Top Wine Stories & Trends of 2006

My Top Wine Stories & Wine Trends of 2006
(In no particular order)

Un Oaked White Wines
Earlier this year WineOpinions discovered that the awareness of Un-Oaked Chardonnay had reached approximately 60%. That’s impressive given that only a few years ago it seemed that the most ubiquitous wine in America was the OVER-oaked Chardonnay. I love this trend toward acceptance and awareness of a different style of wine not only among the trade but among consumers too. It’s good for the wine industry and it’s good for consumers.

Alcohol Increases

There is no indication that I can detect that there is any effort to bring down the levels of alcohol in wines. In fact I expect to see those levels increase overall for California wines. Some people are talking about the issue and those ancillary issues associated with high alcohol wines. But most of these folks are in the industry and are complaining to one another. There seems to be no growing interest in rejecting 15.5% Merlot and Pinot Noir.

Internet Direct

The opportunity to buy wine direct on the Internet skyrocketed in 2006. Wineries have far more outlets for presenting their wines to consumers and consumers are inundated with possible choices for their Internet-directed wine budget. It’s not going to stop either. More and more ventures will arise, using different approaches to helping wine-savvy folks choose their wine. In this regard Web 2.0 ventures will certainly arise. To-date, no one has emerged from the pack. It takes some serious advertising and marketing efforts to achieve this. But don’t cede the category to just yet. All it takes is a spark and a wine site with a great niche approach can take off.

Self-Distribution Controversy

After the Supreme Court’s wine decision in 2006, a lot of folks began wondering just how far the "level playing field" extended? We knew after the decision that if in-state wineries could ship direct to their state’s residents that out-of-state wineries had to have the same privilege. But what about the question of self-distribution? If an in-state winery can self-distribute (sell) it’s wines directly to a retailer or restaurant, can an out-of-state winery sell to those same restaurants and retailers across state lines?

In a number of states laws were changed, amended and rescinded mainly in response to wholesalers very upset as the prospect of out-of-state wineries selling direct to retailers and restaurants. In some cases, State legislators put restrictions on the size of the winery that could "self distribute" and these new size restrictions are being challenged. In some cases (Virginia) the privilege of self-distribution was simply taken away, devastating the industry so the wholesalers could reap more profits.

Meanwhile, in Washington State, a federal judge confirmed that a state cannot discriminate between in-state and out-of-state wineries when it comes to self distribution. And not more than a week ago, Inertia Beverage Group announced a new service that allows CA wineries to essentially sell direct to NY restaurants and retailers while staying within the three tier system. All this make for continued legislation, great opportunity and the potential for more devastation of state’s wine industries where wholesalers control the legislature.

Rise of Other States

And yet, "other states"—those other than CA, OR and WA—continue to grab the spotlight with the continued release of wines of outstanding quality that are slowly gaining the attention of consumers and the media. Appellation America is doing an amazing job of covering this phenomena, while Robert Parker looked at NY wines. In addition, a number of "other state" wines took home gold medals, "best of class awards" and "best of show awards" at various important competitions.

The Internet makes access to these wines easier and easier, which means their distribution and discovery by wine lovers outside their home states will continue on an upward trend.

Wine Blogs Keep Coming

They just keep coming. This time last year I noted that the official lister of wine blogs, Wine Blog Watch, showed 120 wine blogs. I predicted that the number of blogs would double in 2006. I was wrong. It has tripled.

Currently Wine Blog Watch lists upwards of 370+ wine blogs. When this blog was first established in November 2004, 26 wine blogs were listed. I’m not here to make any qualitative claims about the 344 blogs that have emerged in the past two years. What I can observe is that there are a whole lot of folks who have something to say about wine and they’ve found a fairly simply way to do just this. I expect the trend to continue. However, I don’t expect the number of wine blogs to double in 2007. My prediction: 500 by this time next year.

Mice, Wine & Your Health

I’m not convinced that the recent story that out-of-shape mice fed high doses of resveratrol, a compound found in wine, enjoy longer, healthier lives and have more stamina will result in a run on wine the way the "60 Minutes" special on the French Paradox did over a decade ago. However, I’d sure like to own stock in companies that distribute resveratrol pills. That said, this research, widely reported, must have given many folks good reason to drink more  wine or start drinkings it. 

3 Responses

  1. Bradley - December 5, 2006

    Your comments and numbers regarding un-oaked Chard are mirrored by what we are doing at Township 7 here in BC. Our un-oaked production will match our regular oaked offering for 2006. About 1500 cases each.
    As for the rise of other states… you can add other nations as well. Appellation (North) America does a superb job of detailing what’s happening all over the continent.

  2. farley - December 9, 2006

    Thanks, Tom and Bradley for info regarding unoaked Chard. I sent our winemaker a link to that article because we are thinking about making one, but his assistant doesn’t believe it will sell. I desperately want one.

  3. Dale Cruse - December 9, 2006

    I *really* noticed the trend toward higher alcohol wines yesterday when I bought some Ed Meade’s Zin at 17.5%!

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