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Chris Orr comments on… the Fine Wine Boom and the Incas

Chris Orr considers what is fuelling the current rise in fine wine sales and discovers the real origins of binge drinking.

Wednesday 16 November, 2006

I was reading the Torygraph yesterday morning when I came across two articles on the same page that made me think.

The first was about fine wine sales booming in the UK market. According to figures released by Tim How from Majestic, their sales of wines costing more than £20 a bottle are up 43%, which is good news for everyone, I should have thought. Majestic more or less leads the field when it comes to the multiple specialists, so when How says his figures on top end wine are up that can only signal that the great British public are beginning to develop a more sophisticated palate. Or that city boys are making big bonuses again.

Which I guess is part of the challenge, namely working out which part of the growth is long term and which part is only temporary. Earlier this week, for example, an American banker blew his £300,000 bonus on a diamond ring for his wife. Rather amusingly it was termed a cocktail ring – presumably so she could show it off at all those chi-chi parties bankers hold for each other. Either way, it shows that the city is once again up at a level of opulence and greed that may ultimately force a collapse, small or large. No one can truly believe that all this ‘created’ wealth actually exists except in the ethereal world of banking computers – all of which can take it away as quickly as create it should the Dow Jones, the Nikkei or whatever drop a few points in the wrong direction.

When it does get taken away, how many are going to regard spending over £20 a bottle on wine as essential rather than a luxury item in their virtual shopping basket. My guess, and it’s not being pessimistic, but rather realistic, is that it won’t be 43%. But it may well be half that – which in itself is nice growth from the sector and something we can all celebrate.

Below that story, was another, slightly more amusing tale. Apparently, according to archaeologists, Inca women celebrated the end of their civilization with a massive session of binge drinking on top of a mountain. Apparently when they evacuated the sacred mountains in Peru, ravaged as they were by disease, the world’s first true civilization left the 400 gallon brewery to the last, before buring it ritually, having drunk fully of its contents.

So there you have it. Kevin, in Essex, with his Burberry shell suit and gold sovereign rings is not part of a generation responsible for binge drinking violence and antics that waste so much police time. The real culprits were the Incas. Look out for a government press release to be coming to an email near you soon denouncing the irresponsible actions of a group of people, who frankly, should have known better than to drink themselves stupid and play with matches. You know it’s going to happen so don’t fight it, just enjoy every word of it.

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