Yesterday I received a preliminary report on the Loire 2010 vintage from Charles and Philippa Sydney, Loire courtiers and themselves producers of the La Grille Classic Loire label. Charles also appended a report warning about the coming meltdown of the market given the effect of duty increases, VAT rates and the pound’s devaluation in a context where he says the average producer has held prices in the face of rising costs of manpower and dry goods. I’m not sure I agree with his proposal of a proportional tax on wine, but something has to give. Maybe we just need to accept that wine, among other things, costs more?
At any rate, I’ve quoted both reports in full below.
Preliminary Loire vintage report 2010
“Picking started in Muscadet almost four weeks ago, on more-or-less the same date as last year. One month later, with the exception of a handful of the more committed red producers, the vast majority of the grapes throughout the Loire Valley are now in, although we are of course waiting for the final tris of Coteaux du Layon.
After a perfectly normal summer and despite our annual scare with rain, things are looking good. In fact, as the harvest has gone on, we’ve been getting happier and happier…
Muscadets from the better domaines are at least as good as last year, maybe even better, with young Pierre Sauvion’s comment of ‘ravi content’ summing it up nicely. That said, the situation in Muscadet is pretty catastrophic, and those growers who simply couldn’t afford to treat the vines in the summer had a lot of problems with rot, resulting in strange eau de vie aromas in the juice.
Any comments about the greed of growers asking too high prices are misplaced – 60 growers have gone bankrupt in the Pays Nantais since the harvest. You might like to see my ‘meltdown’ analysis in the attached letter [see below].
In the Touraine and up in Sancerre and Pouilly, picking started upto a week later than last year. Rain around the 24th September put the frighteners on some growers but gave wonderful proof of the advantage of grassing through the vines.
The sauvignons look lovely – nice degrees, nicely balanced acidity and loads of fresh fruit – and there should be plenty of really attractive wines to enjoy. The gamays are less exciting, as too few people deleaf, debud and grass through the vineyards, but stick with the best growers (Marteau, Marionnet…) and you’ll be fine.
In Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny, picking in general started earlier than last year (another couple of days of rain set off some rot and panicked growers) but better growers waited (again), and benefitted from an extra 2 weeks of bright sunny weather and cooling winds, achieving a level of ripeness that seems clearly on a par with – or superior – to last year… It’s even tempting to compare with 2005, but I guess we need to wait till fermentations are over before promising too much!
For the chenins, once more, and despite some problems in Vouvray, the good guys have come up trumps, with some huge grins in Saumur and the Layon and more than one grower saying he was ‘aux anges’ … For my money, and even before the final pickings, I’d bet heavily on 2010 being way better than 2009.”
For other perspectives on the Loire 2010, see Jim’s Loire here.
Charles Sydney’s ‘meltdown’ analysis
“In Muscadet, sixty vignerons have gone bankrupt since the harvest.
This is the result of several factors (not least the inept response to the spring frost in 2008), first of which is a massive loss of export markets in the face of a euro hit by an effective and deliberate devaluation of both the pound and the dollar.
It is also the warning of the coming meltdown of the market.
In just five years, the effect of duty increases, VAT rates and the pound’s devaluation means that a £5.99 bottle has gone from having 2.60 € (£1.74) of wine to a risible 1.38 € (£1.21)
In those same 5 years, tax on an average £4.32 bottle will have risen to 58% while the government minister drinking a bottle ten times as expensive is paying just 20.1% tax.
In that very same period, the average producer has held prices in the face of rising costs of manpower and dry goods.
Things are now critical and we are facing a situation where there are no obvious savings to be made – the bankruptcies in Muscadet are an illustration of how bad things are.
OK, enough ranting.
The problem :
There will soon be no wine from independent European wineries at affordable prices on the UK market – a disaster for the wine drinking public and for the producers
The solution :
Reduce the fixed duty per bottle and add a proportional tax on wine to compensate the government for any lost revenues. A straight £1.00 duty and an extra 10% sales tax on wine would mean ‘only’ 39.7% tax on a £6.00 bottle (and 25% on the minister’s expensive claret)
Still not perfect, but it would give Joe Punter 2.00 euros’ worth of wine in a £6 bottle…
The government would still rake in the tax but Joe Average would be assured of getting some serious quality for his money.”