Wine industry specialists from around the world share their take on 2015. (For week of 4 January 2016)
We asked wine industry insiders for their opinions on the wine trends that emerged in 2015. Their comments across both established/mature and emerging/maturing markets prove that choices around wine production and consumption are varied and complex.
Juggernauts such as Prosecco have hit headlines across the world, and global wine lovers have talked about the high quality of newly emerging English sparkling. But clearly trends are otherwise variously influenced by geography, culture, tradition, politics and economics, rendering winemaking and marketing a complicated business indeed.
Tersina Shieh, winemaker and wine marketer, Hong Kong: China’s anti-corruption campaign continued to have a negative effect on the market but at the same time younger consumers are more enthusiastic about wine, and they purchase wine to drink rather than for gifting. China will emerge as a more sustainable market in 2016.
Ross Edward Marks, director of retail development at Bangkok Beer & Beverage, Thailand: 2015 has been quite difficult for consumers and importers alike. A contracting economy, changing tax structures, stricter enforcement of the Alcohol Control Act, political and terrorist unrest and a sharp change in the demographics of the average tourist (more budget-oriented Chinese and Indian) have shaped the landscape to make wine more expensive and reduce consumption. However, the demand for premium wine among wealthy Thais has continued as usual.
Gustavo Magarinos, manager of Wines of Uruguay: So far 2015 is the greatest vintage of the new century and it will be a new record on fine wine exports. Climate change is affecting us positively as the tendency now is for drier summers as part of our maritime climate (Uruguay produces the only South American wines of the Atlantic Ocean).
Wilson Kwok, wine writer, Hong Kong: In 2015 we have seen how climatic change has influenced the grape harvest in various wine-producing countries in the northern hemisphere, for better or for worse. “I have also been thinking how ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ wine can be in the first place?”
Brinda Bourhis, director, Winevox, France: France’s number one cooperative group, Val d’Orbieu, changed its brand identity and changed its name to Vinadeis. It is exciting to see cooperatives such as this one, based in the Languedoc, taking on a challenge in the highly competitive international wine market. Their ambition is clear: build a leading French brand recognized worldwide, and demonstrate that cooperatives don’t only make entry-level wines. “The new strategy by Vinadeis was a highlight for me in 2015, and definitely one to watch in 2016.”
Pascal Kessedjian, wine advisor, Harrods: In 2015 it was announced that Taittinger will be producing “premium” English sparkling wine in Kent, highlighting the worldwide steady rise in fame of English sparkling wine. It is a further sign that in a near future there could be a steep increase in the demand for premium sparkling wines from emerging markets, which needs to be managed. As the best vineyards in Champagne cannot step up their yield to match the challenge and maintain their quality credentials, alternative sites for plantings overseas is becoming a necessity. “I won’t even consider the influence of global warming in the decision here, however, 10 years from now, it may well have been a great foresight for Taittinger with this strategic move in England.”
Maggie Mak, sommelier, Maze by Gordon Ramsay, London: Behind all the tragedies of 2015 is the Syrian wine Bargulas, referred to as “the finest wine produced in the Eastern Mediterranean” by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson in the 7th edition of The World Atlas of Wine. This winery has only 12 hectares of land situated in north-west Syria at the town of Latakia, close to places controlled by ISIS: producing and exporting this wine can be dangerous. The Bargulas Chardonnay Sauvignon 2009 is available in some top restaurants in London, but not available in Syria itself. “If you are looking for something unique and rare, or a Chardonnay with complexity, this is the pick.”
Don Berger, chef/patron, don’s Bistro, Hanoi (Subs, lower case is correct): What’s happening in Hanoi is as it was in Hong Kong. The Vietnamese are spending the money, while the expats are much more budget-minded. The Vietnamese are most excited about high-alcohol reds from Chile, Bordeaux and Italy; and bottles need deep punts to impress!
Debra Meiburg MW, Hong Kong: In Hong Kong, people are slowly beginning to appreciate white wine. “For the first time ever, I was invited to a number of white wine-only tastings! 2015 also saw the rise and rise of sparkling wine and Champagne. Bubbles have been on the global agenda also with both Prosecco and sparkling wine produced in England stealing headlines throughout the year. 2015 saw the consolidation of value versus brand movement, which signals a real maturation of the Hong Kong market. Further to this, there is also a genuine interest in diversity with Georgia, Italy, Slovenia and other regions cropping up more frequently. We’ve also seen increased formation of informal wine appreciation groups, many using Whatsapp to connect and share.”