In case you were abducted by aliens and have only just returned to planet earth, it may have escaped your attention that we are currently basking in a wine heaven of unprecedented variety. Thanks to warmer weather, better winemaking, greater care in the vineyard and the New World revolution of the past two decades, everyday wine has become more consistent and fine wine finer than ever before. And prices, thanks latterly to tough economic times, have remained relatively stable. There's no reason why this trend shouldn't continue, although the greatest potential threat to the current world order is climate change. So, as we enter the new decade, let's take a tour d'horizon to see what's in store for wine over the coming decade.
In traditional regions of Europe, red and whites will continue to become more powerful unless a corresponding rise in grape sugar levels can somehow be checked. Northerly areas where aromatic grapes like riesling can struggle to ripen will benefit from more even vintages, although moderate alcohol levels and natural vivacity may suffer. It would be a huge shock to the system for a classic region like Bordeaux to allow the planting of Mediterranean grapes like Portugal's touriga nacional or Italy's aglianico. More likely, for now at least, there'll be a greater reliance on later-ripening varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, and that will bring big changes in style.
But the New World is less constrained by rules on what can and can't be planted, so it's better placed to adapt to climate change, selecting new grape varieties and seeking higher altitude and locations closer to oceans.
With all eyes on China as a growing superpower, its domestic wine industry is likely to burgeon in response to local demand. It will also improve in quality with overseas investment and the discovery of quality regions. Hong Kong, after announcing the abolition of taxes last year, is already on track to become the world's number one fine-wine auction hub after the US. In a scenario in which quality grapes migrate north (and south in the southern hemisphere), England is poised to benefit as we gear up to toast "the champagne of the north" by 2020. The losers will be countries with chronic water shortage problems like Australia. As producers become more conscious of environmental concerns, organic and biodynamic wines will move from the periphery to the mainstream and, who knows, GM vines may be invoked as the solution to the problem of higher alcohol levels.
On the home front the digital revolution will gather pace in all areas of wine. If the print media continues to shrink at its current alarming rate, the internet will take over not only as the main source of information, but our wine buying too. The web has the power to break the near-monopoly of the supermarkets, as independents use it to break distribution channels and harness the world of quality wines from small growers. User-friendly applications like the new Tesco app will grow. With its label recognition technology, this new app lets you take a picture of the label and search the database to bring up all the information on that wine you need, including sharing information, rating the wine and shopping for it. It may not feel like it right now, but we really are on the verge of a new golden era of wine.
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