What’s behind a wine trend?
Wine, as a retail commodity, is one of the most trend-oriented products in the global marketplace. Even among all products in general, only those in categories like fashion and entertainment seem to be more predisposed to popularity fluctuations than the thousands of individual wine brands that populate store shelves across the world. This scenario has multiple root causes, and it also can be analyzed in more than one context, for the wine industry is layered with both symbiotic and incongruent business interests among those who make a living within it. One might argue, given this state of affairs, that wine is inherently trendy. A better question to answer is which specific wine trends are ultimately good for consumers, since it is their money that trickles through every level of the industry and eventually funds every paycheck. For the purpose of this breakdown, I am not considering “dumb wines” of inferior quality, which is one of the few non-trends in the wine business; they have always been there and they always will (but that doesn’t mean you have to drink them). The following are current examples of a good trend and a bad trend:
The rise of Malbec—this grape variety might be more popular right now than when it was regularly used in Bordeaux about 200 years ago. Today the vast majority of Malbec grapes are grown in Argentina, and the resulting wines have been very impressive for both value and quality. The producers in this country have put a serious effort into developing their wine business through diligence and expertise, rather than leaning on marketing and unbridled promotion (see Australia). In terms of cost-comparison, one could easily find a world class Malbec for less than $15. How many other types of world class wine are available at that price point?
“Tag Along” wines—this term is meant to describe the brands that pop-up amid a surge in sales of a particular type of wine. Probably the best current example of this is the proliferation of Moscato wines. These are the sweet, lightly-fizzy white wines that originated in the Asti region of Italy. These wines have been around forever, but their recent popularity among all wine drinkers has led many wineries, from places all over the world, to produce their own brand of Moscato. Many of these wines taste like a simple mixture of sugar, water and alcohol, with no defined character or uniqueness. Their existence has obscured the reputation of authentic Moscato producers, and their continued presence could jeopardize the retail viability of high-quality Moscato. I was under the impression that wine coolers were already occupying the space where industrial-grade Moscato has appeared-I was wrong.