That Shrinking Feeling

Friday, January 21, 2022

This week I’m covering wine industry reports on France, Germany and Australia.

FRANCE: As reported in the excellent online wine journal, wein.plus, in the decade between 2010-2020 France’s wine industry lost around 11,000 wineries/wine estates (that’s probably more than the total we have here in Australia). The Ministry of Agriculture advised that in 2020 there are only 59,000 wineries left with an average size 19 hectares each. This is an increase in vineyard area per operator of nearly three hectares or 19% in their average size. The report says this has mainly been brought about due to age (with older vignerons retiring or dying and the next generation not interested in continuing with the vineyard), thus the property is sold to other vineyard owners or in some cases converted back to farming land.

Added to this, vintage 2021 in France was one of the smallest in recent times – “the smallest in decades” due to extreme weather conditions from massive frosts, rampant mildew, through to torrential summer rain in some areas just prior to harvest, and even bushfire damage in some parts of Provence.

The vintage is expected to be 29% lower than the current five year average, with some experts saying that one would have to go back to 1977 to find such a small crop.

With France being such a large wine producer, not all regions were similarly affected. For example, Alsace was significantly less affected than other areas with a reduction of around 15% but excellent quality of fruit/wine.

In Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc was hit particularly hard, and as for the reds, well, one would get different answers on losses right across the region – but many of the Château are talking up the quality of the wines (surprise-surprise!). In Burgundy, “the situation is too complex to report”, whilst in Champagne the harvest is the lowest in 40 years, but again the situation is too complex to report in more detail – they added that “the mildew attacks affected volumes but not quality”.

The worst affected area was, Jura, where the crop is estimated to have been 80% lower than normal.

As usual, information on French wine is as clear as mud!!

Website Link:  www.wein.plus/en

GERMANY:  Similarly, in Germany there are twenty percent fewer grape growers than there were in 2010. However, so far there are no details on what has caused this shrinkage. Is it like in France, caused by existing growers buying up vineyards, or by vineyards being de-commissioned? We’ll keep an ear open to see which it is.

Speaking of Germany, the German Wine Institute advised that during the 2021 financial year (July-June) wine stocks in Germany fell by 7.3% from the same time the previous year. Stocks of sparkling wine (very popular in Germany) fell by 10.8% whilst still bottled wine stocks fell by 6.4%. Mind you they aren’t going to run out in the short term with 1,150 million litres of wine, in stock, in the country. According to the Federal Statistical Office, seventy percent of this wine is German with the rest imported. The split of the still wine is 62% white and 38% red – which is to be expected given that most of the wine produced in Germany is white wine.

Meanwhile, Austria had a really good vintage both in terms of volume and especially in terms of quality – with early reports raving about the 2021 Grüner Veltliners.

Here in Australia we have “plenty” (awash in/shitloads) of wine as a result of the Chinese Communist Government imposing the onerous and vindictive 212% tax on our wines last year – so that we have gone from being 41% of all imported wine going into China, to 1%. So in appreciation for this we should stop buying Chinese made good where ever possible – electrical appliances, cars, etc.

That’s it for this week. Stay safe and enjoy great Aussie wines #chooseaustralianwine and where possible drink #emergingvarieties.  Cheers!

This Week's Wine Review:

Having spent ten years working for Orlando Wyndham Wines (now, Pernod Ricard Winemakers – PRW) in the 1990s, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for Jacob’s Creek (JC). It has always been a good quality, everyday drinking wine at a (usually) reasonable price. If I remember rightly when I joined Orlando in the late 1980s the JC range consisted of the Claret, Rhine Riesling and Chablis. All good, honest quaffers.

Within the company, the excitement for the launch of the Chardonnay in the early 1990s was electrifying, which turned to euphoric when Wine Spectator in the USA rated the wine at 85 points (in those days a bloody good score for a commercial wine). It sold out within weeks and there was a mad scramble to source more fruit for the next vintage.

As they say, the rest is history. Today, Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay is produced in the millions of litres and still represents value for money quaffing wine. Along the way Pernod Ricard added the much more limited volume, Jacob’s Creek Reserve Range, of regional varietal wines, including the Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay which comes from the Adelaide Hills. Again, from the outset this wine was an affordable, good example, of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay – no pretentions, just a delicious, easy drinking Hills Chardy.

Well, recently the good folk at PRW have just added another Chardonnay to the JC range. It is the JACOB’S CREEK A.J. BAROSSA 2020 CHARDONNAY.  Named after, Ann Jacob, who in 1839 bought land on the banks of Jacob’s Creek in the Barossa. She has been recognised as having established some of the earliest vines in the Barossa.

This is classic Barossa Chardonnay, rich yet still tightly bound, with slight toasty, buttery aromas and a good dollop of peaches and stone fruit. The palate has lashings of peach and nectarine flavours, is buttery and creamy with gentle counterbalancing acidity to make it ever so drinkable and delicious. This wine is raring to go, so enjoy it over the summer at BBQ’s picnics and gatherings with good friends.

Cheers, have a great week and remember to #chooseaustralianwines to enjoy!