Last year I published an article entitled Happy New Year! (To read that article click here). It was a look back at our first two years as an online wine publication and a look at the year ahead. This year I will do the same thing with the objective of making this an annual review. First, is an Underground introduction. Second, is a look back at the world of wine as viewed by the Underground in 2012. Third, is a review of the 20 Underground wine predictions from 2012. Fourth, is a preview of the Underground view of the wine world in 2013. And, lastly are the Underground wine predictions for 2013.
The year 2012 is all but gone. The New Year 2013 is the road ahead. This is our fourth year as an on line publication and the 34th year since the first Underground debuted. I would like to take a moment here at the outset to thank all of you who have joined the on line Underground to pursue the wine road ahead. Also, I would like to encourage you to please pass along the Underground articles to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. It is easy. All you have to do is click the button here, enter the email address, and forward to as many friends as you would like. The wine road is never ending as we are always learning and it is also a lot of fun. That’s a win/win!
The Underground’s goal is to provide accurate wine commentary as honestly and simply as it can be presented. Also, we want to de-mystify wine and present it in the context of another food group. And, I am very proud of the experienced and extremely knowledgeable group of people who are affiliated with the Underground. (To view our mission and the people and biographies click here).
A large part of what we are doing is speaking out as an advocate of the consumer. It is, in fact, a consumer Bill of Rights. Here is how the wine consumer’s Bill of Rights is viewed from the Underground:
The Wine Consumer’s Bill of Rights
- The right to know all the ingredients in each bottle of wine available for sale.
- The right to have full disclosure of all ingredients on the back label of every wine available for sale.
- The right to question anything that is presented which seems inaccurate or not understandable (including wine descriptions).
- The right to know how wines are tasted and evaluated by wine publications and wine writers.
- The right to know if the person tasting the wine is also writing the evaluation.
All of the above items would be a great value to the consumer in a search for knowledge.
And, from the standpoint of helping to prevent wine fraud, here is the Underground view:
The Issues That Need Implementation To Prevent Wine Fraud
- Wine sellers, including auction houses, should disclose the provenance of all wines being sold. This is the most important thing to know in buying old wine. As I have said, in real estate it is location, location, and location. In buying old wine, it is provenance, provenance, provenance. (To read the article on this subject click here).
- Wine producers should disclose any changes made in the labels, corks, bottles, and capsules over the years. This could easily be done on their websites and would enable fraudulent bottles to be identified more readily.
- More transparency in the entire market for selling old wines is needed. All auction houses should clearly disclose their auction practices. There are many things that are involved here such the use of third party bidders, bids on behalf of the house, the accounting for and implementation of written bids, and full disclosure of the sales results. Also, conditions of sale should be uniformly revised to protect the buyer if fraudulent wine was purchased. This should cause the sellers to do a more diligent job in screening for fraud before offering wine for sale.
- All producers of premium priced wines that might be subject to counterfeiting should immediately implement procedures to prevent counterfeiting. These include such things as labels with watermarks like bank notes, embossed bottles, seals between the glass and capsule, and a unique code on each bottle that can be matched against a list on the internet to verify the authenticity of the wine.
In short, The Underground will continue to advocate anything that will help the consumer. Please continue to be with us in this journey and, again, please pass the Underground on to your friends. But, most importantly, along the way, let’s be sure to “Drink What We Like & Like What We Drink” (To read that article click here) and let’s have lots of fun!
2012 HIGHLIGHTS AND THE ROAD PAST
In 2012 major articles (click on the articles to read) featured commentary on the following:
The Burgundy review was a follow up to the 2009 review from the year prior. The review of the 2011 Burgundy vintage (our 31st year of visiting Burgundy to taste the young wines from barrel) will follow early next year. Other articles featured commentary on some of California’s pioneer wine producers who continue to make wine in a traditional way and coverage of food friendly wines such as rosé. This latter coverage included visits with three top rosé producers in Provence and an article on Rìas Baixas and Albariños. In total there were also 12 Distinctive New Wine articles focusing on food friendly wines, under the radar wines, and wine values. And, there were also new articles on Thanksgiving food and wine.
An, while wine recommendations are the major focus of the Underground, the focus on the wine consumer leads to much more than just individual wine recommendations. My 2012 commentary continued to focus on wine trends, pricing, anomalies, absurdities, and consumer recommendations. These are highlighted in some of the following One Winedrinker’s Opinion and Underground Wine Line articles published in 2012:
One Wine Drinker’s Opinion
If you missed some of these articles, I encourage you to take a look. (Just click on the title) We covered a lot of ground in 2012, but there is more to come in 2013 as you will see previewed later.
