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Future Wine Trends

What does the future look like for the global wine industry?


Page-22Being a wine enthusiast, I like to keep up with the latest trends. And at the moment, change is definitely in the air. Here are a few of the big issues brewing, which I believe, could have a significant impact on the future direction of the wine industry.

      1. Wine consumers are getting younger.

In hip European cities, like London and Paris, new wave wine bars are popping up like daffodils in spring. In these yuppie-led oases and other cool watering holes that are inhabited by the young, wine is becoming increasingly trendy. And it’s a fashion that looks set to continue, but very much on the terms of these fledgling wine drinkers themselves. These are consumers who prefer the adventurous to the traditional, want individuality in their drinks, and take their cues from broader lifestyle and cultural references, rather than listening to old-school wine trade jargon. And as such, they are changing the rules of engagement, and shaking up the whole wine trade. London is typical of many capital cities, in that a new breed of imaginative, unstuffy independent merchants, restaurants and bars are helping fuel a scene that is thriving on pop up wine events, communicated via blogs, and wider social media. It’s all a little

disconcerting to the conservative middle-aged wine enthusiast, who struggles to keep up! But inevitably, it will continue to enrich wine with a dash of much needed cool, as far as the young are concerned anyway.

      2. Supply and high demand.

While doom laden headlines predicting a “global wine shortage” are rather off the mark, many big players are predicting that global supply and demand will continue to gravitate towards a better equilibrium, at least in the short term. Wine consumption is increasing, and it has been outpacing production for more than six years, with global inventories now 7.5 million litres below the highs reached in 2007. Somewhat surprisingly, that’s a drop of approximately 40%. However, global supply and demand is moving towards balance, as almost all industries eventually do. While it is predicted that consumption will continue to dip in mature European markets, the slow but steady growth in a host of populous countries, including the US and emerging territories such as China and India, will further ease the global glut. And bulk wine prices, unfortunately for the consumer, will continue to rise. Further ahead, plantings coming on line in the southern hemisphere, and China’s own fast expanding production, will be likely to meet and exceed the projected growth in global demand.

     3. Going green.

Far from dying a death, the organic wine movement has eased up on some of its earlier religious like fervour, and instead become accepted as something of a canary in the wine cellar. Now, organic wines can be found on many, otherwise mainstream, wine lists. Such wines have highlighted the need for greater sustainability across all wine production, due to their obvious popularity with consumers. And thankfully, the sometimes ridiculous arguments about terminology are becoming less and less relevant. The question for wine producers will increasingly not be “are you organic and sustainable” but “why aren’t you?” Consumers are coming to expect producers to provide good environmental and social credentials as the norm. In what at first, appears to be a counterintuitive development, those best placed to meet this green criteria will emerge as being the bulk shippers and bottlers, along with the big multiple retailers. With the ability to lead the field, by cutting down on carbon emissions and waste, through the efficiencies of in-market bottling, with alternative packaging, plus their economies of scale of distribution, their contribution to cutting wine’s carbon footprint will become increasingly apparent.

     4. Chardonnay spearheads a cooler climate New World white wine revival.

In a reversal of fortune from the “Anything But Chardonnay” days, it will continue to win back converts as both trade and consumer catch up with the new wave of leaner, cooler climate examples. Australia is driving this trend, with its poised, complex Chardonnays from Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania. And it is joined by similarly restrained wines from diverse vineyards including the cooler spots in Chile, Argentina, California, South Africa and New Zealand. Subtle use of oak will continue to play its part in the best wines. This Chardonnay revival will in turn assist these and other producing regions to highlight their more aromatic and elegant styles, again often from cooler coastal and higher altitude vineyards. Conversely, the more mainstream examples of Pinot Grigio, and to a lesser extent Sauvignon Blanc, will begin to fall from grace as drinkers realise that there is a middle path to be negotiated, between wines of little character and two-dimensional explosions of aroma and flavour.

      5. The Chinese will buy all the best wine.

Actually, this is one thing which won’t happen. The market for fine wine in China will continue to cool in the face of a series of setbacks, including government austerity, and the general economic slowdown, which has seen cuts to gifting already. There have been problems with counterfeiting, other types of fraud, and high Bordeaux pricing for less than excellent vintages. However, leading importers in to China remain optimistic about the long-term future of China’s market for imported wine, pointing to an evolution that will sustain growth into the future. Home-grown wine is set for a boom and, as with all things Chinese in the new millennium, the scale is truly enormous. The projected huge future demand, from increasingly affluent young Chinese wine drinkers, will be balanced by industrial scale production in China’s vast wine growing regions near the Gobi desert. And hopefully, they will eventually add something new and innovative to the wonderful world of wine.

      But whatever happens, as I see it, wine has a bright and assured future, as long as civilized people remain on this planet.


Peter James


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