So here goes 2011, beginning with a bang in some places, a whimper elsewhere. Fireworks bursting above you, perhaps a kiss shared with someone. Hopefully a night of great food and wine, great friends, and some wonderful memories. New Year's Eve for me has always been bittersweet, I tend to get nostalgic as the year ends and there's always that subtle current of trepidation winding it's way through my consciousness. It's as if I want to hold onto the previous year for a bit longer, and to only dip my toe in the New Year, to see if I like it or not. Reality soon sets in, as someone refills my champagne flute and (in a good year) I get a wonderful kiss as the clock strikes midnight.
My last blog of 2010 listed things I intend to do this year, not necessarily resolutions because that implies a finality I am not ready to accept. If some of my intentions for this year don't happen, I won't feel like I've failed at something. Inspired by some other bloggers, I'm putting together a short list of predictions for this year, and next December 31st I will revisit this post to see what, if any came true.
1. Biggest "new" wine region: Tie! Austria and Washington. These regions aren't new to people in the wine industry or wine geeks/bloggers/enthusiasts. What I'm talking about here is more of an awareness seeping into the average wine consumers mind. This is the person for whom a $10 Merlot is just fine, they don't need to go out and buy a Cabernet Franc to go with their herb-rubbed beef ribs. I predict one or both of these regions, Austria with it's whites and Washington with it's blends, will gain a sort of acceptance within the general wine drinking population. How can I prove that? Keep an eye out for more Austrian and Washington wine appearing on the shelves of places like Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Safeway and maybe (though highly doubtful) Trader Joe's.
2. H.R. 5034 will be defeated and Tom Wark will be an incredibly happy man. Since most of my audience is already aware of the dangers H.R. 5034 poses to wine lovers all over the country, I don't need to go into a big discussion of why it's a load of bullshit written by lobbyist groups who want more money and control. For a great breakdown of the bill and the threat it poses, please click here. Since mid-September I've noticed some bloggers casually dismissing the Bill as "destined to fail" or "sure to fail", but I think the lobby groups are ready for a long, protracted fight. I wonder if Mothers Against Drunk Driving will do anything about it, because I've yet to see anything from them on TV or the internet.
3. Millennials will grow in force as a consumer group but not as much as in years to come. I think that there will be a movement towards further segmentation, along geopolitical lines, of the Millennial demographic. What this means for the wine business, where a lot of money is being spent on my generation, is that the impact of our dollars won't be as big as anticipated. One question that I've thought about a lot lately is how wine will avoid being just a passing fad. Millennials are more likely to adopt something, be it technology or bacon, for a short period of time compared to any other generation before us. I can easily envision the same thing happening with wine unless somehow, the "wine culture" is deeply ingrained in our (collectively) lifestyle.
4. Wine bloggers will break through and become a much more important source of information than they have been previously. This year, 2011, will see a sort of maturation in the wine blogosphere. People who think wine bloggers have some kind of huge, market-spanning influence are kidding themselves. Only a small percentage of wine drinkers actively read blogs on a regular basis. This year though we (bloggers) will be searched out, turned to for advice. I don't think it'll just be my generation either, the backlash against critics will drive older wine drinkers to the internet and blogs specifically. I look forward to this happening, for obvious reasons.
5. Grower Champagne! The darling of the bloggerati set and sommeliers, will keep expanding into the market. Lower prices, equal or better quality and new styles combine to get these delicious bubbles into more and more consumers hands this year. I can only hope I start getting some samples to share with all of you. Add to that, we'll see some more exciting examples of Cava make it to these shores. Last year I tried the Jaume Serra Cristalino and found a wonderful example of low price and high quality. Cava and grower Champagne will give us more sparkling wine choices than ever before.
6. A couple of trends will continue, two of the more noteworthy ones being the gradual return to low-alcohol styles of wine. Granted this is due in part as much to Mother Nature as consumer demand, it's a nice thing to see and I can only hope we see fewer 15% abv Cabernet and Pinot Noir. The other trend I like and thing will continue is the Natural Wine movement, or Wine Minimalism. It's not going to take the market by storm, and a lot of those wines aren't very good, but they are perhaps the purest expression of winemaking
I'm running out of steam with these and my friend is making some sandwiches so I'm gonna end at six predictions. On second thought, I have a couple of others. One, I believe we'll see a continue upwards pressure on the top 1% of wines, from Chateau Margaux to Screaming Eagle to Domaine Romanee Conti. This will be driven by the ever-expanding Chinese market, however the other side of the coin is that prices will start to come down on some previously expensive wines, bringing their availability to more people. Second, I think the bacon fad will slowly die out to be replaced by something else, my guess is going to be top quality poultry. Turkey, pheasant and goose come to mind. Also venison will come on huge.
So now that will wrap up my predictions blog for 2011. I look forward to writing again soon, and to be back with new wines next week. Stay tuned!