Nov 13: Adventurism by various States to make India look like its becoming a Dry country with zero alcohol consumption may not succeed but due to a variety of reasons, some of the world’s top sweet wine regions like Sauternes, Mosel and Tokaj are tilting towards Dry with zero residual sugar, according to a Report by Prowein which will showcase some of these wines at its 26th edition to be held in Düsseldorf on 15-17 March, 2020, writes Subhash Arora
In India, the choking of the wine industry is not due to any external factor or climate change, but the government’s intent to curtail alcohol consumption as directed by Section 47 of the Constitution of India. The financial dependence on taxes, revenues and the magic wand it holds to increases tax revenues with the stroke of a pen, and bureaucratic roadblocks keeps the clock ticking somehow. This, when the wine industry could provide thousands of jobs to farmers and also increase tax revenues if handled pragmatically.
For the rest of the world there are different reasons ranging from climate change to shifts in consumer tastes and the economics of making and selling such wines, that is compelling several traditionally iconic sweet regions like Sauternes, Mosel and Tokaj in European Union to go dry by reducing the sugar content in many of their wines.
The results of these innovations may be tasted at the 26th edition of Prowein on 15-17 March, 2020 in Düsseldorf.
Sauternes innovates to preserve Sweet Tradition
Dessert wines from Sauternes have always been considered opulently iconic for the previous generations. But the producers did not keep in touch with the reality of changing tastes. No matter how exotic they are, Indians and most people in the world do not get enamoured now by sweet wines, partly because of the fear of an early onslaught of Type 2 diabetes. The 20th century’s financial and natural crises and falling vineyard prices affected production and quality too. With the younger generation not into the groove, the demand has seen a continuously declining trend.
A few pioneers saw an opportunity to keep their heritage undiluted. Despite the massive historical pressure to stick to sweet wines, winemakers like Oliver Bernard at historic estates of Chateau Guiraud began to add drier styles.
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey has halved the sweet wine production in favour of dry wines due to commercial considerations. Their DNA is to produce sweet wines through botrytis. But the need to be creative and determination to gain back the lost market share is behind the change. The objective was to use the cash flow to help offset some of the extraordinary costs associated with making sweet wines, thus actually protecting the sweet wine tradition.
Dry Sauternes offer a delicious blend of depth and vivacity thanks to the refreshing Sauvignon Blanc kick. In fact, the same conditions of high limestone content, excellent exposition, old vines, a delicate balance of sunlight, temperature and moisture lend themselves to the dry style too. About 160 ha of their vines are devoted to producing dry whites, and this trend will continue.
Mosel Changing Style with Climate
Mosel Valley has turned drier due more to the changing climates than shifting taste preferences. Traditionally, Mosel Valley features steep, slate cliffs, a strong moderating influence by the river and chilly temperatures that led to very slow fermentation and ripeness. While some producers pushed the idea of dry wines from the Mosel as early as the 1980s, historically they rarely achieved the combination of conditions necessary to make high-end dry wines consistently.
Climate change has helped the winemakers in Mosel. The last 20 years have not only seen an explosion of successful dry wines but now only a small elite handful of major producers like Egon Müller and J.J. Prüm are still dedicated exclusively to wines with high residual sugar. However, the 2018 vintage set another record for the number of dry wines released.
The iconic Dr. Loosen released a groundbreaking 9 Grosses Gewächs (GG) top-end dry wines this year. They have been releasing one or two GGs a year during the last 11 years. With the 2011 vintage the owner Ernie Loosen also introduced the GG Reserve category for single-vineyard dry wines that spend two years on the lees in barrel instead of one year for GGs- the much sought-after collectors’ wines.
Tokaj: Liquid Gold Dressed Dry
In northeast Hungary, the 11,000 hectares of Tokaj area is the second demarcated wine region in the world and the first to classify its vineyards. Often addressed as liquid gold, this ‘wine of kings, the king of wine’ underwent a few tragedies starting with phylloxera. Under the communist regime many of the grand vineyards were consolidated into a state-run monopoly, turning them into a dilapidated state slowly.
The resurrection started soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. But not every producer returned directly to the dessert wines. For some like Istvan Szepsy, founder of one of the first independent wine estates after the fall of the Wall, it was an aesthetic choice. Besides the now legendary Aszú and Essencia wines he also produced modern, no-botrytis variants of Furmint that give a beautiful dry, authentic expression of the sites.
Other producers like the state owned Grand Tokaj, iconic Disznoko and the newly opened Vaxco have achieved big success with similar approach. Warming temperatures and more practical economic concerns made them switch to dry wine at many other wineries, especially smaller, family-run operations. As a bonus, dry wines also help hedge the risk of vintages not suitable for Aszú. Twenty years later, dry wines play a major role in nearly every important Tokaji producer’s portfolio now.
A quick look around the world reveals the same trend everywhere. Whether it’s deep, dry reds in the Duoro (Portugal), zippy Zibibbo from Pantelleria (Sicily) or bright fruit-driven reds from the botrytized banks of Neusiedlersee (Austria), these regions are preserving their tradition through diversification, thus implementing their efforts and not creating conflict.
What one must admire is that these dry or sweet wines are great wines being made in great vineyards. And this current trend makes it only easier to explore new expressions of traditional sites.
Prowein is the most important wine show in the world for business today. No wonder 1263 journalists including me, from 49 countries including India, attended the Show earlier this year and the organisers are looking for yet another record year.
For more information about ProWein, please visit www.prowein.de;
For ProWine China, please visit www.prowinechina.com
For ProWine Asia, visit www.prowineasia.com.