The changing world order as demonstrated by the wine industry
Even the most recalcitrant observer must notice that the world power rankings are changing. Some superpowers are on the wane, while others strive to replace them. The G8 becomes the G20, China becomes the economic power of note, Europe develops a second wind as it recovers ahead of the US, and America finds that its power and influence is most decidedly finite. It is a brave new world out there, and if you are still in denial, let us take a look at the wine industry as an indicator of change.
If we look at the manufacturing end of the wine business, the new world has been in ascendancy for a while such as the Australian and South American varietals. Now, we have an emergence of an even newer world, or a reversion to an ancient one depending on your point of reference, as Lebanon explodes on to the wine scene. Lebanon has some prime wine growing opportunities with vineyards now planted in clay and limestone soil that lies between the mountains and the Mediterranean at more than 3,000 feet elevation. It makes a whole new industry for a country famed for its ingenuity in making profits
Most of the world’s winemakers worry about the weather because great wine is made in the vineyard, but in Lebanon they worry about other things.
“Weather, if only I could worry about the weather. No, I don’t worry about the weather. We are blessed with wonderful weather,” said Sami Ghosn, 43.
Along with his brother, Ramzi, 44, in the early 1990s Ghosn reopened the family’s Massaya vineyard in the Bekaa Valley where there is sunshine some 300 days a year.
The vineyard had been closed since 1975 when the Ghosn family, who are Lebanese Christians, fled at the start of the 15-year civil war.
If that wasn’t enough to have the traditionalists spluttering into their prized cabernet sauvignon, Hong Kong is now the world’s largest wine market, surpassing London and New York. The world changes, the powers shift as they engage and cross-pollinate and new realities develop. The cries of ‘Sacre bleu! What is the world coming to!’ are drowned out by the sound of the popping of corks as Hong Kong enjoys its successes
Sotheby’s, the auctioneer, sold $7.9 million ($4.9 million) of vintage wines in October. It said it had sold $14.3 million of wine so far this year in Hong Kong, far outstripping its sales of $10.5 million in New York and $8 million in London.
In the October sale, one unnamed wine buff from mainland China paid a record $93,077 for an Imperiale (the equivalent of eight bottles) of 1982 Château Pétrus, in a further show of the spending power of the Chinese. Overall, the auction raised almost a third more than Sotheby’s estimate