What the next wine decade will bring

Robert Joseph makes his bets on how the wine market will change in the next ten years.

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

A decade ago, the iPad hadn’t yet been launched, the iPhone was less than three years old, and Facebook had 350 million users – compared to 2.5 billion today—and had not yet celebrated its sixth birthday. Few London restaurants had pages devoted to orange or Kvevri wines, and the planting of Touriga Nacional and Marselan in Bordeaux would have been unthinkable.

Conversely, in 2030 today’s smartphones will be quaintly old fashioned, and we may be unfolding screens from our watches and wearing digital ‘glasses’. What follows are a few predictions for what we might see in wine:

Hybrids such as Sauvignier Gris, Muscaris, Merlot Khorus and Cabernet Jura will find their way into a growing number of blends, thanks to their disease resistance and climatic adaptability. Ancestral vines such as Moneu, Garró and Tardif Noir, for many of the same reasons, will become more prominent, as will vinifera crosses such as Marselan.

Genetic modification (GMO) will continue to be a no-no for vines, but it may be allowed for yeasts in Europe. CRISPR gene editing, of the kind that has been successfully applied to Chardonnay, will be reluctantly embraced by those who prefer the flavour of the outcome to hybrids.

Premium blends, such as The Prisoner and Apothic, will grow in popularity, especially given the unwillingness of most consumers to welcome unfamiliar and hard-to-pronounce grapes.

Multi-country branding has a patchy history, but it has worked for Chandon and now for Penfolds, i heart, and Gallo. There will be an increase in multi-country brands, as well as multi-vintage super-premium wines like Opus One’s Overture, Penfolds’ G3 and Le Pin’s Trilogie. 

Blend Your Own gin-bars are already popular in London and you can blend your own red in Napa wineries. This trend will grow and become as acceptable as having your own blend of tea or coffee.

Bordeaux will see the number of its chateaux halved- leaving nearly 3,000 survivors, which would still be a surfeit. 

Although zero SO2 wines are also here to stay, in the future ozone may be used as an alternative, especially for whites. 

Returnable bottles will take over from recyclable one-way bottles. Refundable deposits will be added to the price of standardised and re-usable ones. Environmental taxes will be levied on heavy bottles, which will continue to exist.

Smaller bottles are popular with 73% of Chinese wine consumers recently surveyed by HKTDC, and the Chinese are not alone. Smaller formats will be a trend, both in glass and cans. On the other hand, in bars and cafés, draught kegs will become as commonplace for wine as they are for beer and cider.

Augmented reality packaging will help satisfy the curiosity of consumers who want more information about where their wine comes from and how it is made. This will include mandatory ingredient listing.

Virtual reality will evolve to allow us to travel less while still enjoying experiences such as virtual visits to wineries and wine regions – and conversations with producers.

Facebook, Google, Samsung, Apple, as well as Amazon (working with existing merchants and producers) will increase their impact on wine sales. 

Voice commands will – for many people – become more popular than typing, a trend already being shown by the popularity of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. This may not be good news for hard-to-pronounce wines, but it will enable the platforms to respond to requests like “get me another bottle of Malbec like the one I had last week”.

Image recognition will allow devices to recognise the labels of wine bottles – and allow consumers to buy those wines with a touch or swipe.

Blockchain—the technology Estonia is using to underpin its tax system—will make it harder to fake fine and rare wines by recording transactions and shipments of individual bottles.  

Global consumption will fall.

Logistics will have a much smaller carbon footprint. Norway is leading the way with battery and hydrogen-powered ships, and electric delivery vehicles will become commonplace.

And finally, artificial intelligence and electronic noses that can identify and assess wine may still be work-in-progress, but they’ll almost certainly be bothering the wine chatterati on whatever social media has evolved to replace Facebook and Twitter.

Robert Joseph

Comments

Over the course of the past decade, production and sales of organically grown wines have more than doubled in Europe. Biodynamic vineyard certification in France has quadrupled. Still these wines represent no more than 10 percent of the market in Europe. In the US the eco certified wine category is less than 3 percent of production. Consumers are moving to embrace these wines in greater numbers. Bonterra, a major US brand, has a year of 20% growth during one year of the decade.

Smart producers are reading these tea leaves and what it means for the decade ahead. This sector is only going to grow.

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