About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 Wine Predictions

      A recent email newsletter from the International Wine Guild contained some welcome news.  According to Nielsen surveys of off premise wine sales in the U.S. for the fourth quarter of 2010, Italy has regained the top spot as the number one country for U.S. wine imports.  Italy had occupied that spot for over 20 years but was edged out in 2004 by the tsunami of very affordable Australia imports.

      Regular readers know well that The Wine Guy has a definite preference for Italian wines and for wines of other countries that utilize Italian varietals and follow the Italian style.  While there are plenty of wines that I cherish and enjoy and sing the praises of from down under. It’s good to see my favorite source of wine return to his spot of dominance in the U.S. consumer’s preference for imported wines. 

     There were few surprises in the 4th quarter data:  Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot remain the top three U.S. varietals purchased, followed by Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and White Zinfandel.   The greatest growth rate in the purchase of U.S. grown varietals were Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

  The top five most popular import countries accounted for over 84% of the wine imported into the U.S. in the 4th quarter of 2010.  They were Italy, Australia, Chile, France and Argentina.   New Zealand was a close 6th on the list at almost 5% of imports while all other remaining import counties combined accounted for about 11% of import sales.

   Using the sales figures rankings as an outline, here are a few speculative predictions from The Wine Guy for 2011:

The top domestic varietals:

   Still number one but look for broadening diversity in the available styles of Chardonnays on your wine market’s shelves/racks.   Improvements in unoaked chardonnays are occurring with a trend their increasing popularity and you will see an increase in the number of oaked/unoaked blends being offered as well. 

Cabernet Sauvignon:
   Napa is the traditional bastion of quality Cabernet Sauvignon with some challenging by neighboring Sonoma (particularly the Alexander Valley).  However, there appears to be an explosion of great cabernets from other locales in California and from the northwest.  Look for some exception cabs and red blends from the relatively new appellation of Horse Heaven Hills as well as other great growing areas in Washington and Oregon.

  Still a strong number three in popularity, this varietal is getting over the verbal bruising given it in the movie “Sideways”.   (I still love the irony in Miles’s most prized wine, which he drank by himself toward the end of the movie, being a merlot-dominated Bordeaux!)  It’s also growing in the variety of expression being given it from US and South American wine makers.  The northwest US and Chile are some great areas to explore.

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris:
   If you love traditionally crisp Pinot Grigio, you can’t beat the better Italian producers, but the round mellow fruit tones of the recent Pinot Gris from the better Oregon producers display how subtlety great tasting good quality white wine can be.

Pinot Noir:
   Some European producers have acquired wineries in the US and are now producing some wines that combine the best characteristics of the US and European styles of Pinot Noir.  With improvement, as well, with the more affordable imported Pinot Noirs from South American and New Zealand, look for continued growth in this varietal.

White Zinfandel:
   Look for the American consumer to ever so slowly begin transitioning to drier rose.  It will take a long, long time but eventually you might even see a drier style of White Zinfandel come on the market.  In the meantime look for and import and do a comparison of your own.

The top import countries:

   Chianti and Pinot Grigio have long been the mainstays of Italian imports but look for their share of the Italian import pie to slip (in volume but not quality) as consumers discover there is a great plethora of Italian wines they can enjoy.  Look for growth in popularity of wines from the Italian regions of Albruzzo, Pulgia and Sicily in 2012.  As usual, reds will dominate the Italian imports but some US producers may begin to tickle the consumer’s interest on some new (to them) Italian white varietals.

   Continuing popularity of Shiraz is a given but look for Australia to begin increasing efforts to export some of its better reds and whites.  Some cabs will begin to make their mark and a few more American consumers will discover the good things Australians can do with Grenache on its own as well as in red blends. Total volume will slip but be partially offset by slightly higher cost.  The trend will be to the better quality yet still affordable wines from down under.

Chile and Argentina:
    South American has made inroads the past few years simply by offering bang for the buck…nicely and highly rated wines at affordable prices.  Look for continuing interest in Malbec.  Also Carmenere will continue ascendency as the next South varietal to be “discovered” by Americans.  Argentina’s Torrontes will make some slow inroads as a white varietal.  While it is potentially a great wine for the U.S. market, I don’t think its time is quite here.

    Look for a comeback in French Champagne and some exploration of French Whites.  The diversity in domestic Chardonnays may lead to US consumers returning to a previous love of French whites.
As with the South American Torrontes, French Viognier and Vouvray both have the potential to storm the white wine market in the U.S. although it’s not likely to happen yet.    Bordeaux remains soft as an import mostly due to cost but look for some moderate exploratory growth in the red blends.   Southern French rose remains a bubble waiting to burst. 

New Zealand:
    This country’s long dominant reputation in Sauvignon Blanc will likely continue.  However, if the diversity in Chardonnay leads to an exploration of taste alternatives by the U.S. white wine drinker, that could impact the volume of their exports in this area.  Look for some potential growth and discovery of New Zealand Pinot Noirs, although that will be highly dependent upon the ability to get a good volume of that product to the U.S. market profitably at a competitive price.    

Potential Surprises:
1.     Cabernet Franc has never quite made the grade in the U.S. but with some good ones are coming out of the Mid-Atlantic state, it’s a long shot waiting to happen.   Also, the north Georgia winemakers are turning to varietals such as Touriga in their blends and may eventually shed their reputation as being producers of redneck reds.

2.     Greek wines continue to improve in quality and reputation.  Aegean whites as well as mainland Nemea have great potential but the inertia of poor exposure and economic stagnation may be impossible to overcome.
S    Spain and Portugal remain just under the radar in imports.  The Douro valley in Portugal (home of the oldest wine production appellation in the world) has more than just great Port to offer but lacks the powerful marketing of the great wine families of Spain.  They may fare better in recapturing the interest of the American consumer in some red alternatives but will certainly grow their share of the sparkling market as the quality and reputation of Cava continues.
      California producers will continue their expansion of Italian varietals but will continue to suffer comparison with the dominant Italian imports.  What success they have could potentially be mitigated by the side effect of stirring interest in some good established Italian alternatives available from Latin America.
      The major growth for American consumers has previously been in red wine selections.   Mid 2011 may see that trend switch to other styles as more American wine sippers step out of the box.  Beneficiaries will be whites and rose from South America, France Italy, and South Africa.

This overview is just one wine buff’s speculation.  The trades, as well as many other bloggers, will be doing their own predictions this time of year.  It might be worthwhile to read many of these and use them as a chart to decide now what wines you would like to explore in the coming year. 


No comments:

Post a Comment