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How is cheap wine possible? This is perhaps the strangest and most perpolexing question in wine, alongside such conundrums as “is terroir real?” and “pink port: why, god, why?”

Students who sit their wine exams all around the world have long been familiar with the complicated classifications with which European wines are labeled, enshrining the idea that grapes are capable of articulating their origins, and that grapes grown in different sites will produce wines of different quality and nuance of flavour.

Leading investors gathered at the Mayfair Hotel last week to listen to Cam Battley, chief corporate officer at Canadian firm Aurora Cannabis, wax lyrical about the marijuana industry’s vast potential. Make no mistake, this is going to become a large, global industry, bigger than global brewing,” he said. And I’ll tell you why. Beer has no legitimate medical applications, no matter what we tell ourselves on a Friday evening.”

In my last column, I asked whether wine has enough cultural and historical value to survive the increasingly prevalent anti-alcohol sentiment in Britain, which is precisely the kind of #bantz that explains why I always end up standing by myself at parties.

As I write, there’s a ragu simmering on the stove. It began with the unhurried dicing of onions, carrots and celery, followed by the browning of the mince, and the addition of wine and tomato. It’s the first of the year, and like the returning blast of the central heating or the wearing of jumpers, it’s a sign that autumn is here, and with it the best season for wine lovers.

It’s strange but true that just five or six years ago customers were willing to travel considerable distances to get their hands on new and edgy beers from the latest craft breweries.

Attempting to see something from an alternative perspective is like leaving you running in circles before collapsing on the floor, panting heavily.

Jen Draper, head of marketing at Global Brands, looks at why the age-appropriate debate is growing old.

Surely it’s not just me who every so often looks round at the world of wine and wonders what on earth we are all going on about? It’s a feeling as blasphemous as a vicar questioning the whole resurrection thing, or Riedel suddenly wondering whether glassware actually makes the slightest difference to how wine is perceived.

If I had said a few years ago that flavoured gin would be bigger than flavoured vodka and be the spirit which contributes the largest growth to the alcohol market, would you have believed me? 

As minimum unit pricing in Scotland beds in, anti-alcohol campaigners are beginning to hedge their bets. Already we’re hearing it’s not a magic bullet”, other measures will be needed” – including the restoration of the hated alcohol duty escalator and alcohol-only” aisles in off-sales premises. The stated intention of campaigners supporting MUP is to stop the sale of cheap strong alcohol at pocket money prices” and thereby protect vulnerable drinkers” – a coy term for alcoholics. But what about the unintended consequences?

Now that schools have broken up until early September, many wine merchants will have spent the month queuing up other projects – preparing for the autumn, trying not to buy any stock that isn’t lager or rosé, or maybe even taking a bit of time off.

The next print edition of Drinks Retailing News includes a fascinating in-depth look at the concept of so-called Frankenwines. Their makers use laboratory analysis of well-known brands to establish a flavour and aroma profile and then reverse engineer those characteristics into the wine they make from their own-grown fruit.

Golden ages are periods of sustained excellence within a sector. For example, in Hollywood, the first one ran from the end of the silent era to the beginning of the TV takeover, producing benchmark films of every genre. 

Vodka changes tack

16 July, 2018

One of the huge surprises during the World Cup, beyond the fact that England weren’t completely cack, was the revelation that fans could perch on plastic patio furniture rather than punt it at the oppo.

The issue of legalising cannabis has been in the news in recent weeks.

With the market for wine becoming increasingly competitive, why are many millennials turning away from Old World wines and choosing to buy New World instead?

As a Northern Irish student escaping the febrile atmosphere that characterised undergraduate Oxford, I was lucky to have a fellow student whose father had a house in London.

Thanks to price rises and the move towards drinking products with a more expensive price tag, off-trade alcohol sales are steadily increasing year on year, but volumes remain relatively static.  

You may have heard by now that it’s coming home. Football, that is. For one or two people in the beer business, there’s also the possibility that chickens are coming home too – to roost.

Two unbelievable truths: every wine shop should sell top-end Bordeaux, and the wine trade is excellent at innovation. And I can prove one via the other.

Sun’s out, buns out. British summertime has begun and that means it’s barbecue season. By rekindling our innate relationship with fire, barbecuing reconnects us all with our prehistoric ancestors. Before TVs, radiators and microwaves, there was only fire. Man gawped at fire, heated himself with fire and cooked animals (and maybe a few vegetables that didn’t require running after) using fire. 

There’s no doubt that enforced product reformulation is the weapon of choice for so-called public health” in its campaign to make us all as slim as racing snakes.

The cocktail hour

08 June, 2018

One of my favourite books is the Savoy Cocktail Book, which sits not on my bookshelves with all my other books, but on my drinkshelf with various bottles of gin, rye and rum, not to mention maraschino, triple sec, bitters and much else besides.

We are heading towards the longest day of the year and I hope the sun continues to shine. We’ve had a mixed bag of weather so far and we know all too well that this can either boost or play havoc with alcohol sales. Let’s look at how the weather has impacted sales so far and predict what we can expect. 

Judging in context

29 May, 2018

There is a subtle, inquisitive thrill to sitting down to blind taste a dozen glasses of unknown liquid. Even repeated eight times over five days, as at the latest Decanter World Wine Awards, the excitement doesn’t wear off. Twelve shades of lemon or gold, ruby or garnet, and among them, perhaps, a wine of real beauty, interest and distinction. 

Good news, everyone: life is generally better for everyone today than it has been at any point in history. Break out the corkscrews. That might sound like the sort of aphorism on A-boards outside off-licences, but it also happens to be true. Globally, population growth has slowed, extreme poverty has halved in the past decade, and crime has fallen rapidly since the 1990s.

It will soon be time for the World Cup, which kicks off on June 14 when host nation Russia takes on Saudi Arabia. Even with over four weeks to go, we are already starting to see the retailers get behind the tournament with special packs, sticker albums, football merchandise and team kits in stores.

Sir Anwar Pervez didn’t earn a place on The Sunday Times Rich List without spotting a good bargain – and in the fallout from the monumental collapse of Conviviality he’s got one in both name and spirit with the acquisition of Bargain Booze.

Nobody would willingly defend the merits of crack cocaine. Apart from drug dealers, perhaps. Recently it has been recommended that the maximum stake playable on fixed-odds betting terminals should be reduced from £100 to £30. These casino-style games machines theoretically allow gamblers to bet more than £10,000 every hour, earning them a reputation as the crack cocaine of gambling.