What’s up for wine lovers in 2010? Here are a few prognostications …
An increasing emphasis on value over stature as the
recession maintains its downward pressure on wine prices. Consumers will
continue to “drink down” and look for wines that cost less than they
used to spend, but still taste expensive. This will reverberate across
the price spectrum – those who could comfortably spend $120 in a
restaurant two years ago will continue to look for quality in the $60-
$80 range, while those who may be cutting their restaurant budgets
altogether will look for the $30 – $40 wines that taste like the $80
they used to praise a sommelier for recommending.
The sweet spot in value in the retail market will
continue to be in the $15-$20 range, especially for imported wines.
Although the average price paid for 750 ml of wine in the US continues
to hover in the $5-7 range, the “bang for the buck” is still in the
More wineries will downblend their reserve wines
into their basic blends – so we will see fewer $50 cuvées and more in
the $30 range from places like California, Oregon and Washington. While
these will appear expensive, they will often provide great value.
Bargains in imported wines? Portugal and Spain –
more emphasis on the Iberian peninsula for sheer value. Why? Quality
price ratio, of course, but also because these wine regions manage to
bridge Old World sensibilities with New World preferences for riper,
sweeter wines. Argentina will continue to shine, too.
More emphasis on “natural” wines – whatever that
means. It means organic, and biodynamic, and – depending on who you read
or talk to – even using ambient yeast instead of cultivated yeast. All
well and good, and I applaud winemakers who want to preserve the
environment and protect their vineyard workers from pesticides,
fungicides, and the like. However, I worry that “natural wine” is
becoming a buzzword that is more a reflection of marketing than
viticulture. Wine has enough polemics – the pendulum may be swinging too
far to the left.
The anti-alcohol movement will continue to grow –
not an anti-wine (or beer or booze) movement, but a swing against the
high-alcohol, high-extraction wines that have dominated the high end of
the market the past several years. Consumers will favor moderate-alcohol
wines well balanced with acidty, even from areas and wine types we now
associate with syrup.
Regional wines will continue to gain in prominence.
The Millenial Generation will continue to explore and expand its wine
palate, and this rising consumer group appears to be unfettered by its
elders’ preference for cabernet, chardonnay and merlot. As local wines
improve in quality, more consumers will ask for them in restaurants,
For better or worse, wine writing will trend towards new media.
The recent demise of the popular Wall Street Journal wine column by
Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher emphasizes the shift toward blogs,
Facebook and Tweeter as mainstream media – newspapers – cut costs. This
will mean a decline in substantive, thoughtful wine articles, but an
increasing visibility for individual wine reviews in “tweets” or blog
posts. Some familiar names from newspaper columns (Gaiter and Brecher,
perhaps?) will gravitate toward blogs and “word of mouth” media like
Twitter. But will they have the same market pull? Psst, buddy, wanna try
a nice Zinfandel? …
Happy New Year, everyone!