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When I left Grammar School in England at the ripe old age of 16 years and 6 months old it was 1971 and I started my working life in a Wine Merchants… some say I’ll end my life in a bar drinking wine, but that’s for a later chapter in life. In the UK it was illegal in those days to be a full-time shop assistant as you had to be 17, but hey-ho, it was a job and my new employers were happy to give me a start.

My first shop was a small shop within a large and rather posh department store who shall remain nameless. Posh it was and so were the wine snobs I had to deal with, many referring to wines during tastings as “A cheeky little number.” At first I was afraid they were talking about me, but experience tells out and when you are in the trade I realised most of these wine expert’s remarks were aimed at their peers, uttered not from knowledge but simply to impress.

I worked in this company, a British nationwide chain of wine merchants, for a few years making my way from shop assistant to relief manager at the grand old age of 18. I would possibly still have been working there except company policy stated I couldn’t have my own shop until I was 21, and being ambitious I wanted my own shop by the time I was 20. So at the old, old age of 20 I left for pastures new. But in that time I did learn an awful lot about wines, spirits and beers. I tasted wines of all types from all over the world, even passing several exams on my way to becoming a Master of Wine, which never happened as I changed my career course from wine to computers… even mixing the two, which explains why some computer programs seem not to work quite the way they should.

One of the things I learned at the wine merchants was that the French produced the best wine and that the Spanish produced the most wine. Those two points were a given, nobody did better than the French at producing good quality wine in a consistent manner.

Now let’s fast forward to today.

According to the OIV (International Organisation for Wine & Vine) in 2016 the world produced 259 million hectolitres and consumption was estimated at 240 million hectolitres – don’t ask where the excess went, I hate to think.

Figures are shown in million hectolitres:

Italy, 48.8 Mhl
France, 41.9 Mhl
Spain, 37.8 Mhl
USA, 22.5 Mhl
Australia, 12.5 Mhl
China, 11.5 Mhl
Chile, 10.1 Mhl
South Africa, 9.1 Mhl
Argentina, 8.8 Mhl

So Spain is no longer King of volume. But who produces the best wine these days? Well, really it’s a matter of conjecture but in my humble opinion, Australia and the USA now give France a good run for its money.

90% of US wine comes from California and its here that the world’s largest wine producer is located, Gallo, in Modesto, California. Their major grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Australia exports most of the wine it produces and have been expanding their wine marketing in Hong Kong and Asia. Australia’s major grapes are Shiraz and Chardonnay.

But the quality is what matters and if price is also a factor, I’m putting my money on Australia eventually outstripping France for producing quality wines at a great price.

In my time as a wine merchant, during the early 1970s, you never saw anything other than European wine. Nowadays you can find great and inexpensive wines from around the world, even from New Zealand and Britain, which produce some pretty good wines.

The Aussie’s have got their wine production and consumption nailed. They switched to using aluminium vessels to produce their wine and to buy it you have to go to a specialist wine, beer and spirits only outlet, there’s none sold in supermarkets. But I loved their brilliant idea of buying online and then driving to a drive-through wine shop to pick your purchase up.

Gives a whole new meaning to drink & drive.

Tom Kane © 2018

How do you fancy getting lost in a maze so big you could fit a house in it? Or perhaps walking with sharks is your thing. With the Kangaroos kicking off and fighting among themselves and the cute Quokkas being a little off hand, it was never a dull moment in Perth during my stay in January 2018.

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As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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Living in Cyprus: 2015 here

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