2012 has been an eventful year in the wine industry. There are more licensed American wineries than ever before (almost three times as many wineries as breweries...). California (and Colorado) had a bumper crop of high (not exceptional) quality. The Rudy Kurniawan story made headlines in the non-wine world after he was arrested for producing and selling millions of dollars of fraudulent wine. And in probably the biggest news that wasn't really wasn't that big (see yesterday's post), Robert Parker, Jr. announced that he was stepping down as editor-in-chief of the Wine Advocate, opening a second office in Singapore and sold a share of the ownership to three Asian investors (rumor is they aren't all Asian...). So what will 2013 bring in terms of worthy wine news?
Here are five prognostications:
1. The Wine Advocate will expand and increase its popularity. The move announced earlier this week has been met with predictions of the end for Robert Parker's publication, but I think the move is the start to an expansion into Asia and digital media and an attempt to build the brand rather than a golden parachute. While many people only subscribe to the Wine Advocate for Parker's scores, more writers will be hired and their scores will be just as well received as Wine Spectator's group of critics. This bigger group of advocates will also review more and new wine regions, including but no limited to China. This leads me to prediction number two.
2. Colorado will be one of the new regions appearing in not only the Wine Advocate, but Wine Spectator and other publications. No, Colorado is not going to rival California for coverage, but Colorado's wineries will start to get some coverage. This will be a big improvement over no coverage. The most recent issue of the Wine Spectator was the first for a Colorado wine review to appear in print. The Infinite Monkey Theorem received scores ranging from 84-89 (the current highest rating of any Colorado wine). I also expect a Colorado winery to finally receive a 90+ rating from James Molesworth and Robert Parker (or one of the Wine Advocate critics). This will be a big deal because previously only eight wines from states other than California, New York, Oregon and Washington have received 90+ scores.
3. California "First Growth" wineries will increase their production. One of the defining characteristics of these so-called "cult" wineries is their exceeding limited production (usually only a few hundred cases). We've already seen Screaming Eagle introduce two new wines (a sauvignon blanc and a second red blend called Second Flight) in the past year. Bryant Family Vineyard also introduced a blend called Bettina and the lower cost DB4 in the past few vintages. Not only will these luxury wine brands add new labels, but the overall production will increase. The market for these expensive wines wasn't hurt too much in the recession and will recover faster than less expensive wines. Owners will want to maximize profits and ramp up production without lowering prices. I'm not saying they will reach the production numbers of First Growth Bordeaux (which is about 25,000 cases at each chateau), but the likes of Bryant, Colgin, Harlan, Screaming Eagle, and Sine Qua Non will approximately double their production starting with the 2012 vintage (to be released in a few years). We (and by we I mean the wealthy few that can actually afford the wines) may not see the results of this growth for a few years, but this is the year it will begin.
4. Not only will we see more of the high-end wines on the market, but more local wines will grace restaurant wine lists than ever before. Expect to see more Colorado wines being served in Colorado restaurants. Only a handful of restaurants actually sell local juice despite more than a handful selling themselves as being farm-to-table establishments. Now, the dearth of CO wine in restaurants is not completely the restaurants' fault. More wineries will understand the importance of marketing through restaurants. Very few wines sold at restaurants make wineries money and I doubt that will ever happen for Colorado wineries, but building a brand and creating supporters in the hospitality industry is an important part of the wine world. Not only will this happen in Colorado, but Arizona, Michigan, New York and Virginia restaurants will start selling more of their local wines. The quality is there (if the wine buyer puts in a little work) and the public is going to start wanting to try local wines with their local fare. This expansion of local wines is not going to go viral, but slow and steady growth is better than nothing. Expect this to be a prediction every year for the next 5 years.
5. Despite local wine production increasing and becoming more popular, Colorado will still be a beer state in 2013 and for the foreseeable future. Ok, I'm not going out on a limb here. Even the local vintners will probably support this prediction. However, this is not to stay local industry won't be improving and growing, just that when Family Feud polls 100 people about what food or beverage Colorado is known for, wine will not be more popular than beer. It may never be. It is a tough market in the Centennial State given the history of craft brewing and the energy behind the new wave a distillers. However, given enough time Colorado wine won't be thought of as a novelty, but beer is still going to be the bread and butter for Colorado.