaine des Tourelles. He says that the UK is their main market and that: “… consumers [in the UK] are very open to discovering new wines, particularly those with an interesting story.”

 

His wines now reach 25 countries, and over the last ten years his export volumes have increased eight times. However, despite the undoubted increase in exports for wines from the Eastern Mediterranean, it’s likely that they will remain niche for the meantime, and won’t be named on any 2020 wine trends lists. For now, only wines from Georgia, Hungary, Romania and Greece are included on the International Organisation for Vin and Wine (OIV)’s list of countries that make more than one million hectolitres a year.

Why US wine industry is hoping tariffs on EU wine won’t go ahead

The US wine industry is currently reeling from the President’s decision to potentially  tax wine from Europe by 100%. In fact, some experts in the industry are saying that the threatened rise in import tax will have a similar impact on them as prohibition did more than 100 years ago.

Wine sellers in the US are hoping that the President will change his mind and drop the import tax raise. They say that their businesses will fail should the proposed taxes happen.

How would 100% EU tariffs affect the US wine industry?

Proposals to raise tax on EU imports is in retaliation for subsidies on American company Airbus. But the American wine industry is arguing that it shouldn’t take the hit for this trade battle. Representatives of wine merchants in the US argue that these proposed tariffs would hit the industry very hard.

Every year, the US imports wine worth £3.8 billion (approximately $5 billion) from European countries. In October 2019, the industry had to deal with a 25% tax on wines from Europe. This was imposed by the President after approval was granted from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the US to retaliate after subsidies imposed on Airbus.

This first round of tax increases was absorbed by wine sellers in the US. However, the suggestion that there will be another round of tax increases, this time at 100%, has shaken the industry once more.

Possible job losses and huge price rises

It is feared that the tariffs will lead to more retaliation and put potentially thousands of jobs on the brink. But what would the fallout be for the consumer? The National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR), says that prices per bottle could more than double. Furthermore, some bottles will just be way too expensive to import.

The US Trade Representative has been open to comments, and according to the BBC, thousands of sellers have formally opposed the tariffs. Field Blend Solutions is a wine importer based in New York. A representative told the BBC that while the tariffs are supposed to cause problems for the countries of origin in Europe, “… instead, they are having a calamitous impact on American small businesses, American workers and American consumers.”

The president of the National Association of Beverage Importers (NABI) warns that the “impact on jobs” and “the impact on the US marketplace” are concerning.

Industry braces for impact of wine tariffs

This tariff was announced in December 2019 by the US Government, which says that the 100% increase is necessary. This, they say, is because of a “lack of progress” between the EU and the US in resolving the subsidy battle over Airbus.

President Trump says that Americans should drink home-grown wine instead. However, industry experts say that consumers may well turn to wines from the New World instead of the US.

Whether the 100% tariff on wine imports goes ahead remains to be seen. However, it’s likely that even if it doesn’t, some tariffs will remain for the US wine industry. It’s possible, for example, that Champagne will come under fire in a separate trade dispute over French taxes on tech companies. Whatever happens, collectors of fine wines and everyday consumers will be watching closely on both sides of the Atlantic.

What are the biggest wine trends for 2020?

 

It’s not always possible to accurately predict the future for any business sector, and the wine industry is no exception. However, as we enter 2020, there are a number of likely changes to the industry. These include changing consumer tastes and demands, as well as wider economic and political issues affecting the market.

 

Look out for these nine wine trends for 2020

 

1. Fusing rosé and Prosecco

These two hugely popular trends are looking set to come together in 2020. In Italy, wine producers have been attempting to get official approval for Prosecco rosé for a number of years. And in the Bibendum wine trends 2020 report, the UK supplier predicts that the first shipment could reach the shelves before the end of the year.

Wine producers looking to take advantage of this new trend would have to use up to 15% Pinot Noir with Glera grapes to make official Prosecco DOC rosé.

