In 2017, nature wrought havoc on the world of wine, with fires in California and devastating frosts and hail storms in Europe. France, Spain, Italy and Chile have all had smaller harvests and we could see a global shortage of wine.
In this country we will most likely see the implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which will have a significant effect on how alcohol is sold.
This column has always been in favour of drinking less, but drinking better. With the introduction of minimum pricing, the days of really cheap wines may be over. This is a good thing. Can we rely on the multiples to improve their range, or will they simply offer the same wines at a higher price? And will consumers head north or south to France in search of cheaper booze?
My suggestion for 2018 is to shop local and trade up. Instead of buying three bottles for €4.99, treat yourself to one great wine for €15. You will certainly notice the difference while cutting your consumption at the same time.
I am more worried about the proposed back-labelling of wine. Unless done on a Europe-wide basis, it will cause serious problems for importers who work with small artisanal producers. We may see many really interesting wines disappear from our wine shops. As far as I can see, the legislation does not address the increase in outlets, on and off-trade that sell alcohol.
As to what we will be drinking in 2018, Cabernet Franc grown in the Loire Valley seems to fit current tastes perfectly: light in alcohol, with juicy ripe fruits and refreshing acidity. We should be drinking more. In the past, some wines were a little green and herbaceous, but thanks to better viticulture and winemaking, the wines are so much better. 2018 could be the breakthrough year. As Burgundy prices continue to rise, canny wine drinkers will start drinking the various Crus of Beaujolais.
Spain will continue to excite us with a steady stream of brilliant wines. As well as producing well-made inexpensive wines, Chile now offers some real excitement, including wines made from ancient ungrafted bush-trained vines in the south of the country. I can see natural, less interventionist winemaking improving still further and starting to influence conventional producers.
Prosecco is still wildly popular, but there are so many more interesting bottles of fizz available. Will 2018 be the year of cava? Sales are dominated by two large companies, but there are more than 200 producers in Catalunya, some producing great wine at reasonable prices. I do like good Champagne, but other regions of France, the Loire, Alsace, Limoux, Burgundy, produce very good crémant, sparkling wines made in exactly the same way, at much cheaper prices.
Tesco Cava Rosato NV, Spain, 11.5%, €12.65
Refreshing off-dry fizz with mouth-watering strawberry fruits. A handy alternative to prosecco. Drink as an aperitif, or with richer fish dishes.
St Nicolas de Bourgeuil 2015, Langlois-Château, 12%, €16.95
A mere 12% in alcohol, this is a delicious light juicy red wine, packed with ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruits. Drink with white meats, such as chicken and pork, or try it with grilled salmon.
Reserva Ancesatral 2014, Miguel Torres, 14.5%, €18.50
Made from 80-year-old cinsault, País and Carignan vines, this is a powerful full-bodied earthy wine, brimming with spicy rich damson fruits. Perfect with a steak.
Stockists: Marks & Spencer
Morgon ‘Delys’ 2016, Vieilles Vignes, Daniel Bouland, 13%, €26.95
This might seem expensive, but it is an exceptional wine. Wonderful pure perfectly ripe black fruits ripple across the palate. Soothing and refreshing. Serve with roast chicken or pork.
Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey; Cabot & Co, Westport cabotandco.com; 64 Wines, Glasthule; The Poppy Seed, Clarinbridge.