Earlier this month in Wine Trends for 2011 (Part 1), I set out to illustrate some of the less believable wine forecasts for 2011.
For better or worse, I got too invested in each silly forecast and spent so much time refuting them (it was fun and easy!) that I neglected to make my own forecast for 2011's wine trends, so that someone else can pick mine apart.
I really don't have any particular agenda to support, so I'm basing my forecasts on truth-y stuff.
The négociant business (the business of buying, packaging and selling wine) was long thought of as the ugly stepchild of the wine industry, but today it is booming. The world is awash in wine, much of it good wine that for whatever reason has proven too difficult to sell. Whether it's due to overplanting of Pinot Noir or a terrible exchange rate, many producers have wines that they don't want to sell under their own labels. In steps the négociant. Négociants move in and are able to buy these wines at a huge discount and are passing the savings along to the consumer. It may not be a situation where everybody wins but it serves to free up space and cash for wineries while allowing them to preserve their brand and at the same time save consumers money. It's no surprise that this is a growing business!
As we come out of the recession it is obvious that people have learned many lessons. How long they remember them is left to be determined, but for 2011 at least, I think we will see that value has superseded price as a factor in wine purchasing. Many people have rediscovered that wines which cost $25 can be as good as those that cost $50, while at the same time people who replaced dining out with better dining at home have splurged on better wines and discovered that $15 can really buy a noticeably better wine than $10. This concept of value is coming into play just as the world's wine scene is experiencing tumultuous changes. Some wines are being priced completely out of reach of most consumers while many other regions are finally bringing their best wines to market after years of missteps. With so many forces in effect and so many choices available to the savvy consumer, it's no surprise that value is going to trump price.
This will come as no surprise to many people but organic and biodynamic winemaking are going to become increasingly popular, both as a marketing tool and qualitative choice. There will be a huge backlash from the early adopters (consumers not producers), who will say that even though these wines are organic or biodynamic they are not "real" wines, but who cares? The point is that these producers will be working to make the land that they use healthier. There are great biodynamic wines and crappy ones, just like there are great conventionally farmed wines and there are crappy ones. Go ahead and use these techniques as marketing or make crappy wine. I don't care. I won't buy your wine, but I will applaud and support your efforts to make the world a better place. Oh, and good luck with that wine anyway.
One of the things that struck me about the prognostications I included in Part I was the fact that they were so agenda-driven. Force of will does not open markets. OK, so maybe it does but it's a slow and difficult process. Resources open markets, and exceeding expectations expands those markets. The bottom line is that wines that will be hot this year will have resources put behind them. In general, that means that those players, be they regions or producers, who pay to advertise and promote their wine while making sure those wines are available to consumers, will garner the greatest attention. Duh! There is also the underground media, bloggers and wine geeks mostly, who can create a grassroots ground swell of interest in a particular wine but generally lack the wherewithal to get the product in front of consumers. And then there's the fact that these folks tend to move onto the next great thing with gusto, particularly once general consumers become enthusiastic.
Well, that's the point. I'm not trying to make news, so I'm not making ground-breaking proclamations. The truth is the wine industry is pretty well established. There is the usual slow churn of change, but change happens on a macro scale with wine. You can't change a winemaking style on a dime; it'll take a year, at least. Consumer's taste don't undergo a wholesale shift overnight, they change incrementally and are most led by the media in one way or another, though the maturing of our wine culture is seeing a diminution of media's power -- that is the true story of 2011 and the future. The biggest trend on the horizon is confidence in one's own palate. People are slowly admitting that wine is mostly subjective, not objective. The best wines are the ones that you like the most, points be damned.
OK, I owe you some specifics, so here are a few wines I think will increase in popularity this year. South African wines -- Though I've been saying this since 2006 or so, it's time for South Africa to get its due. And with the way media works, it just might be their time. Riesling -- Another perennial favorite, though I'm not sure Riesling really needs to get any more popular, I hear from producers that this would not be a bad thing. The confidence people have in their palates, along with the broad range of styles Riesling offers, will mean we'll be seeing more Riesling on our tables. Portuguese wines -- Those looking for value, particularly if you prefer more traditionally made wines, would be hard-pressed to find better deals than Portugal has to offer. Tempranillo -- Tempranillo from Spain and others, as well as Old Vine Zinfandel, will get a lot of acclaim this year. People are always looking for something to augment their wine lifestyle and both of these wines are distinctive and great value while being less widely known.
Do you see any trends emerging in wine this year? Share in the comments...Related Articles:
- Top Wine Trends of 2011 (Part 1)
- 5 More Frequently Asked Wine Questions
- 10 Common Wine Questions
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