By way of Mark Fisher’s Uncorked blog I learned of the Wine Enthusiast’s, “Top 10 Wine Stories of 2006.” I must admit that this pub has been off my radar screen since I got kicked off their comp list some years ago (ironically before I started writing and podcasting here). I have always liked their wine accessories and been a customer off and on and still receive their catalog every once in a while (in fact, I think they make more money off that business than advertising in the magazine).
I think it’s fun to look back on the year just passed and then try to identify the trends for the coming year, so let’s take a look at what the Enthusiast thinks was hot in 2006 with my take on each item:
1. Millennials embrace wine – No question about it that the 29 and under age group will be the biggest customer set for wine since the Baby Boomers. The problem is most vintner’s don’t know how to tap into this demographic from a marketing point of view yet. I’ll be spending most of 2007 working on this and might even write a book on the subject.
2. India and China – Both huge markets with growing middle class populations but I don’t know enough about their cultures to gauge if they will adopt wine in a big way. Perhaps these will be the next markets for Yellowtail once U.S. tastes evolve?
3. Global warming – My personal view is we don’t yet know how climate change is happening but it definately is getting warmer. The impact for vineyard owners will be profound as the climate in many of the best vineyard locations becomes too hot for the varieties currently planted. Look to the New World to respond with grafting over to better varieties to deal with these changes and new regions will emerge like parts of the UK and Midwestern U.S; Long Island will become as important as Napa. I don’t think I’ll see Syrah from Burgundy in my lifetime but my grandchildren might if things keep going in this direction.
4. Wine and health – Much has been written about the healthful qualities of our favorite beverage and I expect this to continue this year. Perhaps these benefits of moderate consumption will silence the still powerful forces against alcohol here in the U.S.
5. The Australian wine glut continues – I expect more cute labels and off-dry red wines in the stores. And perhaps some better pricing for consumers.
6. New packaging, new seals, new deal – Not sure if I agree that alternative closures were much of a story outside of wine geek circles but these seem to have made progress in 2006. I hope to see more Stelvin closures on wine to be enjoyed within 3-5 years of bottling and a clear alternative to cork for wines to be aged (which could also be the Stelvin but the jury seems to be out).
7. Argentina emerges – I don’t think the wines of Argentina really made any headway with U.S. consumers in 2006 but there are a few other brands of Malbec on the shelves. Hopefully we’ll see some other varietals emerge from this country this year.
8. The rise of rosÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© – I think this is a result of two things; first, consumers are looking for more food friendly wines and winemakers are looking for ways to market juice drained off during fermentation to concentrate their uber reds. What that resulted in was a flood of really nice rose wines on the market that were also good values. And we need to drink chilled wines with all this global warming, etc.
9. Wine on steroids – I think this is the real story of 2006, which I tried to bring forward during my turn hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday last year. Many red wines have gotten too big to be enjoyed with food and I believe this will result in a return to more elegant and balanced wines in 2007 and beyond. In 5 years, we’ll see the pendulum had swung the other way this year.
10. Truth in labeling – A non-story in my book. They clearly wanted a “Top 10″ list and ran out of ideas at 9. It only makes sense that wines labeled “Napa” should come from that appellation no matter where the bottling line is located.
I’ll post my predictions for the top wine stories of 2007 shortly.