Wine Trends To Watch in 2012

Wine-Trends-2012What can be expected in the wine world in 2012? What trends will move the industry in 2012? These are questions I think about more often this time of year if only because I find myself more reflective as the year ends and another arrives. These are the trends I see being most prominent in the wine industry in 2012.

After elections in Washington State that got the government out of the business of selling spirits and a move in Pennsylvania that has started to undo that state's firm grip on all elements of the alcohol business, it appears there is a real move afoot, slow as it may be, for states to reform the way they regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol, including wine.

Going forward in 2012 we will hear more out of Washington State due to lawsuits challenging the recent vote to deregulate spirit sales there. The wrangling over Pennsylvania's archaic regulatory system will continue. And Michigan is taking a long hard look at how to alter its current, oppressive system of alcohol regulation. In addition, state regulation and control will be at the center of the ongoing debate on Capital Hill as H.R 1161 inevitably moves forward with hearings sometime n 2012. Finally, given the movement on regulatory reform, expect the "Proponents of No", America's beer and wine wholesaler associations, to squeal about the dangers of a more free and fair wine marketplace.

This issue of Natural Wine, what it is, and what the idea means for those presumably less natural or unnatural is not going away. In fact, it's building a head of steam. In 2011 we saw books entitled "Natural Wine", "Authentic Wine" and "Voodoo Vintners". The issue has move forward much faster in Europe where proponents of natural wine are holding debates and working to make a strong case for the benefits and utility of the "natural wine" philosophy.

Look for the debate to become stronger and more forceful among the American wine community in 2012 and onward. The Natural Wine movement is founded on an ideological base that is a reaction to globalism and transcontinental marketing. This is a forceful movement that is impacting all industries and spreading.The Natural Wine movement is coming to America.

The Wine Blog explosion was just that. Over the past few years it has spawned 100s of blogs. However, I see it this movement to use the blog publishing format by wine lovers waning. I see fewer new wine blogs launched. The retreat will be slow, but the retreat will be with us. However, we will see the most active and most competent bloggers take on greater authority not just with the wine trade, but with consumers. Put another way, influence will consolidate.

The other day the Wall Street Journal published a story wondering if the boom in wine sales in china was on the wane. This story could only be written if the boom in sales in China were remarkable. The fact that wealthy Chinese may not be buying 1st Growth Bordeaux at the same remarkable clip they were six months ago is no indication that China may not be the enormous marketplace that it surely is. 2012 will see wineries across the globe and most certainly in America shooting for a piece of the Chinese market because that market is going to grow and grow large.

Expect to see the number of on-line wine marketplaces expand in 2012. Not only that, expect to see larger on-line wine marketplaces enter the market. A number of factors make this a sure thing. First, the recent advisory by the California Alcohol Beverage Commission provided non-licensed third party marketers with a road-map for marketing wine legally and compliantly. This is huge. That same advisory gave suppliers like wineries and importers the knowledge of how to sell wine with the help of third party marketers and do so without risk to their license. This is huge.

We've also seen the success of flash sale sites. From where I sit I don't see these kinds of marketers going away as inventories are reduced. Consumers have become accustomed to and happy with the flash sale model. More will follow. Finally, there are very big players on the sidelines of the wine marketplace that will not sit over there forever.

The recover in the wine industry from the dark days of 2008 and 2009 is underway. While not a surprising item to put on this list, the continued recovery in the wine industry will be an important trend. We are currently seeing this recovery in the upper end of the market. In addition, we saw direct to consumer sale increase significantly in 2011. I expect to see the higher end of the market continue to do well and I expect the mid range to recover also. Much depends on the the course of the American economy. I"m feeling better about the health of the economy. And I'm feeling very good about the growing health of the American wine market.

8 Responses

  1. tom merle - December 15, 2011

    Now anyone can become a defacto wine merchant in 10 minutes. Yes, huge.

  2. Brian - December 15, 2011

    China will be interesting. Currently it seems as if the Chinese care more about the name on the label than the wine itself. I’m not sure that heavy promotion in China by a brand without name recognition would sell wine there.

  3. Tom - December 16, 2011

    I’m not sure about your last point, and I don’t have a lot of confidence in the way DTC and other sales data are collected. We don’t get the complete picture on wine sales, since Nielsen captures mostly supermarket and some other large retailer data. The perpetually optimistic reports didn’t accurately portray the reality of retail sales in 2010, which were down about 20% from 2009 according to my fellow retailers here in DC.

  4. Steve Heimoff - December 16, 2011

    Agree on the wine blog thing. It was predictable that it would have a boom-bust cycle.

  5. JohnLopresti - December 16, 2011

    One trend I have noticed on a miniscule scale is the growth and improvement of quality in farmers market venues in city central plazas in quite a few parts of the US. Several have live music supplementally. One northern CA city with which I am familiar permits some pretty good quality wineries to provide glasses of wine at those seasonal markets. It’s kind of a relaxed community gathering, a place to find fresh, locally grown produce, try local restaurants faire of the portable sort; hear good music, some of it world class, in the popular genres; meet local acquaintances; and sample full glasses of some rather excellent local wineries’ products. I wonder if this really is as insignificant as it appears, as the perspective I have developed remains simply a few, local, isolated farmers markets in CA’s northcoast. Maybe it’s worth watching only as a trend over the coming decade rather than just 2012.

  6. randy - December 20, 2011

    Wish I could agree with you on the last point. If this government continues to borrow more $ (to pay the mere interest already borrowed) and the Fed continues with their “Quantitative Easing” (simply printing more $), this economy will reflect the true state of the macro economy. That is we are not in a double-dip recession, rather a full blown depression with massive amount of fiat currency being supported by… nothing. Although my winery is up from the past two years, I’m holding on for the other shoe to drop. There are many many banks that are in awful condition and no one really knows it yet. MF Global is just the tip of that proverbial iceberg. I predict an eventual “reset” of 30-70% of asset value this economy claims to have. Truth be told, I don’t trust the money changers to tell me everything’s fine and I certainly don’t trust my government to reassure me of ANYTHING. Hyper inflation is something no one is really talking about either. I am not making any unnecessary equipment purchases and will keep my productions tight. In the meantime, I’m buying physical silver. I hope I am wrong, but I simply don’t see the long term turning out well. Simple math: Way to much moneny going out via unsustainable pensions and not enough money coming in…

  7. Chicago Pinot - January 5, 2012

    Does anyone think Amazon will revisit the idea of an online wine store in 2012?

  8. wine storage - November 9, 2012

    What about the trend of pictures and designs on wine labels? I feel as though this trend more than the others is pushing wine labels in the direction beer labels went years ago. I don’t know what I think about it.

    Craft beer labels a lot of times have graphic designers involved and can do a really good job but then other times, they are just trying to make you buy the beer because of the label. This obviously works for low end wines as well for those who do not normally buy wine.

    It will be interesting to see where this all leads ten years down the road.

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