What do I know? I’m a wine journalist who travels the world, asks lots of questions, and has a slight obsession with interesting wine. But my love for wine means I’m seeing things from a particular perspective, and I can’t claim to understand all the segments of the wine business equally well. For example, I’m not in the business of selling wine. People who actually flog the stuff have insights I couldn’t hope to gain. But I’m bold and foolish enough to issue some predictions for the wine world in 2016. My predictions for previous years are here and here (I didn’t make any last year).
Segmentation of the market is so critical when we are discussing wine. This is because wine isn’t just wine. There are different rules and constraints for different segments, and our conversations will quickly become silly and frustrating if we talk across segments. So, with this caveat in mind, here are some predictions:
- It’s been a big year for English Sparkling Wine, and I think 2016 will see further growth in and excitement about this category. I’ve heard trade murmurings predicting disaster scenarios of over-supply and falling prices, but there’s a sweet spot of pricing at £20-30 where good Brit fizz can sell enough bottles and also preserve its high-end image. I think the future is bright.
- Natural wine is supposed to have died. Many of the famous wine journalists have predicted this. But it’s thriving. Outside the wine trade no one really cares that natural doesn’t have a definition, and far from it being a ‘scam’, outsiders see this movement as composed of genuine, dedicated people with a good story to tell. Expect ‘natural’ and ‘authentic’ wines to continue to thrive, even if they will never be mainstream.
- Allied to the increased interest in natural wine, there’s the rise of lighter-coloured reds. I wrote about this recently. In 2016 this currently geeky interest will become more mainstream. Even Jacobs Creek are working on a lighter-coloured red wine project it seems.
- Gamay is going to hit the mainstream in 2016. A variety for our times, and with red Burgundy so out of reach, there’s increasing focus on the best terroirs in Beaujolais. So is Chenin Blanc. Interest in Chenin has been a slow burn with consumers, but I think it is coming.
- If you love good Chablis (who doesn’t?), then start stocking your cellars. Top Chablis is currently affordable, but it won’t be forever.
- 2015 has been a bad year for supermarkets in the UK when it comes to wine. The major UK supermarkets have responded to the discounters by cutting their prices and reducing their ranges. It’s no huge loss, actually, because there was massive duplication and an illusion of choice before. It has been a long time since wine lovers were able to find any real joy on supermarket shelves, anyway. But that’s not where they should be shopping for wine, so I’m not knocking the supermarket buyers here. For the normal punter, supermarket wine ranges offer some clean, drinkable wines at good prices. I’d expect to see a continuation of this theme of offering smaller wine ranges in supermarkets with every day low pricing replacing the once-ubiquitous and often deceptive promotional mechanics. Wine writers might hate this, but I think we’ll see ranges that are better tuned to the needs of customers.
- Elsewhere in the UK, I expect that Majestic Wine – a very important retailer for this country – will begin shifting its range towards private label/own brand. I really hope not, because this isn’t in the interest of wine producers or consumers. And they’ll probably issue lots of press releases telling us how well they are doing which the trade press will publish unedited.
- It’s going to be a good year for high-end Bordeaux. The wine trade has been bitching about Bordeaux – and specifically the failed primeur campaigns of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages. But 2015 is looking a promising vintage, and a hungry wine trade is less fussy than it might otherwise have been. So I reckon the wine trade and Bordeaux are going to make friends this primeur campaign. The Châteaux’ pricing will be more realistic, and the trade will forgive, after having flirted with other options. After all, what is the fine wine scene without Bordeaux? I hope I’m right, because the alternative scenario could be a disaster.
- 2016 will be a good year for Chilean fine wine. Chile has always done good commercial wines, and now it’s starting to make some more interesting high-end wines too. There are a lot of smart, curious winemakers in Chile, and they have some good raw material to work with, including Pais grown in interesting terroirs.
- 2016 will be the year when the rest of the world realizes that there’s more to Canadian wine than just ice wine. Riesling, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even Syrah – there are great examples of all these varieties emerging from Canada’s diverse wine regions.
- Sparkling wine – of all kinds – is on fire at the moment. It’s a category that will continue to grow. People love bubbles.
- Wine by the glass – including alternative delivery systems – is going to continue to grow in 2016. It just makes so much sense, and the technology for keeping wine fresh when it is served this way has improved a lot.
- And, finally, don’t expect the rosé revolution to slow down in 2016. Rosé in magnum: it’s a thing.
OK, there are some predictions. I could go on with another 40 quite easily, but this will do for now. Let me know what you think – and your own predictions for this next year in wine.