Wine world bad news and good news. Bad: record harvests in 2018 and 2019 produced a grape glut. Further bad: some grapes may have “smoke taint” from fires in California and Australia, further driving down prices. Grape growers are not thrilled.
Good: grape glut portends lower prices for consumers. Ignore for the moment the Trump administration’s threat of a massive tax increase on European wine, there may be wine bargains for the next couple of years.
Wine prognosticators believe “premiumization”—the move of wine consumers to pricier wines—will continue, but prices will be steady or even retreat a bit. Good for drinkers. Not good for growers and makers, but the silver lining is if they hook us on the better stuff during this anticipated price dip, they likely have hooked us when the inevitable equilibrium kicks in.
For several heady years the wine world found itself producing ever more wine at ever higher prices. In many areas, such as the French Languedoc-Roussillon, grape farmers turned from high yields and poor quality to lower yields and a focus on quality. The same was true at wineries.
Over the past 20 years, the quality of wine significantly improved worldwide. So did wine production. Texas, for instance, went from a curiosity to a dependable producer of quality wines, and the number of vineyards and wineries soared.
All good things wax and wane, however, and so with wine. Wine consumption has plateaued. Consumers have reduced alcohol consumption for health reasons. Or they have switched, or added, other alcohol such as hard cider. The demographic tide is flowing out. Sixteen percent of wine drinkers were over age 65 in 2015. Four years later, 20 percent of wine drinkers are over age 65.
If you are a glass is half full person, rejoice. There is more good wine than ever before and it will stabilized in price, maybe go down in price, as we drink through the current grape glut.
• Bodegas Castillo Monjardin Garnacha La Cantera 2018: Basic Spanish table wine; tasty, well made for that category. Great QPR. $9-12 Link to my review
• Cosentino Winery Cigar Old Vine Zinfandel 2017: Mouth-filling, fun drinking, old vine Lodi zin at nice price. $17-22 Link to my review
• Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2017: Nice, meaty, rich example of South Australia shiraz from historic maker. $30 Link to my review
Last round: For me, being “clean and sober” means I have showered and I am ready to taste the first sip of the night’s wine.