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What a funny old world it is

Published:  18 January, 2007

Having just delivered my 37th and final book on wine to my publisher - and earlier this year resigned from the Circle of Wine Writers on the grounds, firstly, of boredom and, secondly, that the raising of the annual membership fee to 50 was outrageous - I am luxuriating in that wicked feeling one experienced, as a schoolboy, when the end of the academic year came and with it that sense, not just of release, but that the world would never be the same again.

It is a feeling enhanced by the extraordinary changes in the wine world over the past twenty years, which the disgusting hike in duty in the last Budget served dramatically to underline.

Wine is the new Coca-Cola, or is ambitious to be seen as such, and it no longer requires any specialist knowledge to buy professionally.

Wine guides are as dated as cigarettes holders and walrus moustaches, although publishers will always take a punt on any book with a celebrity name on the cover.

Newspaper wine columns are no longer interesting to read or relevant to the concerns of any but the tiniest market segment.

Who would have said the day would come when Simon Thorpe, ex-Waitrose, and Emma Nichols, ex-Oddbins, would both end up working for Constellation because they want to stay in wine and there is no-one in retailing who can offer them the money, the security and the challenges?

Who would have bet that the three most interesting and dynamic wine companies would be significant suppliers to the restaurant trade? (I refer to Cave de la Pyrene, Liberty and Bibendum.)

Who would have thought that Jerry Lockspeiser and Remo Nardone would walk away from flogging their wine companies with many millions in their pockets?

And who - and it is impossible to stay away from Constellation at such a moment as this - would have dreamed that Bruce Jack would also trouser a handsome chunk of dosh by offloading his Flagstone winery to the world's biggest wine company and end up supervising the production of Kumula?

In such a climate it is not extravagant of me to predict that Allan Cheesman and Jancis Robinson will shortly be appearing on Come Dancing doing the watusi.

Malcolm Gluck is the wine critic of The Oldie magazine