Second Decade of Wine in the 21st Century

The last year and a half has been rough for the wine industry. High-end wine is out, show-off wines are gauche, unlimited expense accounts disappeared and many other issues conspired against the industry. Yet at the same time, wine consumption around the world continues to increase. In the United States, India and China, more people are drinking wine, but the average price paid for a bottle has fallen due to the past years’ economic woes.

The most important wine event of the past decade has to be the influence of the Internet. Wine sales and pricing changed due to the ability for consumers to compare prices and purchase wines from most states around the country. Wine reviews evolved as well due to bloggers, and the winemakers can quickly communicate problems and successes in the vineyard or winery to other producers throughout the world.

In concert with the Internet and because of it, arcane alcohol shipping laws changed and wine is allowed to be sold across most state lines. This evolution continues and more states allow free shipping of wine (see Massachusetts). This direct shipment of wine has taken a massive shot at the so-called three-tier system (the system that forces wine and alcohol to be sold through several middlemen who take a cut before the product reaches its final consumer). And the three-tier system is fighting back with all its power.

The economy helped reign in out-of-control pricing for some wines, such as Bordeaux and cult wines from around the world, especially California and Australia. This will unfortunately bring pain to some vineyard owners and wine producers but will offer some fine values to consumers. It’s what’s called a correction and has been needed since the 2003 vintage in Bordeaux.

Pinot Noir was put on the map in the last decade due to the movie Sideways. Will it be Syrah, Grenache, Riesling or some other grape that gets its comeuppance this new decade? With all the young foodies, it might be Riesling.

Last year’s defeat of new legislation that would have allowed the sale of wine in grocery stores was big, but this legislation is up again this year with more benefits to the small wine storeowner and more lobbying by the large grocery store corporations. If it does not succeed this year, I believe it will continue to be pushed forward until it does pass. My prediction is that at some point in this decade, we will see New York allowing wine sales in grocery stores.

Internet sales will become passé and the new generation consuming wine will dictate what replaces the Internet in what some are calling the “post internet.” This could be any number of mediums that either exist now (Twitter, Facebook, iPhone apps) or are still being thought up. What wine apps will be developed for Apple’s new iPad?

China and India will take over as the world’s biggest wine consumers, and both will be competing to be the world’s top wine producers in the next decade. Climate change will be a big issue in the wine industry, with more producers using lighter packaging materials, and maybe even shipping wine in bulk and having it bottled at its destination.