Coming out of the technology world, I find it somewhat surprising that there are few in the wine trade who offer predictions of the trends at the beginning of the year. In tech it seems everyone with a column, podcast, blog or email address offers their views; some, like John C. Dvorak, have made their careers at this, but I digress. So I’ve thought long and hard about the eight trends that follow and how foolish I might appear this time next year. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, etc.
Online Wine Communities Go Mainstream – The number and quality of wine blogs increased in 2006 to nearly 500 and pros like the Wine Spectator started blogging. Late in the year, Web 2.0 wine sites came online to both aggregate blogs but also to build communities to share tasting notes and cellar inventories. A few brave wineries also got into the act with blogs and podcasts but this area is still largely an opportunity for new entrants. I expect online wine communities to explode in 2007 with one or two leaders emerging in the Wine 2.0 space by year-end. Wineries not plugged into this new medium will be kicking themselves for not making their move in the first half of 2007.
The Old World Strikes Back – The over extracted, long hang-time New World reds with 15-16% alcohol will be overshadowed by more restrained and balanced Old World wines particularly from Spain and Italy where New World technology has met Old World terroir. While a few high-wire winemakers like Pax Mahle will continue to release fruit monsters to high scores, many more will fall by the wayside as consumers value food compatibility more than brawn. The wines of New York will also benefit from this trend.
Direct To Consumer Sales Soar – More wineries will sell wine directly to consumers via the internet and wine clubs than ever before this year as the effects of the Supreme Court decision and technology investments pay dividends. I expect Inertia Beverage to enable more wineries than anyone else but there will be more than one technology platform for wineries to adopt. There will also be some new entrants like WineQ who will carve out an online niche with enthusiasts.
There Will Be Another Stormhoek – A wine brand will harness the wine blogosphere and social media to become a breakout success like what Stormhoek has done in 2005 and 2006. They might also narrowly target Millennials in their efforts to become the choice of this new generation of wine consumers becoming the “Pepsi of wine.”
Pinots Come Back To Earth – Both Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir have been the hottest varietals for the past couple years but I expect them to level out in popularity this year. The new hot wines will be made from Riesling and Tempranillo with RosÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© still increasing in popularity from last year. But then again it could be Viognier and MourvÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¨dre 😉
South Africa Emerges – The wines of South Africa have been under the radar of many wine lovers, particularly in North America, but new approaches, such as what Stormhoek has pioneered, will catapult South African wines to center stage in 2007. I also expect Chile and Argentina to continue to grow their share of the market.
Flights Replace Wine By The Glass – One of my personal disappointments in dining out is the selection of wine by the glass. Since my wife doesn’t drink and the normal supply of half bottles is lacking in almost every restaurant, I commonly grab a couple glasses of whatever is available. The places I really like are those with an interesting and well chosen selection so I can try a couple new wines with my meal. The places I love are those who offer flights of 3 or 4 wines in smaller pours. I hope more restaurants follow this trend.
At Least One Wine Blogger ‘Goes Pro’ – One could already argue that some wine bloggers have made the move already with Alder Yarrow speaking at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers this year and Lenn introducing his own wine club, but I think a wine blogger will be hired by the established wine press in 2007. My money is on the Wine Spectator to be the innovator who will bring on this blogger as a “guest” but they will remain blogging there long-term.
OK, so I’ve side-steped the global warming issue since I think gradual climate changes should be measured in several hundred year increments and to bring forward some of the trends from 2006 is kind of a cop-out (although Millennials will increasingly be a factor in the overall market).
I’m sure there are some other crystal balls in the wine blogosphere; comments are open for more… what do you think?
East Village Wine Geek says
Wow. Eight great points. I need to pass these on to my friends. The future looks bright and pretty oppurtunistic. It is so nice to have a forum…or should I say community where enophiles like us can get together and support each other while providing the fruits of our labor and passion for wine and writting to the public. This is a wonderful medium. And man I can wait to see more restraint in the alcohol dept. I love the thought of tempranillo beicoming the big hit. It deserves it. A little attention of the pinot noir level for a year or so and we will be able to see wine merchants focus their selections a bit more and importers will concentrate on them and reps will talk abou them more. The are the great balance of both worlds. Wow. The future looks bright I gotta wear shades. Not too bright though. Can’t have too many heat spikes this year:)
East Village Wine Geek
Bill Wilson says
I hope you’re right, Tim, about direct sales to consumers soaring. I’m not as optimistic, however.
Having been involved in the legal battle at the start that led to the Supreme Court’s ruling several years later and watching since then, I can tell you that the big guys in the business–wineries like E&J Gallo and the wholesalers–are pushing hard to retain their control over the three-tier system.
The Supreme Court ruling only said states have to treat in-state and out-of-state wineries equally. A state is free to ban all direct shipments to consumers, or a state can do what my own state of Indiana has done–create a completely arcane system of laws that makes it “legal” to ship to Indiana consumers under limited circumstances, but also in a way that will discourage most sellers from doing so.
For example, I could not go to the Chateau Ste. Michelle web site and join their wine club and have wines shipped to me here in Indiana. If I went to the winery in person, and they checked my ID, then they could send me wine–not a trip I’m likely to make just to join a wine club.
But even then, the winery would have to apply for a permit from Indiana and pay the fee. Chateau Ste. Michelle might be willing to do so considering the size of its operations, but a small winery like Twisted Oak may not.
Assuming the wineries are willing to go through that hassle just to send me a few bottles now and then, Indiana’s law prohibits me from acquiring more than a set amount from all sources outside Indiana. (How they are supposed to enforce that rule, I have no idea–how does one winery know how much another winery has shipped to me?)
