From where I sit one would imagine that I have some insight into the wine market. Enough at least to foresee what might happen over the extreme short term, the next 12 months or so. Of course it is just as likely that I have no particular insight, a view too narrow to see what is happening all around us.
Of course witnessing, and recalling, what has happened over the past two decades should also count for something so I'll stick my neck out a bit here and make a few predictions for the coming year. It will be interesting to look back on these and see where I may in fact have some insight, and where I'm shooting blanks.
To begin with let's look to the market segment with which I am most familiar: Piedmont.
I have watched Piedmont become popular. Moving from the backwater of the retail shelves to a position of prominence. Today Piedmont is poised to challenge Burgundy for the top slot on many enthusiast's lists. The similarities make the transition a natural one.
In both regions a single grape is responsible for all the great red wines. The wines are mostly based on single vineyard bottling, with plenty of village wines to help one become familiar with the landscape. There is a distinct hierarchy of producers, and they fall conveniently within some categories that span a traditional to modern spectrum.
All this makes for an easy transition from a Burgundy market where great village wines are fast approaching $100 a bottle and the top wines of the B-level producers are being offered at prices that scarcely warrant mentioning. Two tight harvests promise to propel these prices even higher, as do the emerging wine markets that have enjoyed their dalliances with Bordeaux but are already looking for something a bit more complex, and rare.
And so Piedmont, land of A-level wines at Village Burgundy pricing, is smack in the cross-hairs of more enthusiasts that it can support. Though this is not going to be a broad based assault. Rather it will be focused almost exclusively on the traditionalists. Mascarello, Rinaldi, Conterno. Wines that have already become expensive will surge forward propelled by the wealth and words of men. Aided by mother nature.
2010 is a fabulous vintage and we'll see steep price increases for many wines. Perhaps not on release, though some of the best wines will jump even on release, but watch for the first tranche of these wines to be swept from the market by eager buyers, replaced quickly by another tranche at a higher price, and then, in some cases, by nothing. No more. It will be all gone.
If you have any doubts, look to the past. Search for back vintage Barolo, formerly abundant and affordable. Today scarce and expensive. They are collectable. They have become collected. There is status in these bottles, and that is an evil fact.