My wine predictions for 2014

Predicting the future is a mug’s game, but it’s fun, and I’m a bit of a mug. So here goes – my wine predictions for 2014.

The commoditization of wine will continue apace
Supermarkets do their job well. For most people, wine is just wine, and they want a glass of something red, white, pink, or fizzy at a good price. The improvement in quality of cheap wine, coupled with the near monopoly on route to market that supermarkets enjoy (bringing with it irresistible negotiating power) means that wine is becoming a commodity. In the absence of strong brands, and with infinite substitution in this fragmented category, there’s a huge downward pressure on price. It’s great for consumers looking for drinkable inexpensive wine, but not good for producers playing at this end of the market, who are struggling for profitability.

Wine will continue to lose market share; craft beer is on the rise
2014 could be a big year for craft beer. At the more commercial end of the market, wine is becoming expensive and quite boring; you have to spend quite a bit now to get something really interesting. Beer used to be a boring category, with most beers stuck in a limited flavour space: the rise of craft beer has seen beer become more interesting, without it becoming more expensive. You can now get some great flavour experiences from beer for relatively little money. The same isn’t true of wine, and those who make mid-priced boring wine are the ones who will suffer loss of market share.

It’s going to be a good year for the Balkans and the ancient wine countries
In 2013 we have seen some interesting wines coming out of the Balkan/‘ancient wine’ countries. Georgia, Turkey, Serbia, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Romania are all now making some really good wines, and are starting to sell these successfully in export markets. They have good stories to tell, interesting grape varieties and good terroirs. As they begin to get their viticulture, winemaking and marketing up to speed, they’ll find buyers even in competitive markets such as the UK. Wines stocked by the Wine Society, Waitrose and especially Marks & Spencer are testimony to this.

It’s going to be a bad year for many wine writers
The barrier for entry into wine writing has been lowered massively over recent years, with the dawn of the internet, blogging and social media. It’s not a bad thing: personally, I have been a beneficiary, having come to make a living out of wine communication as an extension of a hobby website. But it means there are increasingly more people writing about wine, most with relatively little reach. For existing wine communicators who have failed to adapt to the digital age, it has been very bad news indeed. And as PR companies, generic bodies and wineries struggle to assign authority to the massed communicators (how do they decide who is worth investing in, in terms of samples, press trips and invitations?), a lot of people are going to lose out. Let’s just hope that the talented voices, new and old, rise to the top, and not just the aggressive self-promoters.

Many will wish they’d paid more attention to their established markets
A lot of generic bodies and wine producers have been seduced by the lure of making easier money in China. While there is little doubt that China is going to be an incredibly important place to sell wine, in 2014 many will wish they’d not abandoned their established markets to the degree they have in recent years in order to chase China, which is proving to be a tricky and uncertain market at the moment.

2014 will be the year of the niche
Wine is a niche interest. And in 2014 we’ll have realised that, and we’ll be fine with that. Look: lots of people drink wine, and lots of people enjoy wine, but for the majority it is just a drink, and they don’t have a special interest in it. Those of us who write about wine need to recognize that reading about wine is just too abstract to be of interest for most people, no matter how accessible our writing is and no matter how engaging we are. But there are enough people who have a special interest in wine for it to be a niche worth bothering with. We, as communicators, just have to remember who we are communicating with. The good news: the internet has made connecting with those who are interested in what we have to say much easier, and the likes of Kickstarter and the ease of electronic publications has made it possible for authors to produce books which are too niche for mainstream publishers to be bothered with.

The rise of neo-prohibition will threaten the wine industry in many countries
Wine contains alcohol, and alcohol is the enemy in the eyes of influential public health advisors. Many loud voices in the medical profession are lobbying against alcohol, which is seen as an evil in much the same way that tobacco has been targeted over recent decades in western countries. In this debate, there is little acknowledgement of the social and medical good achieved by modest wine consumption. Alcohol is bad and it is increasingly being legislated against. This poses a direct threat to wine, and expect to see this grow as a problem in 2014 as governments lose patience with the ability of the alcohol industry to regulate itself. In the UK, binge drinking among teenagers is rife, and becoming an epidemic. The reaction against this is going to see wine caught in the crossfire, and the danger to wine production and sale should not be underestimated – not only have we legislation to fear, but also broader societal attitudes towards drinking.

We’ll finally see some real innovation in the wine category
Go into any supermarket and browse the wine aisle. The wall of wine is made up largely of products packaged the same way (in tall glass bottles), which look the same, and to the average person, taste the same. There is massive clustering in terms of look and flavour in the wine category, and there’s little sign of real innovation aside from a few brave attempts with label design. 2014 will be the year that finally sees some new brands with the courage to be genuinely innovative. One of the reasons that wine has become commoditized at the bottom end is because of the lack of strong brands; and with commoditization comes an inevitable downward pressure on prices.

For interest, here are my predictions from this time last year.