2012 UNDERGROUND WINE PREDICTIONS – THE FINAL VERDICT
Last year I made 20 wine predictions for 2012. They are listed below followed by my update.
20 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN THE 2012 WINE WORLD
- The Chinese miracle will continue to roll on driving up prices for selected wines that are in very limited supply. But, by the end of the year this trend of ever increasing prices for selected wines will be waning. This is correct. Prices have been driven up by Chinese buyers, particularly for top Burgundies where prices have reached dizzy heights. But, the demand for Bordeaux seems to be receding as prices have come down.
- The Chinese market for wines will show more signs of expanding as more different types of wines become familiar. This is correct. Burgundy and selected California wines are prime examples.
- The world wide wine glut will continue with falling prices for many very high priced wines. This will be driven by California wines and some classified growth Bordeaux in the $ triple digits. This is correct. The prices for top Bordeaux have fallen. The index of 2005 Bordeaux wines has dropped sharply. Triple digit prices for a lot of Napa Valley Cabernet are also under pressure.
- World economic conditions and large production will continue to result in large numbers of inexpensive wines imported from South America and Spain with plenty of support from France and Italy. Other countries will need to lower prices to compete in the lower price segment of the market. This is correct. South American wines such as Malbec continue to gain in popularity as are Spanish wines in the $10-40 price category. France is also pushing affordable Bordeaux and wines from lesser known areas.
- Because of the large number of lower priced wines (wines priced at $10 and under), wine consumers will be more adventuresome. This will lead to more and more wine consumers turning to “The Blending Game” to salvage their mistakes. This is not correct. It did not catch on in 2012. But, the Underground will continue to be an advocate of this practice going forward. It is something that wine consumers should find very useful.
- The trend to “Affordable Drinkable Wine” (ADW) will continue. Imported rosés – especially from France and, in particular, Provence; along with Italy and Spain – will continue to gain favor. This is correct. “Affordable Drinkable Wine” is increasingly popular. Quality wines priced at $5-25 are in great demand. And, imported rosés are increasingly popular in a range of $10-40.
- This rosé trend will accelerate in California offerings as many producers will find it economically viable to turn more and more red grapes into a “cash crop”. Prices will have to compete with the large supply of imports that generally are priced in a range of $10-$30. This is correct. There are more and more rosés on the market in this price range.
- The trend to ADW will continue to spread in California and include more Chardonnays and Cabernets as well as Sauvignon Blancs, Syrahs, Merlots, and Zinfandels. There will be a lot of wine in the $10-$15 range with even more in the $10-$20 range. This is correct. This seems to be the price range that is getting a lot of attention.
- New Zealand wines – particularly Sauvignon Blancs – will gain appeal as a result of their compatibility with lighter foods and competitive pricing. This is correct. The wines are gaining in appeal.
- The trends of less oak and less alcohol will continue. This will be particularly noticeable in California wines as time goes on. This is correct. The trends are continuing, but not as fast as many of us would like.
- It is probably too early to predict an end to the “big wine” syndrome, but expect it to come under more criticism as the year progresses. This will be driven by the trend to ADW and more experienced wine drinkers changing taste preferences. This is partially correct. It is too early to predict an end to the “big wine” syndrome, but so far there seems to be very little criticism from the mass media.
- Driven by the flood of “big wines” in recent years and questions about “what is wine” will drive more and more consumers to ask for more transparency in terms of ingredients in wine. Wineries such as Ridge Vineyards will list ingredients and others will follow. This is partially correct. Most wine consumers are not yet aware of what is in wine. Ridge Vineyards was delayed in using ingredient labeling and is currently awaiting government approval for the label.
- Wine ingredient labeling will gradually move forward, but will not become a real issue until a “scandal” emerges. This is correct. It is gradually moving forward. But, without a “scandal” it may take quite awhile to capture the attention of wine consumers.
- The wine fraud issue will surface again driven by the disclosure of evidence from the ongoing lawsuits alleging wine fraud. The Underground was the first publication to speak to this subject and we will have more to say later. This is correct. A One Winedrinker’s article on the history of fraud and the Underground’s role in disclosing was posted in eary 2012. The wine fraud issue then became center stage weeks later with the disclosure of fraudulent wine being offered at auction. Then about a month later came with the announcement of the arrest of Rudy Kurniawan in conjection with wine fraud. The Underground had a series of articles following this case as the year went on. As of today, the case is still pending.
- While there will probably be more evidence of the existence of wine fraud, proving it may be another question. This is correct. There was the Rudy Kurniawan case and later the disclosures regarding the case against Hardy Rodenstock. The latter case seems to be stalled for the moment.
