Recap of the Week: Chaotic Shipping, Tea-Bag Inspired Gin

Introducing the Meininger’s Recap: a quick look at some of the most interesting stories to appear recently.

Reading time: 4m 30s

Image: Created by AI, DALL-E (prompts by Anja Zimmer)
Image: Created by AI, DALL-E (prompts by Anja Zimmer)

Welcome to the first of our weekly roundups, where the editorial team chooses some of the most interesting stories of the week to discuss.

These are the stories that caught our eye this week:

 Shipping is becoming chaotic, once again.


The New York Times has a front-page report about new strains on the supply chain. Moving wine around the world is about to become expensive, once again, because of a number of disruptions that are happening simultaneously:

  • Houthi rebels in Yemen are firing at ships, making the Red Sea passage to the Suez Canal dangerous. This is a key stretch of water for ships carrying cargo to and from Asia, Europe and the East Coast of the US. Captains are now rerouting around Africa, which can add up to two weeks to the trip.
  • The water level in the Panama Canal has dropped, so fewer ships can use it.
  • There is industrial unrest at key docks and railways in the US, Germany and Canada, threatening to back up cargo at major ports.

All in all, it means delays and increased shipping costs—which is almost certain to exacerbate inflation.

The cost of moving goods hasn’t yet reached the heights seen during the pandemic, but they’re definitely rising: the article says: “It now costs over $6,700 to transport a 40-foot container from Shanghai to Los Angeles, and nearly $8,000 for Shanghai to New York. As recently as December, those costs were near $2,000.”

As to how this will affect the wine trade, it’s too early to tell. Australians must be crossing their fingers that this slowdown doesn’t have the same impact as the pandemic shipping crisis, when ships began to bypass Australia in favour of shorter, higher-value routes. Many Australian wineries could not fulfill export orders and lost their customers, contributing to the recent downturn.

 New French research centre

A new regional research centre, Vigne et Vin InterSud, has been established in Languedoc-Roussillon, according to Midi Libre. Its aim is to develop research and other initiatives for the region’s wine industry.

Jean-Benoît Cavalier, winegrower and President of the Languedoc PDO, will head it for three years, while Richard Planas, director of Gérard Bertrand Estates, will act as vice-president.

The regional bodies CIVL (Languedoc), CIVR (Roussillon) and Inter Oc (Pays d'Oc PGI wines) have pooled their resources to bring the project to fruition.

"We're going to address the issue of adapting vineyards to the challenges we face. But we also want to produce products in line with consumer trends. We're going to do a lot of work on planting material, grape varieties and rootstocks, with the creation of disease-tolerant varieties," Jean-Benoît Cavalier told the newspaper.

The new centre will also concentrate on researching how water can be managed, an increasingly urgent need.

Languedoc-Roussillon produces 21% of France’s total production.

 Organic production is down in Occitanie — and up

Growers in Occitanie, which accounts for a whopping third of France’s organic vines, are deconverting from organic. But the amount of organic viticulture going on is more or less stable, thanks to a new group of growers choosing to convert from conventional.

According to an article by Michèle Trévoux in La Tribune, deconversions are on the rise: 72 winegrowers have thrown in the towel in 2023, compared with 47 in 2022.

In total, Occitanie has 22.7% of its vineyards planted organically. The problem is that, as organic wine is more expensive than conventional wine, it’s being overlooked in favour of cheaper wine, at the same time as wine consumption is declining in France.

But 179 winegrowers have converted to organic, keeping the number of organic vineyards at 58,800 ha, which is only -0.3% less than in 2022 — so there will still be plenty of organic wine available if and when consumers start trading up again.


More polyphenols. Less wax. A mutation discovered in a clone of Tempranillo suggests that some old vines can adapt to higher temperatures, reports Barnaby Eales.

Reading time: 3m

 Margot Robbie’s new gin inspired by tea bags

It’s true—even the most casual conversation can spark a great idea.

A backpacker once told actress Margot Robbie that the way to improve an average gin and tonic was to add a vanilla tea bag to the mix. Robbie began to carry tea bags with her, handing them out to people as the occasion required.

But apparently the gin and tonic in Los Angeles was so terrible, even the tea bag trick couldn’t save it. The Barbie star has since launched her own gin, Papa Salt, together with her husband Tom Acklery and three friends.

As she told the Times of London, "It was just a funny conversation, but in the end we thought: how hard can it be to make gin?"

Papa Salt is made in Byron Bay in Australia, long renowned as a paradise for hippies and those seeking an alternative lifestyle. Maybe not surprisingly, the gin is advertised as being able to “capture the feeling of an idyllic Australian beach day”.

Although it’s being sold in London, Robbie might consider exporting to the US. While the American market generally prefers tequila to gin — sales of both value and premium gin fell by double digits over 2022/23, according to the Distilled Spirits Council — sales of super-premium gin were up by 16%. She might want to keep quiet about the tea bags, though.

 The wine mixer appealing to GenZ

Every generation has the product that opened the doorway to wine, and in Australia it’s a limoncello and Prosecco mixer.

“People are loving anything that is refreshing, and lemon flavour is one of the most refreshing drinks out there,” Steve Donohue, CEO of the Endeavour Group, explained to “What we’ve also seen is an explosion in demand for limoncello, for example. We just about doubled our sales in limoncello in (retailer) Dan Murphy’s in December.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, young Australians are travelling to Italy, falling in love with limoncello, and seeking it out when they return home, which is driving an increase in lemon-based RTDs.

Enter winemaker Rod Micallef of Zonzo Estate in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, who was encouraged by his friends to make a limoncello. He sourced 300,000 lemons—which all needed to be peeled. As he was peeling, he hit upon the idea of a spritz, mixing the limoncello with the estate’s Prosecco. 

“We googled it and couldn’t find anyone doing bottled or any pre-mixed limoncello. I believe our Zoncello limoncello spritz was the first in the world,” he told the newspaper.

Zoncello has since been flying off the shelves.

“It is an Australian wine product, which is sensational,” said Endeavour Group’s Buying and Merchandising Director Tim Carroll, speaking at a forum earlier this year. “It is very appealing to GenZ and is now part of what is driving growth in the wine category again. We are back in growth in the wine category thanks to that innovation.”

Any sparkling winemaker with a lemon orchard should consider it.


Robert Joseph considers the success of the world's favourite orange-pink alcoholic drink.

Reading time: 3m 30s



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