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Twixt the optimist and the pessimist," wrote the American poet, McLandburgh Wilson, "the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole." As we drain the dregs of 2008, looking back on a year when the wine trade has been pummelled by an unprecedented quintuple whammy of duty increases, currency fluctuations, rising costs, cash-deprived customers and a grocery war that has put wine on the front line, not many people are talking about doughnuts. Now we know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

MPs' noose tightens on alcohol

14 November, 2008

What is it about Brits and booze? We're not alone in our irresponsible attitude towards alcohol (it seems to be a northern European problem, possibly related to a dearth of sunlight and the absence of an outdoor culture), but put a pint, a bottle or a glass of wine in our hands and too many of us behave like children. Come to think of it, that's doing a disservice to most infants.

When it comes to sport, the Australians are a supremely competitive bunch. That's why the country's

Not so long ago, a week was considered a long time in politics. These days, it's more like an hour, or even a matter of minutes. By the time you read this column

Sauvignon Blanc's no gooseberry

05 September, 2008

Some grape varieties are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. It's only my opinion, but of the so-called Big Six I'd put Pinot Noir and Riesling in the first camp, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the second and Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc in the third. Deciding where other grapes belong - and which of them stumble some way short of greatness - is an amusing parlour game. Just think about it: where would you put Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, Grüner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional? Not so easy, is it?

With a delicious sense of timing, Oddbins is launching a promotion entitled Expect the Unexpected on Sept 1. When it came up with the tagline, the company's previous owner, Castel, was referring to a line-up of unusual wines rather than the sale of the business, but it couldn't be more appropriate. No one outside the senior management of Castel and Ex Cellar could have predicted what happened earlier this month:

Anyone who wears Primark clothing will have been shocked by the revelations in this week's Panorama. Working undercover, the BBC current affairs programme discovered that three of the chain's Indian suppliers use sub-contracted child labour to finish their goods.

The German wine scene in the UK is a masterclass in the difference between perception and reality. People who love good Riesling - and I would include myself - probably imagine that the wine-drinking public shares their affection for this most elegant of grapes, but they are wrong. I'm willing to believe that Riesling sales from other countries (Australia, France, the U S, New Zealand and Austria) are growing in popularity, but the stuff from Germany lost nearly a third of its volume in the year to the end of January

Robert Mondavi, who died

Talk to producers overseas about British wine consumers and they speak with (almost) one voice: UK punters may be averse to spending money on wine, but their levels of knowledge are unparalleled elsewhere. I'm not sure where, or when, this view originated, but I suspect it has more to do with our historic "invention" of certain styles (claret and port, for instance), and the fact that we import considerable quantities of wine, than it does with reality.

I nearly sprained my wrist lifting a bottle of Tuscan red off the table last night. It was so heavy that, even emptied of the 75cl of wine it contained, it could still pass muster as a reasonably challenging dumb bell. Nor was this an isolated incident. I may be getting older (or just feebler), but I reckon

By the time you read this, the judges at the 2008 International Wine Challenge will have made their final deliberations. The last bottle will have been recycled, the last wine tasted. For anyone who has taken part in the competition, it's been a two-week marathon that leaves participants tired but curiously elated.

The French," General Charles de Gaulle once argued, "will only be united under the threat of danger." The great French leader was talking about physical invasion, an all too recent memory in 1951, rather than an economic threat, but his words could be applied with equal precision to the country's wine industry.

Some political commentators have joked about the Mogadon-like qualities of Alistair Darling's first Budget speech, but for the wine industry it was anything but a snooze. Even those of us who have argued that wine is too cheap - and that the average price of a bottle

You hear the argument less frequently than you used to, but a significant number of people still believe that wine, like sport, has nothing to do with politics. It was a fiction that was peddled, invariably by apologists for the regimes concerned, in the days of apartheid South Africa, Todor Zhivkov's Bulgaria and Pinochet's Chile; but it's still alive and shrugging its shoulders today. For every principled individual like Steven Spielberg, who resigned as artistic adviser for the 2008 Olympics in protest at China's role in Darfur, there are dozens of governments who would rather bite their diplomatic tongues for "the sake of the Games", not to mention

OLN's Atkin relaunches website

04 November, 2011

OLN’s Tim Atkin MW has relaunched his website.