Wine Trends To Watch in 2012
What 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.
CONTINUED REFORM OF WINE REGULATIONS
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.
NATURAL WINE MOVEMENT EXPANDS
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.
WINE BLOG BURNOUT
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.
CHINA KEEPS RISING
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.
EXPANSION OF ON-LINE WINE MARKETPLACES
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.
RECOVERY IN THE MARKETPLACE
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.