Europe lacks union Loire hidden gem cap or cork

Lacking union

The European Union is united in theory but not always in practice. French winemakers have the shits about cheap Spanish wine imports. An article, along with photos, was published in the Daily Mail on April 5.

The photos show a group of men, said to be local winemakers, emptying tankers of red wine at Le Boulou, near Perpignan, about 16 kilometres from the Spanish border. Four tankers were sabotaged and 70,000 litres spilt onto the road.

The article says France imported 580 million litres of Spanish wine in 2014, a 40 per cent increase on 2013.

The question is: how much of this so-called inferior wine was re-exported as French wine?

Hidden gems

Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux are very well known in Australia. Thanks to the shiraz connection, the Rhone Valley has some recognition. What is not so well known in Australia is the Loire Valley. Butt that’s not the case in the US, where about 1 million nine-litre cases were sold in 2015. That represents a 12 per cent increase in volume and a 20 per cent increase in value.

According to the Val de Loire’s PR machine, the region:

  • Is France’s leading producer of white wines
  • Is France’s leading AOC region for fine sparkling wines
  • Is France’s third-largest region in terms of production, with 4 million hectolitres
  • Is France’s fourth-largest vineyard in terms of surface area at 70,000 hectares, including 52,000 spread over 13 departments
  • Comprises 63 Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée producing 400 million bottles
  • Has 7000 wine growers
  • Has about 100 wine merchants (15 companies account for 70 per cent of overall turnover) and 24 winegrowers’ cooperatives
  • Has a turnover of €2 billion($1.8 billion), including €220 million from exports
  • Exports 70 million bottles, 20 per cent of total production, with 40 per cent going to the UK and 20 per cent to Belgium

It’s all competition for Australian wines, and a crisp muscadet or classy sauvignon blanc from Sancerre can be beautiful drinking. 

Put a cap on it or cork in it

In a very long exchange of emails between at least half a dozen wine industry folk, including many well-known names, on the merits of cork or cap, the following comment surfaced. It’s one that TKR supports. I haven’t asked the writer for permission to print, so they remain anonymous:

One of the things it is hard for Australians and New Zealanders to appreciate when discussing this kind of thing [cork/cap] is the relative size of the world’s wine industries. To put it simply, in order to convince either of those countries to adopt Stelvin only needed 3 or 4 dozen people to cross a line.

“Look at the size of California – let alone Europe – and you see the difference. You are talking about having to get tens of thousands of people to change their minds – against the evidence of people who’ve done so, only to retreat in the face of consumer resistance.

“It’s no accident that the only European country to move towards Stelvin is another small one: Austria.

“But… I repeat and repeat and repeat. However efficient the Stelvin has been proven to be, no marketing exec would ever have chosen it for a >$100 wine. Any more than they’d choose a PET bottle if that were proven to be preferable.

“There’s a reason why flowers get wrapped and chocolates and scent come in unnecessarily fancy boxes.

All I’m asking is that we all stop trying to persuade consumers to buy into something that is counter-intuitive (a cheap, utilitarian closure on a luxury product) and put our heads together to come up with something that solves both the technical and the marketing problems.

“We’ve decoded the genome. Coming up with an appropriate closure for a bottle of wine shouldn’t be that hard.

“And why, oh why does the wine industry have to start from the viewpoint that the consumer is wrong and has to be educated into thinking like us? It’s their money. Why not give them what they want? Or would like?”


It’s a lot of sense. TKR would love to see more of the world’s wine under cap, but it has to be acceptable to consumers.

1 thought on “Europe lacks union Loire hidden gem cap or cork”

  1. TK, I agree with you wholeheartedly, with and I’m guessing, 75% of all wines manufactured are consumed within 3 years from vintage, so why the fuss, the screw cap will more than last that period of time. As far as corking high priced wines, which are often consumed within the above time lines, this I feel is somewhat snobbery, too bad that people, can’t just enjoy the contents, without worrying about the “stopper”. If winemakers are so worried about the snob value, why not cork a small percentage of the vintage and put a premium price on those bottles and then screw cap the greater percentage of the vintage, at a price that they would have put on their entire vintage. I’m betting that the screw capped wine would be the first sold.

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