Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

French Can Still Give the Rest a Tasty Lesson; Wine

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

French Can Still Give the Rest a Tasty Lesson; Wine

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN SAVAGE

WE'LL buy more Australian wine this Christmas than that of any other country. We'll drink more Chilean and South African than Spanish wine, but the victory of the 'New World' is far from complete.

Although France, Spain and Italy now have a far smaller share of the market in terms of volume, when it comes to the amount of money we're prepared to spend on wine, they're streets ahead. The latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that we spend 67% more on French wine than on wine from Australia. Even when the huge amount we spend on champagne is taken out of the equation, the value of French wine imports is still streets ahead of that of any of her competitors.

It seems that when we want something a bit special, we still believe that Europe is best. This will be music to the ears of French wine growers who've had a hard time over the past few years. France has had to pull its socks up and show what it can do. Now it has to work doubly hard to build on its reputation for quality if it is to regain some of the volume sales markets it has lost. But I'm convinced that it's not just at the quality end of the market that France can, and should be able, to compete effectively.

The hard evidence that really great, often keenly priced French wines are out there is provided by a showcase tasting each year in London. Around 20 top wine writers and critics are invited to nominate three 'Absolutely Cracking' French wines on sale in the UK that have impressed them most over the last year. For the last couple of years, I've had the fun of not only tasting what other writers have discovered, but I've also had the challenge of submitting my own three top choices.

Believe me, it's far harder than coming up with a list of Desert Island Discs.

I was struck and much impressed that our choices ranged across the entire country from Alsace to Corsica. Every major region was represented and a fair few lesser-known appellations, too. Surely this has to be encouraging? It suggests to me that the improvement is pretty general in France and not just concentrated in a few hotspots. …

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