The 5 Stories of 2013

The story of the future of wine


Looking back with a bit of perspective on the vinous landscape of 2013 it’s interesting to see what stories shaped the narrative during the past year. While we tend to believe in the stability of the wine industry, changes come slowly and shift its course in unforeseen ways. These big news stories are important in and of themselves, but also for their effects that we have yet to see.

If you look back in time few might have grasped the importance of things like bottling one’s own wines, or introducing French oak barriques to the Napa Valley, or more recently, adopting the 100 point rating system for wines. Yet these are arguably among the most important events that have helped to shape our modern wine world. So here for your consideration are five stories from 2013 that I believe will shape our world in the years to come.


The biggest story of the year has to be Rudy Kurniawan’s trial and conviction for counterfeiting fine wines. While this may have the most limited impact of all the stories on this list, focused primarily at the very top of the market, it is the most broadly reported story here as well. 
The conviction of Kurniawan for manufacturing premium bottles, millions of dollars worth, by refilling and relabelling some of the most collectable wines in the world has shaken the confidence in not only old wines, but also the auction houses that were, we are lead to believe, unwitting participants in his scheme. This should have profound effects on future sales of collectible wines. Those with proven provenance should become even more collectable and producers of the most sought after wines will have to enact anti-counterfeiting measure in the future. There is already talk of creating registries for these wines, so that they can be tracked throughout their lives, until consumption. 

Social Media

I’m using the broadest sense of the term here, but 2013 was the year that Social Media in Wine matured. From the incalcuable contributions presented to the public during the Kurniawan trial by particpants, to the note sharing on, and the evolution of wine bloggers this has been a hell of a year.
Wine blogging in particular has matured, and while many of the original crew continue to receive a majority of attention from the public, those who have toiled away for years developing their brands have begun to pull away from the increasingly infrequent posts of the pack at large. Regional voices in particular are the developing story with sites such as, On the Wine Trail in Italy, and the NorCal Wine Blog offering focused reporting on specific regions.
In addition 2013 has been a big year for sites like, where the basics of wine are presented with great visuals, and Levi Dalton’s podcast series I’ll Drink to That , which has broken new ground in long form audio interviews with the wine world's most important and influential players. 

Natural Wine

Call it what you will: natural, organic, minimal intervention. Natural wine is poised to have a big year in 2014, building on a 2013 that has seen much discussion of this niche player. Two factors seem to drive the discussion. 
The first was the adoption of the organic wine moniker by many larger and more mainstream producers, much to the chagrin of those who equate organic wine with something artisanal. The fact that big brands have gotten behind the organic moniker can only mean more coverage and distribution for these wines in the coming years.
The second face of organic wines has been the actual artisanal wines, many produced under the undefined moniker of natural wines. Much of the media seem comfortable attacking these wines, which is always a good indication that the story will have legs. Unforgiven for these flaws by the media, yet loved precisely for the potential for these flaws by their audience, not to mention their beautiful unfettered expression of terroir, natural wines will continue to grow in the market place. They are the modern art movement of our time. Surely you can pick out the flaws of a Jackson Pollock, but that does not diminish its beauty. And besides, natural wines are often flawless, even if they do not conform to the mainstream definition of what makes a wine beautiful, or perfect for those disposed to such definitions. 


Weather of course plays a huge role in wine, a farm crop after all is said and done. But Weather has never been as important, and we have seen that develop in two narratives that emerged in 2013.
The first is the story of recent Californian vintages. A pair of problematic vintages produced wines that were less rich and powerful than we had become accustomed to. But you know what, I think people liked them! Just like the financial meltdown of 2008 reminded people of the great values in wine, these recent vintages have reminded people what wine can taste like when it’s not taken to 11. Whether this has a lasting effect depends to a fairly large degree on whether critics like them ,and how powerful critics will be in the future. But, there is an underlying narrative here, that less ripeness is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Europe’s Weather

The other side of the coin is the weather in Europe, which has not been ideal for the past two vintages.  France in particular was plagued with problems in both 2012 and 2013. Home to the two most collectable wines in the world; Bordeaux and Burgundy; these difficult vintages have the potential to fundamentally change the way collectors view the world.
Short crops, particularly in Burgundy, and a growing sense of disenchantment with Bordeaux are forcing collectors to looks elsewhere for wines for their cellars. Whether that means Loire instead of Bordeaux, or Barolo instead of Burgundy, the focus and money involved in collectable wine will be moving over the coming years. 


The elephant in the room. Not only has Asia, and China in particular, developed into a huge consumer of wine, but they’ve also been developing a huge wine industry as well. The Asian market created a bubble for Bordeaux in 2011, then shifted to focus more on Burgundy through 2013, but the future holds unknown surprises. There is a lot of disposable money ready to be spent on fine wine in Asia and if their focus alights on a region with small production the results could be profound and enduring. A scary thought for those who have watched Burgundy prices escalate out of their reach. 
The production side of things is a long term story, but consider that China has increased its wine production 90% since 2011 and is now is the world’s fifth most prolific producer of wine, with plans to double production over the next five years! That would make China the #1 producer of wine in the world. While this will have little to no effect on the fate of truly collectable wine, it will come as devastating competition to many regions of the world that are producing inexpensive wines for everyday consumption. 
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