Wine has enjoyed quite a run. Consumption up for decades. Quality up—the best in the 8,000 year history of wine. Availability up, thanks in no small part to elimination of antediluvian restrictions on direct-to-consumer wine sales.
Nothing, however, lasts forever. Consumption has leveled off. Quality remains, but now the problem is too much wine. For consumers, nice problem given the old supply and demand equation. For wine makers, a problem, given the old supply and demand equation.
Australia estimates it has a surplus of 2.8 billion bottles of wine. Enough for more than 100 bottles for every man, woman, and child in the country. France allocated 200 million euros to distill excess wine into industrial alcohol. Spain and California face similar, if slightly less dire, situations.
Reasons are not obscure. During the wine consumption surge, lots of people wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Even if they did not make money off their winery, they coveted the lifestyle. Existing growers and makers did not hesitate to respond to the increased demand.
Now, in the autumn of those heady times, actuarial reality. Baby Boomers fueled the boom. Alas, our time is passing. Those still around sip less wine. Those no longer around are sipping in another dimension where corkscrews are not needed.
The wine industry prays Millennials and follow-on generations will discover the Elysium joys of fermented grape juice, but that is not certain. Boomers considered themselves bullet proof. Their progeny observed the results of that folly. They simply do not drink as much alcohol as their parents, they may not drink alcohol at all, and—even if they do—there are not as many of them. Boomers are the bolus working its way through the spreadsheet. Most wine drinking countries are in an era of population decline.
If you are a Boomer like me, take it all in and continue to enjoy the ride. We’ve got access to the best wine ever made and winemakers desperate to sell it. What happens next? That is a problem for my children and grandchildren to deal with.
• Boschendal The Rose Garden Rosé Wine, South Africa 2022: Soft, juicy, light, enchanting red fruits. Straightforward, easily approachable. $12-15 Link to my review
• Barton & Guestier Les Petites Parcelles Vouvray 2021: Delightful iteration of chenin blanc. Touch of sweetness will pleasure many palates; balancing acidity keeps things in check. $15-18 Link to my review
• Maison No. 9 Rosé 2020: Light, lilting, red-fruit-tasty Provence rosé. Sensuous, engaging, unique bottle typical of rosés from French Riviera. $19-23 Link to my review
Last round: A man threw a milk bottle at me today. How dairy. Wine time.