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Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 wine predictions

What does the coming year hold for the local wine industry? These are trends that will  continue to grow and evolve in the coming year(s).

Wine prices

Expect prices to creep up for both bargain and premium wines. It's supply-and-demand. Weather has decreased crop size in California for the past couple years. There is increasing demand for CA wine both domestically and overseas. The wine glut at the beginning of the recession has run its course as inventory is down. Over the last couple years bargain-hunters have found good, inexpensive American wines. They may have to go back to looking to the Southern Hemisphere for cheap wine.

Tracking wine

News stories seem to come out every few months about fraud in the high-end wine market. With top wines commanding over $1,000 a bottle it's a market ripe for unscrupulous behavior. That is, when you buy an older Bordeaux at auction for a few thousand dollars are you really getting the wine that's listed on the label and has it been stored properly?

Look for small computer chips to be embedded in the bottles of expensive wines.  These will give you a history of the temperature of the bottle, if it's been opened and the wine removed, and maybe even a location history (GPS-tracking) of the bottle.

Sweet table wines

Sugar left in premium wines (except dessert wine) has been officially taboo since the invention of the wine critic. This doesn't mean there hasn't been a low level of sweetness in some wines to make them more appealing to many consumers. It's just that no one admits to this--until recently.

You can now find $10-ish Moscato-based sweet wines and reds actually labeled as sweet red wines. These wines appeal to the younger new-to-wine crowd and to the older, infrequent wine drinker. The majority of California's wine grape crop is actually planted in the hot Central Valley--an area that can produce this type of wine easily and cheaply.

A question I'm sure the marketing folks are asking, "Will this wine sell in China"?

The economy

The sale, closure and consolidation of wineries will continue as many can't pay their bills.

Wine by the glass

If you buy a glass of wine at a wine bar or restaurant you may find it coming out of a keg rather than a bottle. Actually, you may not know this as the host/hostess probably would just as soon not mention this as it lends of air of cheapness to the wine for some.  But you get beer in a keg. Why not wine?
For the Pinot Gris lovers --
check out Chenin Blanc!
Image from

Wine trends by varietal

Folks like to know what the newest trendy wine is.  I hate to break this to the trendy-types but Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot are still at the top of the pile. In the recent past grapes like Viognier and Syrah were thought to be the next big thing in California. This hasn't quite worked out. I expect these varieties will do best as blending grapes. Some are jumping on the Pinot Gris bandwagon. Pinot Noir continues to grow in quantity available and in price. We'll see when this comes crashing down as I'm not sure how many more $50 Pinots the market will absorb.

The problem with having a "new wine of the year" is you can't just shut down a production line and retool. It's a time-consuming and expensive undertaking to ramp up some unproven new wine grape. So maybe Malbec will finally catch on in California? Or Temprinillo?

I think I might put my money (if I had any) into Primitivo, for Sonoma County anyway. Why? Much of Sonoma County is the home of Zinfandel.  Zin is king in Dry Creek Valley. Primitivo is a close relative of Zinfindel but is supposed to be easier to grow and Zin has had a couple rough years in the vineyards due to weather-related issues.

Wine country travel

My unscientific visitor count says the number of folks visiting is up at the end of 2011 compared to the past couple of years. Hotels, restaurants and wineries may be filling up again. Overall California saw growth in visitor travel and spending in 2011 compared to 2010.