Wine Trends for 2011 (Part 1)

Debunking the myths


Well, it’s that time of the year again. Like clockwork, forecasts for wine trends come about as surely as Thanksgiving Day wine recommendations and grilling guides for Father’s Day. Maybe I’m jaded, or just too opinionated, but these “forecasts” -- besides being frighteningly repetitive from year to year -- seem to be simply self-serving and painfully narrow-minded. As with everything, there are exceptions, but I can’t help but be struck by the agenda-driven nature of so many of these prognostications.
Just from this year’s crop we have the following gems:
  • Chardonnay is dead, there are no new Chardonnay drinkers.
  • Pinot Noir is poised for a collapse.
  • Consumers have lost interest in French and Italian wines.
  • Bordeaux is dead. Châteauneuf has replaced Bordeaux.
  • South America wines are hot because of all the value under $25.
Let’s take a look at each of these and add in a few trends that are sure to be powerful in 2011, agendas aside.

Chardonnay is dead

This is the classic “hipper than thou” statement. Chardonnay is dead; just because it remains the most popular wine in America doesn’t mean it has a future. After all, horses and buggies were once the most popular form of wheeled transport and look where they are today!

Chardonnay is not dead

While certain styles of Chardonnay are thankfully less popular today than in the past, I see no reason to doubt the variety’s continued popularity. The pendulum is still swinging, with many producers moving to the “naked” or unoaked style of wine, which incidentally doesn’t make a crappy wine any better if it’s a crappy wine. The Chardonnay market is in flux, but it’s finding its equilibrium once again and is packed with better wines than ever. Not finding any new drinkers? Come on.

Pinot is poised for a collapse

This one comes up pretty regularly. The movie Sideways undoubtedly created the Pinot Noir craze but some people would have you believe that "we was hypmometized" by the movie! Yes, folks, the only reason more and more people are buying Pinot Noir is because we all saw the same movie and are now having a group hallucination. Group hug, everybody! We should ignore the fact that after decades of experiments with clones, soil, and site, the U.S. is finally getting the hang of how to produce fine wines from this fickle grape. And the fact that Pinot, just like Chardonnay, is moving away from a single, assertive and polarizing style, instead offering a broad range of interesting and compelling wines should be ignored.  We’re sheep and it was the movie.

Pinot is booming

Now, if the discussion turns to the pricing of Pinot, while I don’t see a collapse I do see many more value-priced offerings coming to market. The explosion in interest that followed the movie was in turn followed by an explosion in plantings, much of which are coming online right about now, pushing up production, and pushing down prices that admittedly had gotten a bit out of hand. The simple fact that Pinot is becoming more affordable will further solidify its grasp on the American drinking public.

Consumers have lost interest in French and Italian wines

I wonder what kind of wines this guy was selling. Clearly none of the Italian and French wines that make up some 50% of the U.S. wine market, with France being our number-one source of imported wine, followed closely by Italy.

Yes, people are no longer interested in Muscadet and Beaujolais, Chianti or Pinot Grigio. I mean, why should they be interested in this plonk when perfectly good Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are coming from every wine-producing region on Earth? Oh, wait, not Chardonnay. Nobody drinks Chardonnay any more. I meant Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, that’s right.

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  • Snooth User: econprof
    176983 4

    Pinot from non-traditional sources (see: Germany) is fantastic. While not necessarily value-priced, Spätburgunder (the German name for Pinot) offers something different from its French (yawn) and American (16% alcohol? really?) counterparts.

    Jan 11, 2011 at 3:01 PM

  • Snooth User: tlb73737
    354038 35

    Less attempts at odd blends. Really, do wine makers actually need to take all of their left over crushes, mix them together, slap a ridiculous name on the label and market the bastardized product to the masses just in order to stay in business?

