The Wine World Is Changing Rapidly

Friday, March 5, 2021

The wine world has traditionally changed very slowly, with very few significant changes happening at once. However, we have now entered into a period of considerable and swift changes which will have a significant impact on what the world of wine looks like by say, 2030.

Here are a few samples/indicators of the changes occurring at present:

UK:  Three days ago Virgin Wines was floated on the stock exchange in the UK, at an expected valuation of £100 million (yet to happen at the time of writing). Virgin Wines has been a separate company from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group since 2005.

Like most alcohol delivery companies it blossomed during the pandemic so that today it has around 170,000 customers, of which 85% are subscribed to their regular delivery schemes. With most of the UK in lockdown for much of 2020 and therefore unable to go to their regular/local restaurant or pub, a significant number of people opted for wine home deliveries from companies such as Virgin Wine and the Wine Society.

Whilst it is expected that post-pandemic wine drinkers will venture back out to their favourite haunt (if it is still around), the wine market has permanently changed so that a much higher proportion of drinkers than ever before will buy their wine online for home delivery.

To put this into context, in the UK last month Uber acquired drinks delivery firm, Drizly, for $1.1 billion.

FRANCE: With the Australian wine industry currently reeling from the savage, unjustified blow that the Chinese Government has inflicted on it, it is worth noting that the French wine industry is bleeding as well, with an export drop of 4.8% in volume – around 70 million litres and 10.8% in value of around €1 billion last year.

The difference being that whilst almost all of Australia’s drop is directly attributable to China, the French drop is not the result of a single punitive measure, but rather the combination of several factors. The punitive component in their case is the extra tariff that the Trump administration in the US levied on most European wines, in retaliation for Europe subsidising the sale price of Airbus aircraft. Added to this, France has seen a considerable drop in sales to China as well as the general downturn everybody is suffering due to the pandemic.

The region worst hit by this export downturn has been, Champagne, which suffered a reduction in exports in 2020 of €630 million, followed by Bordeaux whose exports dropped by €288 million. Adding to this challenge is the fact that French domestic wine sales have been in decline for the whole of this century so far – as the older, bigger drinking people die out and the millennials et al, shy away from what Maman & Papa drank and favour spirits and boutique beers instead. This challenge can only be overcome by increasing exports to compensate.

CANS:  Due to the rapidly increasing demand for wines in cans, Mildura based, Best Bottlers, has just installed a high speed wine canning line at its facility. The line is capable of packaging up to 47,000 cans per hour. I would suggest that it won’t be long before it is running flat out to keep up with demand. It won’t be long before there are more wine canning lines up and running here in Australia.

Well that’s it for this week. Keep an eye out for the mounting tide of changes in the wine industry and stay safe.

Have a great week and remember to #chooseaustralianwine


This Week's Wine Review:

This week we are headed to the idyllic region of Nagambie Lakes to review the MITCHELTON NAGAMBIE 2018 MARSANNE.

I first discovered the joys of Marsanne way back in the mid-1980s in a bottle shop, in Belrose, Sydney, during their annual “Case Clearance” Sale. The Marsanne was the Chateau Tahbilk 1985 Marsanne. I became smitten with the wine upon tasting it and shelled out somewhere around $4 a bottle for the case.

In those days there were two Marsanne producers in Australia, the better known much more established, Chateau Tahbilk, and the young upstart, Mitchelton Wines – both from Nagambie, Victoria. The two were diametrically opposite in style, with the Tahbilk being a stainless steel fermented, crisp, tight, slightly acidic version of the variety whilst the Mitchelton was barrel fermented, rounder, more complex and even slightly funky.

Fast forward to today and there are now a raft of wineries producing Marsanne. It is mainly used in Rhône style blends with Roussanne and Viognier, however, the leading varietal producers are, as ever was, Tahbilk (they dropped the Chateau from their name) and Mitchelton Wines – both still sticking to the style they have made from the outset.

So today’s wine is the MITCHELTON NAGAMBIE 2018 MARSANNE. Light, bright yellow in colour, it has a gorgeous stone fruit bouquet with a hint of florals (honeysuckle) and a goodly dash of complex oak maturation aromas. The palate delivers mouth-filling, crisp, zingy citrus and stone fruit with a tight, refreshing finish that leaves the palate asking for more. This is a great food wine right now, which will age magnificently to become a richer, rounder, more unctuous creamy wine in years to come. By the time it becomes a 10-year-old it will be drop dead, mind-blowingly great!!!

PS: Mitchelton also currently have a Museum release of the 2013 vintage of their divine Marsanne.

Have a great week and remember to #chooseaustralianwine and enjoy #emergingvarieties


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