With the group stages over it seems an appropriate time to compare the fortunes of the teams against their respective wine industries.*
Football - A solid if unspectacular group stage from the fancied host nation, late goals from West Ham's impressive Dimitri Payet saving some blushes. Finished 1st.
Wine – Some very exciting wines in that mid to high price category and this is where the French team is also blessed with talent – Griezmann, Payet, Pogba all come to mind. The top end of French wine is also well documented and this is where the similarities end: save Giroud who is not quite world class, they have no options up top of note. My opinion is also that the bottom end of French wine is not that great, but the French defence (marshalled by the outstanding Hugo Lloris) has been solid.
Whose wine industry have they played like? Portugal – brilliant (if perhaps not the best in the world) at the lower price points but perhaps lacking in the premium wine market at the minute (It won't be long before this changes though)
Football – Qualified with relative ease, no real alarms but not exactly spectacular. Having been easily beaten by England in the qualifiers you wouldn’t say that Group A was the most difficult. Finished 2nd.
Wine – Perhaps an unknown to the UK wine drinking public, it is hard to find Swiss wine in the UK mostly due to the very strong Swiss currency, the high labour and land costs in Switzerland and the strong local market.
Whose wine industry have they played like? Argentina – solid if yet to reach dizzying heights.
Football – A surprise win over Romania was an excellent result, but Albania were not expected to leave much of a mark. Finished 3rd (did not qualify).
Wine – What industry you might ask? Well vineyard area stands at approx 10,000 hectares. Not large and a lot of that is for raisins, but they do make some wine, the most popular export market being Germany.
Whose wine industry have they played like? A small country giving the odd unexpected performance, so Slovenia
Football – Romania should be very disappointed. They would have hoped to finish third or even push the Swiss for second spot. Sadly they were embarrassed by Albania and have returned home. Finished 4th.
Wine – The sixth largest in Europe – yes! – with some wonderful native grapes and exciting potential. Alas most of what you see in the UK is at the very cheap end.
Whose wine industry have they played like? A country as insignificant to wine as Romania have been to these championships, so Northern Ireland.
Football – Lets be honest, Wales have been superb, beating Slovakia and demolishing Russia. They gave England a scare but for that last minute goal. They look like a good team. Finished 1st.
Wine – Well the Welsh industry is very small, JUST a handful of wineries producing overall decent quality wine.
Whose wine industry have they played like? France - so far outstanding, but perhaps could be exposed in defence.
Football – Okay but toothless in front of goal. Had England taken their chances they would have nine points and a brilliant goal difference. They however have not, and this could well prove their downfall going into the latter stages. Finished 2nd.
Wine – English wine, in particular sparkling wine, has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade. Due to the high production costs and big vintage variation, there is very little around in the lower end of the market but the mid to high priced wines are offering a lot of hope.
Whose wine industry have they played like? Slightly dodgy defence, stronger up front if not quite there yet – perhaps England?
Football – Slovakia will be happy to be through to the latter stages, but have not shone in this group having lost to Wales and only survived against England by playing a 5-5-0 formation. A good win against Russia has seen them qualify as one of the better 3rd placed teams.
Wine – Neighbouring Austria and Hungary, there is a strong culture of wine in Slovakia although little is known in many export markets. The industry is centred on the southern and western parts of the country and shares many grape varieties with both Austria and Hungary (Grüner Veltliner & Welschriesling being the most planted). There is a handful of very good producers.
Whose wine industry have they played like? Moments of brilliance (Hamsik of Napoli is a very good player) but in general unknown and unspectacular – Switzerland.
Football – "Disappointing" would be an understatement for Russia. They really haven’t shown up. The hosts of the next World Cup have a major rebuilding job to do in the next two years.
Wine – Believe it or not wild grape vines have grown around the Caspian, Black and Azov seas for thousands of years with evidence of viticulture and cultivation for trade with the Ancient Greeks found along the shores of the Black Sea. However Russian wine is rarely seen outside of Russia and has made little mark on the global stage.
Whose wine industry have they played like? Saying they had played like Russia might be insulting to the Russian wine industry – lets go with Iceland, which has no wine industry to speak of.
*please note all opinions are my own and are both arbitrary and subject to change daily, depending on what wines have impressed me