    Jan 12, 2011 at 1:41 AM

  • We here in the forgotten wine lands of South Africa are producing some lovely Pinot, low in alcohol with limited time in wood, check out some of the producers of the Hemel and Aarde (meaning heaven and earth) region and you may discover that new world Pinot is not always an over extracted, over wooded, alcohol laden abomination. We will never compare or compete with Burgundy but then again I don't think we are trying to....expand your horizons folks there are wonderful wines waiting for you when you stop worrying about following the latest trends. And to agree with the previous commentator there are some wonderful Spätburgunder's so try them.

    Jan 12, 2011 at 1:56 AM

  • Good article, but a bad mis-spelling in section 8.
    Best regards

    Jan 12, 2011 at 5:36 AM

  • I wonder how much of the "Bordeaux pricing itself out of the market" myth will be debunked due to the recent demands from China for high-end Bordeaux wines. There's only so much Lafite to overbid on and as they start branching out, it will support the continuing rise in prices.

    Jan 12, 2011 at 6:33 AM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,070

    Love the article. It appears that our forecasters know less about what they are forecasting. They tend to forget that the wine market, like any other market, is consumer driven. Weather that is a good thiing, is open for debate.

    Jan 12, 2011 at 8:26 AM

  • Snooth User: Tim 2010
    223186 84

    Mr. Dal Piaz, you speak my language! Your comments are direct, logic driven, without "fluff". I appreciate your efforts and enjoy the commentary. Thanks, Tim

    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:10 PM

  • Very interesting the article. Why do you think consumers are more trendy for southern wines? is it price/value? the alcool content (there is a portugues wine with 17º!) or the body?

    Jan 12, 2011 at 2:02 PM

  • Snooth User: CarLess
    247851 9

    I think Riesling will be the next big white wine in the upcoming year or two.

    Jan 18, 2011 at 11:31 PM

  • Snooth User: SaritaL
    308589 1

    heheh very cleverly written - have to agree with Pinot Noir except I had no clue it was an increasingly craze since it seems I'm one of the few who has NOT seen Sideways, it would have, very likely, turned me OFF it.
    No news of Meritage I see...

    Jan 25, 2011 at 2:04 PM

  • Chateauneuf de Pape 2007 and 2009 are most excellent vintages here across the channel in UK. Bordeaux 2009 prices way out of my league here in UK. Once again, why spend £550 a case on tannic wine that need cellaring fifteen years when the 2007 Rhones are tannic and fruity now?
    2009 Burgundies also tasting lovely esp Cote de Beuane this year

    Jan 26, 2011 at 4:26 AM

  • I've become a recent, ardent fan of Pennsylvania Pinot Noir...but then again, I'm an even ardenter fan of French and Italian reds in general (especially Nebbiolo).

    On another note, Chardonnay is most assuredly not dead, despite my best efforts.

    Jan 27, 2011 at 2:27 PM

  • Snooth User: JJ Harris
    101409 1

    Entry level value priced Pinot will continue to rise and mostly from American producers. The laws allow more blending (75/25) to make cheap over cropped Pinot richer with 25% Syrah, Zin or Alicante Bouchet which have a hard time selling on their own anyway.

    Chardonnay will never die. It is like Merlot. It is a main stay, and while it may seem untrendy, people are still buying it. Merlot hit its rock bottom, but there is still more sold in the world then probably ever read varietal wine except Cab Sauv.

    You can argue Chateauneuf is having its price increases, but what about broadenning that into all the Southern Rhones to include Gigondas or Vacqueyras which give incredible value for what is often similar quality and style.

    Jan 28, 2011 at 10:55 AM

  • Snooth User: ctryroads
    803344 1

    You have to be a moron to care 1% about the wine trends that are coming out of New York or wherever it is that "trendy" people seem to hang-out. Simply taste a lot of different wines. Find one with flavors you like and buy it. If you are happy drinking a wine that has not been determined as "trendy" enough by your friends, leave the herd and go your own way. It is time that you dump shallow people anyway.

    Mar 21, 2011 at 10:57 PM

  • Pinot will never die... it's the most food friendly red

    Apr 15, 2011 at 6:48 PM

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