A startlingly unoriginal post. I’m afraid. Begin the new year with some predictions. The problem is that I’m rubbish at predicting the future. And most of these lists tend to reflect the prejudices and wishes of the predictor. With these caveats in mind, here’s my stab at guessing what is going to happen in the world of wine in 2013.
Cheap wine will get more expensive. This is because of a shift in the world of wine. For several years supply has exceeded demand. This is now changing, and soon prices will rise because demand is outstripping supply. There’s already a shortage of decent bulk wine, and 2012 was a short year across most of Europe. Some have suggested that it’s a good thing for people to pay more for their wine. I would argue that this perspective ignores the fact that for many people, even cheap wine is still quite expensive. Raise the price of wine, less will sell. This in turn could lead to a contraction in the market. Fewer people drinking wine is bad for the long-term future of the wine industry.
Supermarkets and certain major wine merchants will begin to reap what they’ve sown. In a market of over-supply, they’ve had the negotiating strength, and they’ve used it mercilessly to hammer prices down to the point where it’s no longer a sustainable relationship with their suppliers. And they also add on all sorts of extra costs. I hear some real horror stories from suppliers. It’s what supermarkets do. As the wine market shifts and demand and supply are better balanced, some wine producers will decide they’ve had enough of this sort of behaviour and will sell their wine elsewhere.
Another big year for natural wines. The natural wine movement is so dynamic and interesting, I can only see it continuing to flourish. It’s niche, for sure, but people just seem to love these wines when they get a chance to taste them.
Say goodbye to Kiwi Sauvignon in the UK. I heard that the bulk price for generic Marlborough Sauvignon is now NZ$5 per litre. That works out at a shelf price of around £10 a bottle. Current shelf price in supermarkets is £5–6 for bulk-shipped Savvie from the land of the Hobbit. While many supermarkets will have signed contracts a way back, it won’t be long before the shelf price climbs steeply —to the point where there aren’t any customers. The Kiwis have been eyeing up more profitable markets for a while, and we can expect the UK to become a fairly low priority for them for their less expensive wines.
Let’s welcome some fresh faces in wine communication. The rise of wine talk social media has already changed the way wine journalists operate. Expect to see the continued decline of the traditional ‘wine journalist’ in 2013, and more impact from the new generation wine communicators. Social media, with metrics such as Klout, is measurable, and it’s much easier for PR companies and generic bodies to see who is influencing opinion, so this opens the door for much needed fresh voices–and faces— in the wine communication world.
The integrity of the remaining professional wine writers will become strained. Those who follow the money will increasingly be producing hollow content. Those who truly love wine and want to share their enthusiasm will find it necessary to turn down some paying gigs that would have necessitated bigging-up uninteresting wines.
The wine world will continue to shift slowly away from Europe. In 1990, world production of wine was 289 million hectolitres, of which Europe accounted for 225 million hectolitres. In 2009, the world produced 266 million hectolitres, and Europe made 160 million hectolitres. Vineyard area is shrinking steadily in Europe, but growing healthily in countries such as China, Chile and New Zealand.
There will be further polarization in the world of wine. The middle ground will continue to erode and the gap between commodity wine and wine as a luxury good will appear more pronounced. Interesting, affordable wine will still exist, but it will require some effort on the part of consumers to encounter it and then buy it. Finding good, authentic wine on mainstream retail and restaurant lists will become increasingly difficult.
That’s it. I can’t think of any more.