Keeping the glass half full

Good news, everyone: life is generally better for everyone today than it has been at any point in history. Break out the corkscrews. That might sound like the sort of aphorism on A-boards outside off-licences, but it also happens to be true. Globally, population growth has slowed, extreme poverty has halved in the past decade, and crime has fallen rapidly since the 1990s.

Yet, as Tim Harford pointed out in his recent FT column, facts don’t necessarily tally with prevailing beliefs. As he said, a US poll showed that most people think extreme poverty has doubled rather than halved. Many such widely held perceptions are provably wrong, yet they persist. 

For some time now, there has been a creeping sense of pessimism within the UK wine trade. Decelerating consumption, unfavourable exchange rates and a six-letter word beginning with B have made an industry that should be devoted to pleasure look somewhat sour-faced.

Those facts may be true, but an important part of overcoming such adversities is to change our general perception from pessimism to optimism. The world of wine is devoted to keeping everyone’s glasses half full. We should make sure that includes our own.

All too often, we have been focusing on the negative. When Conviviality went into administration, most of the reaction was despairing, perhaps understandably. Yet the eventual outcome has secured the future of a massive part of the UK wine trade, including the preservation of the associated jobs. Doubtless there are lessons to be learned, but it’s equally important to think positively about what
happens next.

Another prime example is the UK’s exit from the EU. Inevitably, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds, and our industry is mostly agreed that such a move is strongly undesirable. It is, however, a reality. Ensuring a healthy future for our wine industry demands optimism in spite of highly challenging circumstances, rather than the bitterness and negativity that has been so virulent.

Let’s remember that the UK wine trade still has a multitude of attractive features. According to the OIV’s latest figures, we are still the sixth-biggest wine consumer in the world and the second biggest importer by volume. Wine is widely available across retail and HORECA (hotel, restaurant, cafe), and we enjoy a huge variety of choices from around the world.

London remains intrinsic to the fine wine trade, and attracts an array of events for both the trade and consumers that is second to none. We also play a global role in wine criticism, commentary and education. Furthermore, we have an increasingly respected English wine industry that is growing in both size and stature.

Whatever happens with the short-term challenges we are facing, the core strengths of our industry will continue to flourish in the longer term, just as they’ve survived the many challenges of the past. But keeping our glasses half full is a vital part of making it happen. So, break out the corkscrews.

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