Breaking news! In an effort to maintain their share of the world wine market, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal have decided that they will be collaborating in the future to present a combined front against the onslaught of New World wines…
OK, OK, it could never happen. Even the idea of the folk from Burgundy and Bordeaux, or Tuscany and Piedmont combining under a French/Italian banner to promote their wines side by side just doesn’t happen – indeed, the idea of the folk in Barolo and Barbaresco working together requires an adventurous imagination.
Yet the news today is that Argentina, California, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa have combined to form something called New World Wine Alliance and will be grouped together in a single hall to showcase their wines at Germany’s annual ProWein in March next year (Australia apparently is now concentrating on the Far East and hasn’t mucked in with the others). The press release says, ‘All five regions [sic] have continued to grow exports despite the global credit crisis and believe that by working in concert they stand a better chance of competing against the EU, whose own wine-producing members are supported by substantial subsidies in their international marketing initiatives.’
It goes on to list the number of ways in which the five have succeeded in building their wine trades – aggressive branding; demystifying wine; focusing on technical, packaging and marketing innovation; and putting an increasing accent on sustainable wine-growing and wine production.
All well and good, all commendable. But in the middle of this list, one initiative sticks out like a sore thumb – ‘by playing up their regional strengths.’ Now forgive me if I’m being naive, but how on earth does lumping five rather large and quite disparate countries/states together under one banner accentuate the regional strengths? What does Valle de Uco Malbec have to do with Awatere Sauvignon Blanc or Walker Bay Pinotage?
Yet I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Alliance succeed. The five might make quite different wines but what unites them is the lack of Old World baggage. All of them still realise that they need to keep the smiles on their customers’ faces, something France especially forgot about a long time ago. So while the Old World section at next year’s ProWein may have several great wines on offer for those prepared to seek them out, I imagine the hall housing the New World Alliance will be the noisiest, the friendliest and the place where most business is done – not to mention the scene of the greatest consumption of that wine trade essential called ‘beer’ at the end of each day.