 

2. Rosé continues its ‘serious wine’ trend

Rosé has been gaining traction as a serious wine for a while, and there will be continued exposure to high end versions. This is borne out by various high-profile acquisitions, including Moet Hennessey buying the maker of Whispering Angel rose (Chateua d’Esclans).

 

3. The rise in appassimento wines will continue

Sales of appassimento wines have doubled in the UK, according to major sellers such as Majestic Wines. These Italian wines are taking market share from previously popular Malbec easy drinkers.

Appassimento is a specific wine making technique used mostly in traditional Italian regions. The grapes are dried before fermentation takes place, leading to wines with concentrated, rich flavours.

 

4. Austrian wines are becoming more popular

Bibendum’s report also highlights indigenous Austrian grapes becoming more popular. These include Saint Laurent, Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch.

 

5. Vegan wines continue to grow as a new sector

Many wine sellers are increasing the number of vegan products, due to growing consumer demand. Expect to see more wines labelled vegan during 2020, following the growth of the market in 2019.

 

6. Natural wines will go mainstream

While it’s not easy to get official figures on natural wines, as there is no one definition, there is a definite shift to sulphite-free wines. This part of the wine industry continues to divide wine lovers and wine makers and remains a small sector. However, it’s likely to continue to gain exposure and consumers can expect to see more ‘natural’ labelling used by wine retailers and in restaurants during 2020.

 

7. Changes in the fine wine market

Fine wine continues to be a fascinating part of the industry, for consumers and collectors alike. During the 2010s there was a distinct shift in the market as wine collectors began reaching out to a wider range of regions. This led to an increase in specialist fine wine retailers, including Ideal Wine. And while some analysts suggest that the fine wine market could slide slightly, collectors should be on the lookout for a resurgence for Bordeaux 2010.

 

8. Economic and political changes

These factors affect the fine wine market as tariffs and trade wars are ongoing. However, it also affects the accessibility of wine to consumers in general terms. For example, following the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 January 2020, trade negotiations will begin. This could lead to changes in the value of the pound versus the Euro, and if the UK and EU cannot agree new trade agreements, then a ‘no deal’ Brexit is back on the table.

Over in the US, the president is entering the election year. Recent US tariffs on wine still stand, and it’s unclear as to whether these will be rescinded or increased. US officials plan to agree on raising tariffs by the end of January across a number of wines from the EU, including Barolo and Champagne.

 

9. The biggest threat of all – climate change

In 2019, Spanish wine producer Miguel Torres urged the world’s wine industry to work faster to combat climate change. Having set up a thinktank in 2011, Torres told Decanter that just 20 wine producers in Spain had joined. There have been a number of reports during 2019 showing the likely effects of the continuing threat of climate change on wine producing regions.

This is, of course, a long-term issue, but we can expect to see more conversation, more research and more changes within the global wine industry to respond to climate change in 2020.

Five industry insider secrets to clever wine and food pairing

 

Pairing food and wine can seem like a hidden art. If you’re new to wine pairing and want to make a dinner party extra special, it can seem overwhelming to match each flavour with the right accompaniment. And that’s when something that should be fun becomes a chore.

Matching wine and food together is meant to be enjoyable, not stressful. And while it is a skill, it doesn’t have to be over complicated. The first thing to realise is that there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. It’s more about an intuitive understanding of how flavours work together, and which complement each other.

In fact, you may find yourself breaking traditional ‘rules’ as you go through your wine pairing journey. To help you on your way, here are five insider tips to classic wine and food pairing.

 

1. Wine and food pairing – where to start

Start with weight. In the winter, we eat heavier, richer food and in the summer lighter, more delicate dishes. Apply the same thinking to the wine you’re choosing. Some grapes lend themselves to richer, heavier wines, and others produce light, airy wines.

