What can the wine industry expect in 2015?
Encirc winemaking consultant, Justin Knock, looks at the current state of the wine industry and what it can expect in 2015.
Several things seem to be moving in the favour of brands again, although many may not be feeling that much improvement at the moment.
Brands are back at the table in terms of trust. There is no doubt that over recent years, and in particular since the horsemeat scandal two years ago, consumers’ trust in supermarkets has been shaken. Their reduced spending, which favoured own labels and exclusive labels during the depths of the global financial crisis and beyond, is now beginning to look like it has cut too many corners. As a result, it has damaged trust with consumers. Brands are well placed to drive a wedge into this during 2015 and trust will be high on the agenda as people’s disposable income improves.
Italian supply challenges
It’s clear that out of all the European nations, Italy suffered most during 2014. A wet summer turned into a cool, damp autumn, and across all the major regions (especially the north) harvest quality and quantity should be down.
Dilution and disease has also been widespread from Tuscany through the Veneto, posing the question whether Prosecco can continue the growth it has experienced over recent years. At around 20,000 ha, the region is less than two thirds of the area of Champagne yet produces as much wine – around 300 million bottles every year. Yields are already at 150hL/ha. With a low likelihood of the same yields as 2014, the question remains – how can Prosecco maintain its growth and popularity?
Chile lost a great voice last year with the death of Michael Cox, head of the UK generic body Wines of Chile, and Chilean sales have been in mourning ever since. Deeply committed to the UK multiple grocer sector, Chile has not been able to punch into higher quality levels and broader distribution in the independent trade. There’s no doubt there are some exciting wines coming from Chile’s most historic regions, such as the Maule and Itata valleys, and often from old vines and varieties that are considered somewhat less noble than Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, such as Carignan, Pais and Cinsault. There is vinous treasure in Chile but it feels like the country is undergoing a chrysalis era as it figures out what it wants, and can afford, to do with the UK market.
New Zealand juggernaut
The All Blacks may win the Rugby World Cup again this year and that may measure the high water mark for brand New Zealand and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in the UK. Having produced consecutive record harvests, New Zealand is swollen with Sauvignon Blanc but no global market seems to be crying out for more. 2014 has many people questioning the quality of the wine; a long season was disrupted by bad weather in the last third and there is a long tail of lesser quality wine to be shifted. The crunch time is now as 2015 intake looms. I’d back the Kiwis to keep momentum this year, but trade interest has already waned and consumer tastes are sure to follow. It’s just a matter of when.