About Me

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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Never strikes twice...

They say lightening never strikes twice but what about bad spring frosts? Well, in 1991 the whole west coast of France was hit by a devastating frost which caused a loss of about 90% of crop in Muscadet. This coincided, at least in the UK and Ireland, with the arrival of Jacob's Creek which meant that shelf space lost was never regained. As a consequence, Muscadet growers struggled to make a living and quite a few went out of business. So, what have they all done to deserve a second hit?
In 2008 a big frost wiped out about 50% of the potential crop and, even though 2009 was a good vintage in Muscadet it was recently reported by Decanter that 60 growers have filed for bankruptcy and it appears that 150 - 200 could be out of business within the next year.
It is one of those things that make you realise how difficult it is to make a living from growing grapes and making wine. When you consider how much of the money you spend on a bottle of wine actually gets into the hands of the people who made it you should, at the very least, experience a deep moral shudder. On a €5.99 bottle of wine, you pay about €0.33 for the wine whereas our government (those paragons of fiscal rectitude) get €2.97 - that's 9 times more for doing nothing!
At €11.99 the grower gets €2.81 while the government gets only €7.93 but that's not a lot of money. How much do you think someone needs to earn to have a decent standard of living - €35,000 per annum? €50,000? At €3 per bottle that grower needs to sell 12,000 bottles or 1,000 cases. That might not seem like a lot but if your annual production is 4 - 5,000 cases and you lose half of that overnight life starts getting tough, particularly given that, in your best export market the UK, the supermarkets are driving prices down aggressively.
I suppose the average punter is not expected to understand things like pricing but it frightens me, sometimes, when I see how people quibble over spending €15, say, on a bottle when the person who produced that wine might be getting only €4.00 for their efforts. It gets worse if you think too strongly about wines produced in South Africa or South America where the average vineyard worker is likely to be paid less than €1.00 per bottle while the estate owner gets the majority of whatever margin there is. Still, at least they have a job...
I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say here or whether I just would like people to think a bit more about the consequences of their actions - we did in relation to apartheid, for example. Also, I think we should have some sympathy for people whose livelihood can be wiped out by one night of frost - especially twice in 19 years.


Simply Wines said...

Nice analysis of the issues facing growers and what the customer is actually getting for their money.

Just one little quibble, those paragons of virtue don't get €7.93 of the €11.99 bottle, its closer to €4.

DermotMW said...

My apologies - €7.93 is the ex-Tax value of the bottle; €4.06 is the tax take on the €11.99 wine.