First Published in Costa News Group’s Four Titles!

AVOIDING A SPANISH WINE LAKE

 Of late I’ve been working as a wine consultant, advising and brokering deals between Spanish bodegas and wine buyers from different countries who wish to import Spanish wines to sell to their clients. (It’s an expanding part of my business, so if there are any readers interested in buying Spanish wines to sell on, then please contact me – I’m certain I’ll be able to help!).

 It’s not difficult swapping hats from wine writer and critic to wine consultant and broker – the rules are the same. As a wine writer I have to be both impartial and honest; the same applies when I am advising a client to buy or not to buy. So, no problem.

 But in wine writing there is a third principle which perhaps bends, but certainly doesn’t compromise these self-imposed regulations. Nobody wants to read bad news. Cork Talk readers want recommendations, not diatribes about disappointing wines; and bodegas don’t want me to bang on about any of their portfolio that aren’t up to scratch.

 So when I’m sent a raft of wines I taste them all with integrity and impartiality. The ones that are of good quality and above will receive a positive report; those that are not, simply don’t receive a mention. It’s a system that works. Nevertheless this rule can be bent as well!

 Most recently I’ve been trawling the more economic end of the market for would-be buyers where, I’m sad to say, there are more in the latter category above than in the former. Far more. In fact it’s been quite a shock to taste so many thin, acidic, harshly tannic, and fruitless wines!

 The lower end of the market has bottomed-out to a point horribly reminiscent of the dreadful cheap wines of Spain thirty years ago – and this from me, a keen and loyal supporter of Iberian wines!

 The best wines are made from the juice of first 50-60% of the gentle pressing of the grapes. There is more juice left, of course, so the grapes can be further pressed and indeed, ultimately crushed to death by relentless pressure to extract the very last drops and thus maximise output. These dreadful, sadly cynical, wines are made from the grapes of over-cropped vines which then suffer this overbearing crushing where the pips, too, make their tongue-furring contribution.  

 So what’s to be done? Well there is still, regrettably, a market for wines of this depressing standard (I was going to say ‘of this quality’, but that word shouldn’t be in the same sentence as some of the wines I’ve been tasting). There are those in this country and in the UK who will drink them because they are a cheap ticket to an alcohol trip. But those of us who may not be in the position to buy expensive wines, but who still want to enjoy flavour, must still be catered for.

 In the UK, a wine that wholesales here at say 1·50€ (the cheap end of the market), is going to retail at about 4·50 pounds after the importer’s transport, tax and duty costs plus a tiny profit. On the supermarket shelves in Britain you’ll see many wines from Chile, for example, at this sort of price. Taste them and you’ll find far more flavour and aroma pleasure than in the Spanish dross above.

 It’s true that the profit in wine is minimal, measured in cents at this lower end, and bodegas have to make a profit to survive. But if the reputation of Spanish wine isn’t going to be sullied for ever, I think that producers have to bite the bullet and lower their prices in the slightly higher level, up to about the mid-range (or why not across the board to stimulate sales throughout?) and accept less profit per bottle, but at least compete on flavour and price with other wine producing countries.

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