New world wines giving Champagne a run for its money

New world wines giving Champagne a run for its money

Nicholas Corfe of Go Brazil Wines discusses the ways in which we view wine as a status symbol – and why increased knowledge and interest means consumers can “think outside the box” when selecting special occasion wines.

It seems that never a week goes by without the results of a new survey or poll being published, and last week was no different. In the Metro newspaper we spotted a survey that asked 2000 people to list their top ‘40 Signs that you’ve made it’ and we were amused, but not entirely surprised, to see a number of references to wines, Champagne and Prosecco. Coming in at an impressive 14th position ( out of 40 ) was ‘having a wine cellar’, while ‘knowing about wine’ was also listed, although rather lower down. ‘Drinking Champagne rather than Prosecco’ was perhaps more predictable, as was the wonderful ‘always having Champagne in the fridge’ and the slightly more modest ‘having a well-stocked home bar’!

One hesitates to draw too many conclusions but it would seem that enjoyment and knowledge of wines  – and Champagne in particular – are seen as something to aspire to, and may just add a touch of sophistication and colour to our lives. It is certainly true that the number of people attending formal WSET ( Wine & Spirit Education) courses, both in the UK and abroad, is increasing, while our own experiences as a company suggest that there are numerous, thriving groups of wine clubs and societies up and down the country. We have also witnessed a proliferation of Food and Wine Festivals, many targeting the more discerning consumer, and often held at National Trust or similar properties. Craft gins and to a lesser extent, rums, have benefited from this trend but the fact is that UK consumption of wine comfortably exceeds that of these two spirits, and this looks set to continue.

While there are many who prefer drinking Prosecco to Champagne, as it tends to be lighter, fruitier and have a lower level of acidity, there is no denying that Champagne remains at the pinnacle of sparkling wines. Many centuries of fine-tuning production, backed up by clever and extensive marketing and strong legal protection of the ‘brand’, have ensured its premium positioning and created an aura of desirability. No more so than at Christmas, of course, when many of us are looking to trade up from our usual tipple. That said, there is great value to be found in other ‘Traditional Method’ fizz – that is, sparkling wines made in the same way as Champagne but which cannot be described as such. ‘Crémant’ is the generic term for those wines which are produced in France in the same way but outside of the Champagne region, Spain has its ‘Cava’ and the New World ( especially South Africa, Tasmania, Argentina and our very own Brazil ) also has excellent examples.

So, while Champagne and other fine French wines may feature on the ‘wish list’ this Christmas, our suggestion would be to seek out some lesser known wine regions or wine styles. As the survey suggests, whereas ‘being able to retire early’ (number 1) may be a dream for many, ‘owning a log burner’ (number 40) may just be within reach..

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