Consumed by the knowledge that spring is now round the corner I’ve been doing everything I can to prepare for the new season. As has become tradition I spent 48 hours on a credit card melting sejour in Paris to treat my wardrobe, followed this year by a couple of days at the Salon des vins de Loire to pick up tips on what I should be stocking on my wine rack this season. Let’s face it, if you’re going to spring clean then do it properly or not at all. That means wardrobe and wine rack.
On the TGV to Angers sitting in my new Marc Jacobs skirt I was already high on the excitement I’d absorbed in one of the fashion capitals of the world. Glancing at the cover of the French glossy I’d picked up I read “Chic et Sexy – Le style qui nous va bien” and I couldn’t help but hope it was a sign of the wines to come. Ok, so a French regional wine trade fair isn’t designed to get the blood racing in the same way as a new season catwalk show but it should certainly be the perfect opportunity for the wineries to show off in a big way, the spot light is on them for three days only, it’s time to reveal the seasons new releases. Or so you’d think.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pure bred Francophile, so if you ask me the French have things right in so many ways. An enviable reputation of being effortlessly chic, effortlessly slim, cool, beautiful, of making wine that people the world over aspire to make and long to drink and yet something has gone terribly wrong. Recently French wine has seen a dramatic fall in export sales, in the UK certainly the fall has pushed French wine to the number 3 slot now trailing behind the USA and Australia and on a bad day its even been seen to fall to 4th position. Economists will tell you it’s to do with the weakening £ but if you ask me it has something and everything to do with the lack of creativity of an ancient trade that just doesn’t seem to be able to wake up.
Walking around the Salon des vins de Loire looking for the inspiration I craved it struck me that this was yet another wine show created under the guise of drumming up interest in the regions wines while actually serving as a convenient get together for wineries that haven’t seen each other for a while. I visited several stands that weren’t particularly interested in taking me through their range and I saw enough white labels with Times New Roman script and a gold boarder to make my eyes turn square. I had to take a different tact, I decided to only taste wines that visually caught my eye. I had a mixed result including one winery who refused to let me taste their range because I only wanted to taste the wine with a good looking label. Arguably a superficial strategy to adopt, but how do wineries expect the end consumer to choose from the wall of wines if they’re not already in the wine-know? Wine bottles are judged by their cover. Fact.
I became increasingly sombre as I walked around the temporary streets of the Salon des vins de Loire and I felt the inspiration I’d gathered from the Parisian high street drain out of me. Unquestionably surrounded by excellent wines but with so many unable to grab my attention I couldn’t help but lose hope for my favoured spring time wines. Already suffering from a dated image and a feeling of wines from-way-back-when I had had high hopes for Sauvignon de Touraine and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine and dreamt that in the coming months they would be talked about with the likes of come-back kid superstars like Whispa chocolate bars and Heinz Salad Cream. Sadly though from what I could see there is still a lot of work to be done before they make a successful retro reappearance and once again become this seasons wines to be seen on your wine rack.
Luckily all may not be lost just yet as I’m encouraged to learn that the Loire has recognised they need to do something if they’re to save their sales instead of an all too familiar gallic shrug. As a region they’ve started a three year long Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project which is a wine-making guideline designed for Loire Valley producers to adapt their wines to the export market and I’ve been invited to taste their selected Ambassador wines on Friday this week. This doesn’t leave much hope for my beloved Muscadet Sèvre et Maine just yet, and Sauvignon de Touraine won’t reap the benefits of the project for a couple of spring times to come but I’m hopeful that if the ambassadors dedicate as much time to the packaging as they already have to what its producing then there is no doubt in my mind that these wines will once again be en vogue and with a bit of luck it will be sooner than we think.
Thursday 18th February 2010
This blog was posted on Harpers Wine & Spirits Trade review on the 19th February 2010, visit http://www.harpers.co.uk/misc/content/article/8782-the-importance-of-judging-a-wine-by-its-cover.html