Wine Predictions for 2018

Sending out predictions for a year, three weeks into the year may seem a bit ridiculous but I needed to wait for statistics to come out in order to rate last year’s predictions. So, this is where we’re at and in general, for the year to come I have a rather narrow focus on the publishing side of things with a few other bits thrown in. But, like last year, we’ll come back to this in a year or so to see how well I did. Naturally, I welcome any all all tomatoes thrown at that point because tomatoes make pasta sauce and pasta is delicious.

Premiumization of UK wine sales

Most every indication says that in the UK, there will be a large degree of growth in the “upper” sector of wines which is to say, anything above 15£. Why will there be growth in this price range? It’s for the simple fact that the cheap price range is getting worse and people are going to buy less of it. Given British taxes and the devalued Pound, you get massively better quality in wine for each extra quid you splash out. And as I’ve stated before, I am simply in awe of what the British wine buyers pull off but this change has been and will continue to happen which, for true wine lovers is a great thing as it means more sourcing of great wines. For those who want “something red” down at the pub, well, maybe stick to the pints.

Decanter will not be the same

Decanter has an incredibly enviable position in that it’s a very British publication as well as an international brand. Wouldn’t we all be so lucky to have this problem? But they’ve now made the magazine “digital first” and it’s pretty late to be coming at that when all other publications have long embraced digital. There are going to be a lot of changes over the next year although we’ve already seen a big one in 2017 with them finally (and rightfully) setting up a paywall. By no means am I saying that Decanter is going away as the awards and events are very good business for them yet they both rely upon the magazine for the overall image. If former Managing Director Sarah Kemp pulls off buying the publication, that will be a real feat. Who knows, now that Meredith Corp. owns the former Time Inc. holdings, anything is possible.

Time’s up on “natural” wine

Nirvana started the whole “grunge” movement in music in 1991 which continued for several years. Did it just evaporate one day? No, it was absorbed into other music and was mainstreamed. This is the point that we’re at with the bête noire of “natural” wine. It’s been part of a trend and a reaction to industrially-produced wines just as grunge was a reaction to slickly-produced big hair butt rock of the 1980s but we’re going to see the good tenets of it simply integrate into the good producers and the whole “natural” side of poorly-made wines left for the tiny group of crazies who love drinking poorly-made wine that’s excused for being as such given that it’s “natural”. For years people have been saying this trend will die but I’ve seen a number of key canaries in the sommelier mine commenting that it’s simply too hard to explain these wines to customers, they spoil too quickly due to lack of SO2, and honestly, the pricing isn’t good for what they are. My personal cellar is mostly full of bottles that basically are natural wine but aren’t billed as such because the winemakers don’t want to be part of the loony bins and I see this continuing.

Wine publishing side projects get assessed

There are several wine websites out there which don’t create any discernible income for their owners. This site you’re reading happens to be one of these but it’s not really intended to have a large commercial scope as I write here from time to time whereas these are other publications have actual, what I assume to be paid staff who create daily content. The first one that comes to mind is Punch which has been around for several years now but as far as I can tell, it only serves as a way for 10 Speed Press to find potential material to publish as books. This reminds me of The Bold Italic in San Francisco which media house, Gannett dumped millions into before deciding it was a lost cause. I don’t know if Punch will follow the same fate, but I can’t figure out what future it has. Another on the list is the SevenFifty Daily. A daily publication of content for the professional (and pay) site, SevenFifty, it started last year. For many months it was a real hodgepodge of articles that I didn’t really find interesting but as of late, they’ve found more of a focus on their core business of those working in the wine and spirits trade which is similar to what The Buyer is doing as well as the historic focus of the longer-establish Harpers. Will SevenFifty continue with this Daily publication? Who knows but I feel that many of these (and there are others) will start taking a harder look at the books and shutting down those that don’t really do much in the making dollars department.

Selling wine in the US will get harder

With a teetotal president who, despite owning a winery, is also unable to lead the country combined with massive corporate interests that control distribution, I think that wine selection will get more difficult over the next year and secondary markets that aren’t those almighty coastal cities will see it the worst. Even with the massive fine slapped on Southern Glazer’s, they and one or two others essentially control all wine trade in the US and smaller distributors have an extremely hard time maneuvering. On the bright side, if the Democrats take back some part of the government in 2018, I see there being a reckoning in 2019 for the small distributor who will bitchsmack their way back into relevance, especially if these idiotic interstate shipping laws can be put down once and for all.

Xarel·lo gets some spotlight

Toss this in the “really want it to be the case” pile but everyone is always looking for that “next grape” and this one from Catalunya is long overdue. Maybe the pronunciation or the punt volat (·) (interpunct) will stop it from spreading its glories but damn if there aren’t some fine wines being made of this grape both in still and sparkling format. Be excited, be very excited.