So, while the Supreme Court decision has opened the door a bit, states like Indiana have not rushed to open the door completely and indeed seem to be determined to keep the door just slightly ajar. For me, it’s a pain in the neck and requires me to keep renting a wine locker in Chicago and to occasionally make the four-hour round trip to collect my shipments.
I look forward to the day that I can have wine delivered to my office (where someone over 21 is present to sign for it even if I’m not here) as easily as a new Mac Book Pro. But until enough pressure from consumers can offset the power (and contributions) of the wholesalers’ lobbyists, I don’t see that day arriving soon.
Thanks for the dose of reality, Bill, but I still think the overall level will rise for direct shipping this year. I know that this will not be true for many states, such as Indiana, but I think the legal and political issues will be overcome in many other states and both wineries and consumers will benefit.
Or I could be totally wrong 😉 That’s what makes this so fun!
Thanks for the optimism, EVWG… and for drinkin’ those Old World wines.
Dr. Debs says
I like the brave new wine world that you’ve sketched out here! I think things are changing a lot in wine–remember the 90s when it was just year after year of same old same old?? I can’t help but think that the changes I’ve seen in the past 2 years are somehow linked to the explosion on the internet of wine content. I’ve gotta go link this to my site!
Ben Bicais says
I read your predictions with interest and think that Tempranillo could very well be the next big rage. The Spanish wine industry in general is very well poised right now. Also, I hope that you are right about more restaurants offering tasting flights. There are few things more annoying to me than a multi-course, prix fixe menu that does not offer a flight of sensibly paired wines with each course. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d much rather order that than a bottle of Pinot or some other crossover wine. Happy 2007!
I thought my flights “trend” was a bit of wishful thinking but, upon further reflection, I would suggest that restaurants who present flights will educate their customers to enjoy wine more. The more a customer enjoys wine, the more they order those expensive bottles on the wine list and stop ordering the house wine.
Let’s hope there are some restaurant owners out there that get this tip; I think it would be great for their business.
Hi Tim! This wasn’t one of your predictions but what do you think the chances are (on a scale of 0-10) for a new wine magazine to debut nationally in 2007. I would rate it a 7 myself. What do you think?
el jefe says
Wow – this may already be the best wine blog post of 2007, and the comments are as much a part of that as anything!
Tim – your original post is dead on. It’s really hard to add to.
One point – it’s not “Old World” it’s “Old World Elegance” or style or just plain tastiness. I don’t make Zin, but I do love Zin. But most of the Zins today are not the Zins that I fell in love with long ago. As a consumer I am tired of over-extracted wines and the “snap-back” to sensible alcohol levels will come from all over, not just the Old World.
I also obviously can’t argue with the Tempranillo observation, that ship sailed for me several years ago… I’ve noticed that people who long for the Zins of old seem to really like Tempranillo. I’ve started to say that “Tempranillo is the new Sangiovese” and you can quote me…:) And I wouldn’t count out Mourvedre either – it’s always been a bestseller for us in our *%#&@! blend.
And flights – yes yes yes!
Bill – shipping to the several states has improved from a winery perspective, to the extent that I have more states that I can ship to. The addition of NY and FL is especially huge. But keeping track of the permitting and taxes on a state basis is pretty rough.
Also, Douglas may be on to something – I actually agree there is a space for a new print wine magazine, but it would need to plug into just the right spot, and probably would need to have an extraordinary editor to make it happen.
Great discussion, folks. Keep it coming!
Douglas: I’m not sure if there is a space for a new wine pub unless there is a very strong online component. Perhaps some of the tests with the magalog format will produce something, but I understood the Wine Enthusiast was targeting Millennials with that format. That would be great if that demographic read print as much as us older folks. What I think would really be interesting is a pub that rolled up the best of the wine blogosphere, but I’m not very objective 🙂
Jeff: Nice point about style vs. geography. It doesn’t matter where the grapes come from if the style of the wine is balanced and elegant. I do think more of these types of wine will come from the Old World, however, and I think it’s a great opportunity for France to reverse their troubles (if they recognize it; but that’s another story). I also think you should make an old school Zin 😉
Bill Wilson says
Jeff: I’m glad to hear that things have improved on shipping from your perspective. My perspective, of course, tends to be rather self-centered. 🙂 Still, as states like NY and FL open their borders, I am hopeful that other states like IN will decide they need to follow along.
Speaking of Tempranillo, had an interesting one from Mano a Mano last night–an Argentinian Tempranillo, no less. I’m still forming my impressions, but it was pretty nice. I’ll have to see what it’s like this evening after it had a bit of exposure to air last night (we Vacu-Vin’ed the bottle) and the tannins soften just a bit.
And, Jeff, one more question: Which curse word does *%#&@! represent? 🙂
Carey Dissmore says
Hi Tim, your Tempranillo comments are on but without detracting from Tempranillo I’d say I think Malbec, particularly Argentinian, will also see a great year. Malbec may have already seen its moment in the spotlight of the ‘wine geek community’ but I think the masses are still just waking up to the joys of Malbec. So, based on that I predict a solid year for Malbec.
In general: Great work on your list! BTW I’m about halfway between your prediction and Bill’s on the online sales/shipping front. I think progress can be made, as with anything though, you need critical mass. More specifically, it will take a pretty big consumer movement to overcome the entrenched establishment.
Dr. Debs says
I think it’s great that there are so many “hot new wines” predictions. As I said before, quite the change from the 90s! Maybe the best sign of all is that we can’t agree on the next hot red. Surely that is a good sign for winemakers and drinkers in term of the new varietal consciousness that’s emerging as well as the eagerness of consumers to explore these other great grapes.
I agree that the diversity of varietal hotness is great. In 12 months we’ll look back and see who was right… I think we’ll all be right 🙂