There has been plenty of buzz about the recent death of high end wine sales.
Here is an article that says high end wines will bounce back.
This recent story plays it safe about whether high wine will return to its former glory days.
But today's article from Wines & Vines is my pick of the lot because it includes an actual survey based on consumer feedback , from Wine Opinions.
Wine consumers were relatively neutral about some of the statements, as is normal for surveys.
But consumers were crystal clear about two issues.
1. They are not buying expensive wine and have no plans to return to the category anytime soon.
2. Wine consumers remain very interested in organic and sustainable wine.
There are a few issues at hand here.
One is the economic 'adjustment' we have all experienced this past year which has slowed our spending in every sector.
The wine collectors who purchase high end Napa Cabs tend to be older and probably have wine cellars. So first of all, they can sit tight through this recession and just drink their cellared wine. Secondly, most people agree that the older generation was hit hardest by the stock crash and tightened their belts even more than their younger counterparts.
But the other issue is a shift in consumer knowledge and purchasing patterns. Common practice for older wine consumers has long been to impress their friends and associates with a wine's pricetag (i.e. their income).
Millennial and Gen X wine consumers want to impress their friends and associates with the wine's story (i.e. their knowledge). All the better if the wine is from a small family farm in Sicily that nobody has heard of and costs $16.
These generations demand authenticity and celebrate the 'small guy' producer. And as a result, I think they will be willing to spend substantially more per bottle when the story and the quality is there.
But I do believe it will become much more difficult for high end California wines that do not warrant their pricetag. Sure their real estate was expensive and so was all that new oak for the big Napa Cabernet they made. That does not mean you can arbitrarily slap a $75 pricetag on the bottle.
I sense that the strong and unflagging consumer interest in organic wines and 'real story' wines will push CA winemakers out of their comfort zones.
Perhaps we will enter a new phase of wonderment at all of the vast differences in CA terroir that up until now have oftentimes been masked by new oak abuse and over-ripe fruit.