First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 27th, 2018
Late last year the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, a Paris-based technical group, predicted that global wine production would fall by more than 8 per cent, or 22 million hectolitres, in 2017 from the previous year.
It estimated that the world would produce 246 million hectolitres of wine, almost 33 billion bottles. That may seem like a lot of wine, but it is the lowest level since 1961.
The drop in production is down to the weather; severe spring frosts in the France, Italy and Spain, the world’s three largest producers, followed by a long summer heatwave and drought in parts of Italy and Spain, all played a part.
It seems the best-known regions such as Bordeaux (but not Burgundy for once), Rioja, Chianti and Barolo were all affected. Apparently the fires in California had a negligible effect, as they occurred after the harvest.
The International Organisation of Vine and Wine also estimated that global consumption would be somewhere between 240.5 and 245.8 million hectolitres, so there should be enough to go around, but only just. Who drinks all of this wine? The producer countries mostly.
The United States is the world’s largest consumer, at 31.8 million hectolitres of wine in 2016, followed by France (27.0 million hectolitres), Italy (22.5 million hectolitres), Germany (20.2 million hectolitres) and China (17.3 million hectolitres).
While China is expected to become the world’s second-largest market in the next five years market (current annual consumption is 1.34 litres per head, compared with our 18 litres per head), producers hoping for a bonanza may be disappointed. China is now the world’s seventh largest producer of wine, and this will certainly increase. But in the meantime, as an example of how the market is changing, China now accounts for 30 per cent of Australia’s wine exports, and is now by far their largest market. The same holds for Chile.
Consumption in Ireland is a tiny drop in this ocean at just over 80 million litres. Chile overperforms here, with 25.1 per cent of the market, although it is the world’s ninth largest producer, followed by Australia on just over 18 per cent. These are followed by the big three, France, Italy and Spain with a combined total of roughly 35 per cent of the market. These figures are based on volume and not value. We have always been keen on New World wines; combined they account for more than 60 per cent of wines sold.
Individual regions may be suffering, but we should not worry about an immediate shortage on our shelves. However, experts argue that we can expect more severe weather events in the future. Growing quality grapes is a complex business, and even a slight increase in temperatures will pose huge challenges for some of the world’s pre-eminent regions. On the other hand, maybe we will see more Irish wine in the future.
Four wines to try
Mas Buscados 2014, Tempranillo Petit Verdot VdT de Castilla
14%, €9.95 from January 29th, down from €13.95
A big, warm hug of a wine, filled with sweet supple jammy dark fruits. Perfect winter drinking with casseroles, roast red meats or hard cheeses. Stockist: O’Briens
Tesco’s Finest Ribera del Duero Reserva 2012
A big, powerful red wine full of ripe dark fruits and spicy tannins. Locally they would drink it with roast lamb and pork, but this would go equally well with a juicy barbecued steak. If you usually drink Malbec from Argentina, this might be a good alternative. Stockist: Tesco
Cantina di Negrar Valpolicella Classico 2016
Floral aromas with light juicy red cherries and a smooth, tannin-free finish. It slips down all too easily. Perfect with cold meats, mushroom risotto, a pork chop or lighter cheeses. Otherwise Margherita pizza sounds good. Stockists: Sheridan’s Cheesemongers (all branches); siyps.com
El Castro de Valtuille 2016, Mencía Joven, Bierzo
An old favourite that has returned to form with the 2016 vintage. A lovely, elegantly fruity wine with a touch of liquorice and refreshing acidity. Ideal with grilled breast of duck or a confit leg, but this is a pretty good all-purpose red. Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; 64wine; La Touche; Martins; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; Liston’s; Drink Store, Manor Street; Lilac Wines; Sweeneys.