This is a great shortcut to pairing wine and food, particularly if you’re not familiar with a wine’s flavour profile. A Sauvignon Blanc is a light-bodied white wine with high acidity, and as such works brilliantly with fresh oysters and rich cheeses. However, it doesn’t do as well if it’s paired with a chicken pasta dish, for example. If you’re pairing a white wine with a heavier dish, then go for a heavier wine, like Viognier.

A good rule of thumb for a dinner party is to start with the lighter wines and work your way to the heaviest. But you do need to allow your palate time to rest before switching from delicate wines with nuanced flavour notes to big, bold reds.

 

2. Don’t be taken in by stereotyping

Understand the subtleties of well-known wines. There are many stereotypes surrounding commonly enjoyed wines. For example, you’ve probably heard that Riesling is too sweet to go with many food dishes. Or that Chardonnay is too oaky and buttery. On the face of it, neither of these sound like a good match with food.

However, there is plenty of potential in both of these wines. Not every Riesling is super sweet. Choose a dry Riesling from Germany or the Alsace region of France, for example. These wines are made from grapes grown on old vines, and combined with refined winemaking techniques produce aromatic, bright and beautiful wines that go beautifully with food. They’re particularly good for spicy dishes.

And a Chardonnay from a cooler climate won’t be too oaky. Try an unoaked version from Chablis, and you’ll find dry, lean bottles with a minerally finish. Delicious with all kinds of dishes.

 

3. Don’t run away from sweetness

Wine experts and culinary experts know that slightly sweeter off-dry wines work really well with spicy or rich food. Pinot Grigio has some sweet and florally notes, which pair well with a meal full of salt, fat and richness. For example, a slated fish dish or buttery poached egg works really well with this full-bodied white wine. And for Asian food, a must-try is an off-dry Riesling, which absorbs all the heat from the spices.

 

4. It’s not just about the ingredients

You might think that matching wine to food depends entirely on the ingredients used in the dish. But how the meal is prepared is just as important. For example, a piece of chicken is going to taste very different depending on whether it’s pan seared, grilled, smoked or roasted. And the resulting wine pairings also change.

A classic wine pairing to go with roast chicken is Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It’s a lighter, but still earthy, red wine and is less fruity than the same wine from the New World. Too much fruit can overpower the dish. For spicier chicken dishes, choose a richer wine. Something like a Grenache or Zinfandel goes well with barbecue chicken, for example. You’re looking for juicy, lush notes.

 

5. Create your menu around the wine

Most people plan a dinner party menu by starting with the food and adding the wine on afterwards. But what if you did it the other way around? It’s a good way to get out of your comfort zone and explore some wines you’ve been wanting to try. Start with what you enjoy drinking. This gives you more freedom in your approach to selecting wine. What are you in the mood for? What have you always wanted to try? Start there and match your food accordingly.

Abover all, remember that there are no strict rules about matching wine and food. And while complementary flavours can be satisfactory, it’s also true that completely contrasting notes can work well too. A wine can either echo or reflect the flavour of the dishes, so if you want to go for a contrasting choice then don’t be afraid to do so.

Try these four undervalued but delicious white wines

 

White wine can sometimes feel like the underdog in the wine world. There is always a lot of love out there for red wines, and in the world of fine wine, it’s reds that tend to attract more prestige and higher prices.

 

But white wine is just as complex to produce, and results in just as spectacular end products. Whatever the reason behind the slightly lesser reputation that white wine holds, it’s excellent news for wine lovers. This is because it means there are plenty of fabulous and very collectible white wines around at reasonable prices.

 

And while Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay will always be popular, we decided to showcase some less well-known white wine varieties. All delicious, and all deserving of high praise, these undervalued yet opulent white wines are definitely worth adding to your cellar. In this blog we’ll be looking at Viognier from Oregon, US, Semillon from the Hunter Valley, Australia, Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France and Dry Furmint from Hungary.

