Being a newcomer to the wine industry isn’t easy these days. Interestingly enough, the same goes for wine aficionados.
Talk about a great equalizer, right? The former is being faced with a culture shift: a gradual pull away from strong alcohol percentages in favor of lighter seltzers, spritzers and outright non-alcoholic artisan drinks. The latter has to deal with the industry being turned upside down and shaken for all its loose change. That’s not even touching on the side-effects of climate change. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there’s always something new to learn. Keeping up with every little detail in the global wine industry is a fool’s game.
Here’s to trying!
I’ve listed seven growing developments in the wine industry to keep an eye out for, whether you’re getting into wine for the first time this year or have been loyally sipping cabernet sauvignon for the past fifteen plus.
Proposed Wine Tariffs On Imports
The beginning of 2020 had quite a scare for imported wine lovers and businessowners alike.
The Trump administration proposed rolling out high tariffs on imported European wine, specifically those with higher percentages of alcohol. This created understandable fear wine shelves would become just that more expensive, never mind limiting quality and variety. Distributors who build their entire livelihoods on getting crates sent across the ocean would’ve taken the biggest hit, while local wine brands might’ve seen an uptick in purchases by becoming the most affordable options around. As it stands, it didn’t go through…quite.
Imported wines are still taking several more blows, with a 25% tariff currently in effect on still wines alongside a simultaneous concern about the impact of the coronavirus on imports. While everyone is breathing a little easier for now, this issue is clearly not finished wrapping up.
Wildfires Affecting Wineries
Left and right there are news of wildfires. Sometimes (often) it feels as if the entire world is burning.
Australia has been dealing with one of the largest yet seen due to climate change, with the Pacific Northwest going through its own hurdles these past few years. Off the top of my head I can think of a few times I stepped outside to see the world around me cloaked in a cloying yellow. I even got to try wine touched by wildfires over at Townshend’s winetasting event in January. What do these changes mean for today’s wineries and the quality of their products?
Like above, it’s a mixed bag. Most wineries have come out relatively in-tact, while some are preparing for the outcome of less rainfall, hotter weather and the literal taste of smoky air. A winery doesn’t necessarily need to burn to lose stock: the sensitive nature of yielding wine-worthy grapes means a mere temperature dip can create low-quality results. This could be good for wine on the cheaper rung, but not so much for more expensive brands that lean hard into subtle flavor notes.
Drinking Trends Among Boomers And Millennials Are Lining Up
Millennials and Baby Boomers are regularly pitted against each other. The jokes I could wring from this scenario are about as malleable as a bone-dry rag, so I won’t bother.
What I will talk about are the nearly parallel drinking habits between these presumably diametric demographics. Who’s drinking wine? According to Forbes and the several studies they compiled last year, there’s a lax interest from both groups, with health reasons and the perceived inaccessibility of the wine industry being the most cited concerns. Even more interestingly, Generation X are becoming the most targeted group in terms of consistent growth. Looks like a new journalist cheap shot is in order, huh?
Skewing older means more interest, but the failing health that comes with age makes wine an increasing rarity. Skewing younger means better growth, but has to compete with the wine industry shooting itself in the foot with a cloistered community. Things are going to be looking pretty different in a few years…
The Growth Of Wine Seltzers
The thing about the wine industry today? As varied and fascinating a culture it still is, some are just not interested…and that’s perfectly fine.
For some wine is simply too strong, a valid perspective in a country where alcoholism remains in the top ten causes of death. For others it’s inaccessible from both a price point and culture standpoint (an issue that’ll be explored further below). Wine seltzers add a bubbly sense of fun not unlike a beer, with just a touch more class from its aged roots. It’s so popular that even dedicated beer brands are leaning into the seltzer space, embracing the shifting tastes of a conscientious customer base.
While I have several bottles of wine at home, I also keep a few wine seltzers on hand. I like the flexibility of a smaller bubbly without the responsibility of using up a large bottle within the week. I want to keep this liver.
Convenient Wine Delivery Services For An On-The-Go Customer Base
While online delivery is now ubiquitous with everyday life, wine delivery is getting downright fun with its offerings. This is how you punch a hole through the barrier of accessibility and get newcomers enjoying the craft.
Several brands, as well as stores, have been offering carefully selected wine crates. These are based on your personality and eating habits, among others things, and add a level of individuality and convenience to the purchase. The only reason I haven’t tried this myself is because I love casually browsing the wine selection at the store, studying the illustrations and reading the stories on the back. What can I say, I grew up in libraries.
In a world built on convenience at the click of a button, wine delivery just makes sense. Save yourself a trip and learn more about your personal tastes all in one go.
Viticulture’s Clever Impact On Delicious Wine Varieties
The process of making wine is just as fascinating as the end result.
I read a great piece over on Forbes the other day that went into great depth on viticulture: the technique of trimming, thinning and sun exposure on wine grape varieties. Never underestimate the value of a subtle approach! While this isn’t exactly new — viticulture has been going strong for decades — it’s certainly going to become more necessary as the climate nosedives and the once-subtle weather offering less wiggle room.
The similarities between wine viticulture and shade-grown coffee are stark, to boot. Something as simple as the right volume of sunlight can mean the difference between a good cup and a great cup.
Wine Brands’ Increasing Focus On Accessibility To Newer Markets
Great news for newcomers! Quite a few in the wine industry aren’t interested in keeping filthy casuals at bay anymore.
As much as I’ve been greatly enjoying my visits to wine tasting events and stores in my area, it hasn’t escaped my notice just how little my surroundings reflect me. While this is no skin off my nose, it makes sense why so many in my age group steer clear. Social media remains another great equalizer, allowing us to stay up-to-date on the world and exposing us to what might not be possible in the confines of a city. More wine brands these days are upping their marketing game, seeking new ways to get fresh drinkers curious.
Do you have questions about the difference between pinot gris and pinot grigio? Are you recently converted to the cult of rosé and searching for recommendations? Let them know on social media. Trust me: they want to hear from you.
If you enjoyed this post, keep supplementing your knowledge on local Washington wine by checking out my review of Townshend’s winetasting event. If you want to look at more parallels between wine and coffee, check out The Queen Bean’s breakdown on what goes into determining specialty coffee.