February 28, 2024

WINE O’CLOCK: Small producers need a little bit of help

Across Europe we have been drinking more wine since the onset of Covid-19. Well, it would drive anyone to drink, so I’m not surprised.

In Britain, the average citizen has been drinking wine 10.6 times a month over the summer, as against 9.5 times a month in summer 2019. For France, the figures are 10.6 and 9.5 in 2019.

In Germany there has been a huge leap in sales of more than 40%, year on year.

The figures are from Wine Intelligence, a research agency based in London. They don’t include Ireland in the survey, but I would be amazed to find things are different here.

Happy days for wine producers, you might think. Not so. Many smaller vineyards are in trouble. Some are facing bankruptcy and there are reports of of grapes being left to rot on the vine because sales do not justify the cost of picking.

There is a reason for this apparent paradox. Yes, we are drinking more wine, but we are buying it from supermarkets and drinking it at home. Sales in restaurants are way down.

Supermarkets favour the big suppliers with familiar names who cut low-price deals. Restaurants like the exclusivity provided by small French vineyards and Spanish bodegas.

You can find the products of some small producers on your supermarket shelves, too, but you’ll have to go looking for them.

To help you out, here are four that I like. I have priced them all from wine-shop lists but some big stores may stock them too.

Bouchard Aine et Fils Pinot Noir (€13.95, La Touche Wines, Greystones)
Bouchard Aîné et Fils was founded in 1750 in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy. Its cellars are in the Hôtel du Conseiller du Roy, an 18th-century building, open to the public (well, it was open before Covid).

Pinot Noir and Chardonnays are the speciality of the house and this is a very smooth Pinot Noir, with a taste of cherry and a smell of fresh flowers.

Honoro Vera Garnacha (€13.99, Worldwide Wines Waterford)
Produced by the Ateca winery in the Calatayud region of northern Spain. The Ateca winery is part of the Juan Gil group, which provides a marketing hub for several wineries including Bodegas Juan Gil and Bodegas Atalaya.

Garnacha appears in many blends you will see under labels that say Rioja or Tempranillo but Honoro Vera is made entirely from Garnacha grapes. A deep crimson wine with spicy fruit flavours, well suited to the approaching autumn season.

Ciello Bianco Catarratto (€13.55 Le Caveau, Kilkenny)
The Vesco family took over the winery 10 years ago, producing organic wines in the hills above Alcamo in Sicily.

This is a beautiful white wine, very light and delicate. It tastes a little of peach and has a darkish, peach-like colour,

Brocard Petit Chablis €22.95 O’Briens
Brocard is a family winery run by father and son team, Jean-Marc and Julien . They are organic farmers at Préhy in Burgundy’s Chablis region in northeast France.

Chablis, obviously, is the speciality. This one has a crisp texture and citrus flavours with a hint of pear.


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