- Wine writers will gradually join the trend to transparency, but this is likely to take time and will be driven by unexpected news. This is partially correct. So far, I have seen nothing to indicate that anything has happened. But, I expected it would take time and so far there has been no unexpected news to move the matter forward.
- Fake wines and wine fraud will continue to be a fact of life in China and follow the long line of other products being knocked off there. Unscrupulous types will funnel these counterfeits back to the US to be sold to gullible consumers. This is partially correct. Fraud continues to be widespread in China. However, I have not seen evidence that the counterfeits being created there have found their way back to the US.
- Wine “Investment Trusts” will continue to be created. This will inevitably lead to a sharp correction as too much wine is accumulated, but this is unlikely until there are headline news articles on a regular basis about how investing in wine is a “no lose” proposition. This is not likely for several years. This is partially correct. The trend seems to have slowed following a down trend in Bordeaux prices and the difficulty of sourcing large quantities of the top wines at favorable prices.
- An over supply of “big numbers” New World Wines will result in a flattening of prices. The auction market for “flippers” will soften. This is correct. Prices are flattening and in some cases declining. The market for wines that can be “flipped” is very narrow.
- More and more people here will turn to wine as the beverage of choice with food. This will be driven by life style changes and increased awareness. This is correct. Wine is becoming increasingly available.
So that’s my read on the 2012 predictions. I believe 14 (or 70%) of the predictions were correct, while 5 were partially correct, and 1 was incorrect. Not too bad!
2013 AND THE ROAD AHEAD
For 2013 the Underground will move forward with more information on the legacy wineries in California that are making balanced wine in a traditional manner. I am planning visits to many of these wineries and hope to gradually expand the scope of coverage. Part of this will be more Cellar Notes articles on the older wines. A great, largely under the radar story, is how well these wines age. There were several notes on this in 2012 and there will be more to come in 2013. Also, there will be more Retrospective Reviews from the early 1980’s outlining the era of “Pre-Industrial Winemaking” (To read the article outlining how winemaking has changed click here) . Combining with this will be a continued push by the Underground for more transparency in wine labeling. The legacy wineries are the logical choice to be the leaders in this and the Underground will devote more effort in working to make this happen. Stay tuned!
UNDERGROUND WINE PREDICTIONS FOR 2013
So in light of what the Underground has presented thus far, what does the future hold? That’s a good question and a question that no one, in fact, can answer. But, that doesn’t stop us from continuing to joust at windmills. So being a member of the human race (based on my last check up) and remembering my good friend Ed Lazarus’s sage advice “God hates a coward”, here are 10 Underground prognostications for 2013:
- Wine fraud will continue to be a focus of the wine world as the Rudy Kurniwan trial moves forward. There are likely to be more disclosures and information regarding the details of the wine fraud. These will include how it was perpetrated and by whom.
- The trend to more disclosure on wine labels will accelerate. Krug has moved aggressively to include information on their Champagne labels. This will prompt more and more large Champagne houses to do the same. Ridge Vineyards will introduce ingredient labeling on its wines and thus prompt more California wineries to follow suit.
- Trends toward “Affordable Drinkable Wine” (AWD) will continue. The increasing world wide production of wine will assure that consumer demands for moderately priced wines of high quality will be met.
- Rosés are here to stay in a big way and will continue to grow in availability as demand increases.
- The trend to less oak and less alcohol will continue, but will move slowly as consumer tastes evolve.
- More transparency in wine writing is not likely to happen until the market demands it. The “retirement” of a leading big numbers critic and the movement of the business to Singapore (with what looks to be perhaps a new cast of characters) may shed some light on this subject.
- There will be continued increasing interest in California wines from historical vineyards. These wines (made from field blend grapes harvested from old vines) will bring more attention to the real character of California wines.
- The demand for more and more “collector” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons will wane. With the number of different labels for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon now reportedly around 6500, it does not seem possible that it can go much higher unless the Napa Valley appellation is expanded.
- The issue of premox (premature aging) in White Burgundies will continue to plague these wines. Potential solutions to the problem are now in place, but it remains to be seen if they work. And, the supply of older wines from the 1996 vintage forward that are affected by premox is still an unknown.
- Wine pricing at the very top levels is likely to show a wider variation. Big numbers are having less of an impact on the pricing of wines at the top level and the market is becoming increasingly selective in what wines get the top prices. The prices for the top Red Burgundies are likely to stay very high for some time driven by demand that is far out stripping supply. But, for many of the others, this is not likely to be the case.
So there you have it – 10 Underground wine predictions for 2013. We will revisit these predictions next year to see how well the Underground crystal ball was functioning! Happy New Year!
In Vino Veritas,