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Harpers' leader - Sunshine and showers

Published:  18 January, 2007

Standing in a billowing marquee last Sunday at the English Wine and Regional Food Festival made me wonder about all this talk of global warming.

A blisteringly hot July was followed by a very British August - cold and wet. Sunshine and showers, as the weather(wo)men say when they frankly don't know. A meteorological cop-out.

Anyway, as we approach the tasting season' - diaries heaving with invitations to taste wine and meet winemakers - it is interesting to note how insignificant the wine sector appears to be in the eyes of analysts and industry captains. An article in the latest Sunday Business, speculates on the possibility of Foster's being bought by SAB Miller or InBev. Of a business heaving with potent brands such as Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Beringer, Rosemount and Lindemans, the author wonders who on earth would want it? Add to that Diageo's Paul Walsh saying he doesn't foresee a lot of opportunities in wine' (page 2) - this from the man who was handed Montana on a plate and turned it down because he did not think Diageo would get a good enough return.

It does make you wonder whether wine is a good business for a large company, particularly a publicly quoted one, to be participating in. Shareholders expect - no, demand - growth and profits. Managing expectations is a prerequisite, but try telling the climate. When it's good, you get a glut. When it's bad, you've got nothing decent to sell. Maybe it's best left to the experts.

Christian Davis