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wine news, March 2013

win a holiday in South West France

It's five years since Tom Cannavan set up The Wine Gang, the online wine guide published by Tom and colleagues Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon, David Williams and Jane Parkinson. Our monthly guide details most of the UKs wine retailers, large and small, and each month includes over 200 wine reviews in depth - independent, expert and honest. Members also access an online database of over 12,000 wine reviews, making this the most comprehensive guide to wines available in the UK. To celebrate our fifth year, not only is there 15% off an annual subscription (£19.99 down to £16.99) but everyone who joins The Gang before the end of this month will be entered into an extraordinary prize draw: on March 31st 2013 we will choose the name of one member at random, who will win a holiday for two people to the South West of France, including flights, hotels, meals and exclusive winery visits. See www.thewinegang.com for details and to join. Don't miss this chance.

Savvy enough?

vineyards Following a report in UK trade magazine The Drinks Business that suggested New Zealand could experience a grape glut in 2013, Chris Stroud, the marketing manager for Europe at New Zealand Winegrowers, has stepped in to say emphatically "There is and will be no glut." Fears of another glut plague the New Zealand industry, where record harvests and rapidly expanding plantings led to tumbling prices a couple of years ago, when retail prices in the UK for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, for so long a flagship premium wine, tumbled to as low as £3.99. The initial report cited Paul Munro, a partner at Deloitte who specialises in the wine industry, saying that hot, dry weather in New Zealand would lead to a strong harvest and a risk of a return to oversupply. But Chris Stroud countered immediately, adding "Estates are currently managing a real shortage of wines and inventories are very low after the 2012 vintage was so much smaller than needed. There is very little back stock and time is needed to rebuild our supplies." Photo © New Zealand Wine.

Minimum Pricing u-turn

graph It looks likely that one of the UK government's flagship policies to introduce a minimum unit price for alcoholic drinks will be scrapped. The proposal to set a minimum unit price of 45p follows a similar bill passed by the Scottish government which set a minimum price of 50p per unit, though that is likely to be challenged in the courts. The proposal is aimed at cutting down on binge drinking and drink-related health problems, but it seems key cabinet members now oppose the move. The governments own figures showed that cheaper, high alcohol drinks would be hit hardest. Whilst a new minimum price of £4.41 for 75cls of wine at 13% ABV is likely to hit only the very cheapest brands, a strong 7.5% ABV cider would rise in price to a minimum of £6.75 for two litres. The government has stressed that no decision has yet been taken, but most commentators believe the bill will not see the light of day in its current form.

Bordeaux calling

logo Less than two hours from the UK by plane, Bordeaux is home to some of the world's most famous wine estates, but visitors are often disappointed by how relatively few are open to the public. But during 'Le Week-end des Grands Crus' between 18th and 19th May 2013, many châteaux will open their doors to the public offering tours, tastings and dinners. Organised by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB), the weekend starts with a Grands Crus tasting on the Quai des Chartrons in the city centre. Around 120 Grands Crus will present two vintages, including the highly acclaimed 2010 vintage. To complete the evening, dinner can be booked at one of a number of châteaux for 140 Euros per person. Those looking for a less formal end to the day can partake of a buffet supper with wine and music for 60 Euros. The second day can offer several different guided tours to the vineyards including tastings and lunch at one of the properties on the itinerary for 90 Euros. Further information and tickets from ugcb.net/en/wgc.

I know what I like (don't I?)

taste test The UK is a nation of wine drinkers spending over £6bn on wine last year, but survey results released by Morrisons Cellar suggest an alarming £4.7 billion is spent on 'risky' wine purchases. The 2,000-strong consumer survey revealed that 74% of wine drinkers are not confident when it comes to purchasing wine. Women are the least confident (64%) in their purchasing decisions, while 54% of men feel unsure about what they're putting in their wine racks. Simon Harrison of Morrisons says: "Consumers know the flavours they like but when it comes to wine, the category appears to mystify the majority of people." Morrisons Cellar is using these findings to promote their 'Taste Test', an online tool that uses a combination of flavour and style categories that consumers can use so that they "can confidently and easily find the wine they are most likely to enjoy." The taste test is at morrisonscellar.com.