Predicting the future is a mugís game, and itís not
something most people are any good at. After all, anyone who had a
real talent for it would never need to work again. Still, itís quite
fun to look ahead and guess where the next 12 months might lead.
So, what does 2008 have in store for the wine world? Here are some of
my predictions, some of which are specific to the UK
market, others of which are global. Iím sure Iíve got most of
these wrong, but Iím going to stick my neck outÖ
(1) Itís going to be an increasingly competitive
market, which is bad news for producers of commodity wines and brand
owners. Most people see wine as a commodity, and they know how much
they want to spend on itówhich is usually as little as will buy them
a reasonably drinkable bottle of wine. As a recent Asda press tasting
demonstrated to me, itís still possible to buy quite drinkable wines
for £3 a bottle in the UK, which is startling when you consider that prices at the bottom end
for wine havenít really changed in the last 10 years. Getting people
to trade up much beyond £4 is beginning to look like a bit of a
fantasy, especially when you consider point (2) below.
(2) The financial pages are looking pretty gloomy, with
all this talk of credit crunch and global recession. Most people are
likely to be doing a bit of belt tightening over the next year, which
is bad news for wine producers and retailers, because when it comes
down to a choice between feeding your kids and buying wine en
primeur, the kids tend to win out (most of the time). But I
donít think this will hit prices too much at the very high end: the
finest wines will continue to become increasingly unaffordable as the
small quantities made are being chased by a growing band of
multimillionaires around the world, such that demand for a limited
resource should keep prices high. While the prospect of economic
slowdown or recession means decreased earning potential for most, I
donít think it will hit the growing ranks of the super wealthy to
the extent that theyíll stop buying fine wines.
(3) Neoprohibitionism is on the move. Towards the back
end of last year there were lots of stories in the news about the
dangers of middle class wine drinking. Rather than target binge
drinkers with health messages as they have in the past, the UK
government has now turned on the large numbers of professionals who
drink a bottle of wine a night with their dinner, claiming that this
sort of consumption is likely to have long-term health implications.
Just you wait: this sort of talk is sure to precede a massive hike in
duty, because making booze more expensive seems to be the only way to
stop people drinking so much. But I have two questions: (1) is the
government sure that drinking a bottle of wine with dinner is going to
cause real health problems in the long-term?; and (2) if the country
really is drinking itself to death, why is that? Shouldnít they be
getting tough on the causes of problem drinking, rather than just
targeting the behaviour? My worry is that all this anti-booze
propaganda will cause healthy, pleasure-giving, life-enhancing wine
drinking to become seen by the majority as socially unacceptable.
(4) Alternative packaging will become more accepted by
consumers. Bag-in-box has been around for a while, and has a loyal
following. But what we will see more of is the likes of Tetrapak (and
variations on the theme) and bladder packs (effectively bag-in-box
without the box), as well as increasing use of PET (plastic) bottles.
Part of the drive for this will be environmental/carbon footprint
(5) High alcohol wines are going to take a bit of a
beating this year. Guilty producers will finally begin to realize that
over-ripe, alcoholic, international-styled reds are boring and a bit
pointless, and theyíll look to make wines that reflect their sites
better by adapting their viticulture and picking a little earlier.
(6) Wine retailers will finally twig that trying to
sell fine wine to intelligent customers on the basis of ĎRP96í
scores is a bit silly.
(7) Closures: cork will continue to lose customers as
alternatives take new ground. Cork
will remain the main closure for fine wines, but for commercial wines
the likes of screwcaps, Diam, synthetic corks and Vino-Lok. With
screwcaps, fewer wines will be sealed with the tin/saran liners and
more producers will be using the saranex-only liner.
is a bit tecchie...)
(8) So, what about the various wine producing
countries? I reckon it will be a good year for
as people wake up to the fact that thereís more to Kiwi land than
Sauvignon Ė in particular, some very smart reds. At the bottom end,
should be able to wrestle some market share from Australia
(drought problems mean less wine to sell). Chile
will continue to do well with its less expensive wines; it will
continue to learn and struggle a bit with its high end wines, and its
whites will get increasing recognition.
will gain a bit of ground with its reds, although whites will be more
of a problem.
will begin to show that they can actually make decent commercial wines
in significant volumes, and will outperform the new world in the £5Ė10
will take further strides at the top end (Douro
in particular), but will remain a bit hit and miss at the commercial
end of the market.
Back to top