A BELATED Happy New Year to you all. Most of you are probably focused on attempts to undo the booze and calorie damage of the festive season – and, of course, adjusting to coming back to work. But given the nature of this paper, it would be remiss for me to ignore the prevailing economic climate.
There will, inevitably, be an increase in alcohol duty this year (and for several to follow), so the price of wines will rise, to which the best response, paradoxically, is to spend more. The more expensive the bottle the less the proportion of the cost goes to the exchequer as the duty paid is related to alcohol content, not to cost price. It has been said many times but bears repeating: the price of cheap wine is mostly tax and packaging; do yourself a favour and spend a bit more.
On the plus side, if the euro continues to slide vis-a-vis the pound, the cost of importing wines from Europe will decrease. I would expect this to feed through to selling prices rather more slowly than the duty increase as wine merchants tightened their belts and absorbed a lot of the increases last time around.
As for Alpine pleasures, if you find yourself hitting the slopes this winter, try and find time between the glühwein and Jaegermeister to drink some of the local wines. I tend to go to Austria to ski (though not this year, what with our new arrival) and the aromatic local whites (particularly Grüner Veltliner which ranges in style from appley and crisp to fat and spicy) or the crunchy reds (look out for Blaufränkisch which has a kind of sour cherry and pepper character, or juicy Pinot Noir cousin St Laurent – unlike in French you pronounce the final “t”) are fabulous accompaniments to Alpine cooking.
However you greet the New Year I hope that you don’t let the mood of gloom stop you from opening a good bottle or two. It’s no time to stop drinking wine.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @LutyensWine