10 comments to My wine predictions for 2014

  • David

    “In the UK, binge drinking among teenagers is rife, and becoming an epidemic”

    The United Kingdom passed peak booze in 2003, and the fall in alcohol consumption since then has been particularly strong amongst teenagers – the number of schoolchildren drinking has halved since then.

    http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB10932

  • Jamie,

    This is an interesting list of trends for 2014 and I think you touched on the big themes.

    One that I would add to your list is that selling better quality wines DIRECT TO CONSUMERS, will only continue to grow globally. Not in all countries but in many place, antiquated distribution systems will slowly lose authority as the consumer will want even more direct engagement from producers. This is a positive trend with some cracks in the system showing up in a few places in the States.

    Another trend – - – I also think that wine communications will continue toward even SHORTER BURSTS OF INFORMATION. Platforms like Instagram and SnapChat, Vine are showing strength in how little bits of information can be shared to interested audiences. I think I see more of your Instagrams than posts because they are fun, snack-sized bits of information and relevant to my own broader interest in marketing, wine, photography and other topics. The use of Twitter by wineries is also growing and the fascinating work of people like Paul Mabray and Vintank is intriguing. The amount of online conversations and images about wine is growing at extraordinary rates. For wineries to be listening and engaging directly with consumers is an exciting trend to see.

    My only other prediction is that in 2014 I will see lots of wonderful photographs of you tasting interesting wines from around the world. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Happy New Year and cheers for good health for you and your family in 2014.

  • Can’t agree more with most of your comments.

  • Peter Wood

    One small point, you say wine is getting better and cheaper in Supermarkets yet also say that at the commercial end (supermarkets) it is boring and expensive…

  • Michael Gabagas

    Let’s see if these wine prophecies will hold water.

  • Solomon Mengeu

    I think these are good predictions and though none of us has a crystal ball to peer into the future they are based on trends I believe will gather momentum in 2014, (most likely).

    The 2 points that I most strongly agree with are: that too many wine exporting bodies have overly focused on the mainland Chinese market; which now is under going a correction and its a murky place to do business in a lot of cases. Having a diversified export marketing strategy makes much more sense as the U.S., Mexico & South America are seeing pretty steady growth both in fine wine auction & general consumption.

    The second point is the ancient/Balkan countries re-emerging as serious wine producers this coming year; the 2 countries that seem to have the most immediate potential are Greece & Hungary.

    With Greece having a exotic faraway land appeal to it, exciting cultivars & attractive price points to add to all the rest. Hungary shares some of the same advantages that Greece has, but Hungary has the singular distinction of the being the first European country to have classified vineyards & a appellation system pre-dating Bordeaux 1855 by nearly 200 years.

    They also have incredible terrior, cultivars and a rich and strong wine culture which is starting to re-emerge after decades of Communism & the Iron Curtain. Also their top wines can offer outstanding complexity, elegance, intensity & balance at a much lower price point than other European countries.

    Cheers & a Happy New Year!

    Solomon Mengeu

  • Good recap of possible trends in the coming year. I’m not sure I agree with you re prohibition rearing it’s ugly head again, but that’s a small point. Hard for supermarkets to be coming on strong while also giving up that market share. I would think one would make the other prediction moot. You cant have a rise in supermarket and other sales while prohibiting what is to be sold.

    I agree, and have, about the wine bloggers. I myself have faded in and out for various reasons. One thing that bothered me for much of 2012 and all of 2013 is that anyone with a glass is a wine writer. I saw a proliferation of people – the [edited] was the start – who really just wanted to get free wine. (By the way, he is a nice guy, just his methods were, as you said, all about self promotion).

    Cheers to you in 2014.
    Matt
    @mmwine on twitter
    http://agoodtimewithwine.com

  • Great insight Jamie and congrats on being one of the outstanding wine bloggers in the world (pretty cool!)

    One other category I’d like to ad – Marketing Wine to Women.

    I say this a bit reluctantly since when I started my company, Women & Wine in 2004 63% of all wines purchased were by women – and most of those wines were purchased in the supermarket.

    These purchases are mostly motivated by price and convenience and drives sales in the sweet wine category and those numbers haven’t changed too much in the last 10 years.

    What I’m NOT looking forward to are more wines targeted towards the woman consumer via these outlets – whether they be LOW CALORIE or with silly names.

    My hope is that in 2014 women will be more curious about the wine they drink, will order wine by the bottle in restaurants – or try new varietals of wine by the glass – and that they will try new labels vs settling for the same familiar sauvignon blanc that they purchased during their last five trips to the store.

    Raising a glass to you Jamie! Best wishes for 2014!

    Julie

  • I agree that wine from ancient countries will be on the rise. As I import wine from Romania and sell it to Austria and Germany, I have seen people become more interested in wine from South-Eastern Europa

  • Maybe its wishful thinking but I think unusual/indigenous varieties from France/ItalySpain/Portugal will be on trend in 2014, as will independent/organic/biodynamic producers. And Bordeaux that is to say the small producers or petit chateaux that will be recognised for their quality and value rather than reputation. And rosé will continue to rise.

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