 

White wines to try from Oregon

 

Oregon is now home to the Viognier white grape. Originally from the Rhone Valley in France, the grape has taken hold in the Pacific Northwest over the last few years. Despite being a tricky grape to grow and make into delicious wine, it is contributing to some great white wines from this region.

 

Maryhill Winery produced almost 8,300 cases for its 2016 vintage in a bid to become the biggest producer. Owner Greg Lethold said at the time: “It’s our second-largest production wine, and demand has grown 38% over the last year.” Much of the grapes they use comes from the vineyards surrounding their winery, and the winemakers have been winning awards for their Viognier for around ten years.

 

Using French oak production techniques, their Maryhill Winery 2016 Viognier maintains its ripe fruity characteristics, with a delicate sweetness. Expect flavour notes of honeysuckle, orange and apricot with a pleasing balance between sweetness and acidity. The 2016 vintage was awarded the gold medal in the Washington State Wine Competition and is definitely worth trying. It goes particularly well with a creamy, rich pasta dish.

 

While Oregon was previously mostly well known for its Pinot Noir, it is one of the most interesting hotspots for chilled white wines. Other great varieties include Arneis and Melon de Bourgogne.

White wines to try from the Tokaji region in Hungary

The Tokaj wine region in Hungary is known for its sweet white wines. It was the very first region to be officially classified as a wine region back in 1730. In 1757 it was formally recognised and officiated by noble decree. Tokaji wines are noted for their sweetness, due to the grapes being affected by ‘noble rot’.

 

There are six grapes approved for wine making in Tokaj: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat, Zeta (once called Oremus), Koverszolo and Kabar. Furmint accounts for almost two-thrids of wine produced in the area and is the most important grape, followed by Harslevelu.

 

Tokaji wine is traditionally made from grapes grown on a very small plateau around 1,500 feet above sea level close to the Carpathian Mountains. Its soil has high levels or lime and iron, and the region benefits from sheltered winters and hot summers. Furmint grapes have thick skins which become thinner as they age, allowing the sun to evaporate a lot of the liquid. This results in high sugar levels, and long ripening times. The grapes are left on the vine long enough to develop ‘noble rot’, which is a certain type of mould.

 

Today, the Tokaji region produces lots of delicious sweet wines, but is also producing more dry versions too. Wines such as Kikelet Dry Tokaji offer a really delicious and decadent feeling alternative to the sweet versions. It’s more delicate than the sweet Toakji wines, and is packed with citrus flavours, including fresh green apple, lemon and lime.

 

Why Hunter Valley Sémillon is a white wine worth trying

The very first vineyards ever planted in Australia were in the Hunter Valley. And Semillon was first made in 1831 with grapes brought over from its native France. It’s a real underdog of a grape but comes into its own in Hunter Valley dry and sweet white wines.

 

In its early days it was often mislabelled as Hunter River Hick or Chablis, which didn’t help to establish its name as a great grape in its own right. But it’s always been popular with winemakers in Australia, as it’s relatively easy to grow in this humid climate. Hunter Semillon’s delicious flavours and aging capacity is down to great winemaking. The grapes are picked at low levels of alcohol (about 10%), and delicately handled, before being fermented at low temperatures.

 

When it’s initially bottled, Hunter Semillon is very light and delicate, with notes of grass, citrus and straw. But in just five years it transforms into a toasty, rich, honeyed, nutty wine. It’s also one of the lowest alcohol white wines on the market with such a complex and fabulous flavour profile.

 

Try white wines from the Alsace region of France

Alsace white wines are hugely influenced by the German traditions of winemaking. There are 12 different white wine grapes grown in the region, and 13 whites hailing from there. And while Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are well known, there are other more obscure white wines worth trying.

 

Muscat is a deliciously refreshing Alsatian white wine, with a fruity, dry finish. It’s an accessible white that most people will love, but it also feels rich and a bit special. It often has a floral aroma, with fruity flavours and a hint of sweetness. Alsace is home to a number of varieties of Muscat grape, and different blends produce different styles of white.