February 4th Newsletter

Gift boxes for Bordeaux, a 70 year-old Australian wine retailer being repackaged as the Greatest Showman, Greece's top white grape and the Polish wine market. Just a few of the stories in this week's newsletter, introduced by editor at large, Robert Joseph

"I do not like broccoli… And I'm president of the United States. And I'm not gonna eat any more broccoli!"

The 1989 quote by George H.W. Bush has gone down in history. Like spinach, broccoli is a healthy vegetable. Adults were supposed to persuade or, if necessary, force their children to eat it – as Bush’s own mother had done. And, at the very least, they were to pretend to enjoy it themselves.

While uncomplainingly eating green vegetables they may have preferred not to see on their plates, and meat that created misgivings among some animal lovers, those same adults were also supposed to happily sip at the dry red and white wine in their glass.

Admitting a taste for sweeter wines was socially not very acceptable, whatever people may have bought for their own consumption. As traditional wine merchants would say, consumers ‘talk dry; drink sweet’.

Today, we live in a different world. If you don’t like the idea of killing animals for food, you can politely decline the steak. If you don’t want a dry wine, in the US, you can join an multitude of others who unashamedly buy and enjoy one labelled as ‘Sweet Red’.

As our report on Poland by Patrycja Siwiec reveals, plenty of people in that country also regularly enjoy red wine with residual sugar, though possibly without such honest labelling. Many German and British consumers are no different; the only variation is in the levels of sweetness they favour.

Many wine purists would prefer these wines not to exist. In their ideal world, wine drinkers would all grow to appreciate dry, ideally ‘minerally’, wines – the healthy vinous equivalent of spinach and broccoli. High on their list would be the Greek Assyrtiko that is the subject of Alexandra Wrann’s lengthy report. They might not be enthusiastic about some of the big red wines, our interviewee, Charles Smith, produces in Washington State.

But, as Wrann acknowledges, dry Greek wines with high acidity will never be for everybody, any more than some kinds of music or art. Of course there is nothing wrong in opera lovers wishing that everyone else would learn to share their passion, but this is not realistic. And if the wine industry is to continue to employ and pay the wages of millions of people across the world, it’s time to accept that many wine drinkers, like the 41st president of the United States, have decided what they do and do not like.

Our immediate task is to satisfy the Assyrtiko fans and the lovers of Sweet Reds and 'Big Reds' and everyone in between. If we can persuade some to develop a taste for a style they didn't previously enjoy, that's a bonus.

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