Winebits 313: Wine trends, expensive wine, restaurants
• What’s next for wine in 2014? My pal W.R. Tish at Beverage Media has his predictions for next year, and they include price: “Since 2008, retailers have witnessed an unsurprising retreat in per-bottle spending, particularly among superpremium wines. The phrase ‘$20 is the new $40’ is not so much a trend as the new normal as people are finding great value in budget-friendlier options.” He is also enthusiastic about prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, for its combination of quality and value. What’s interesting here is that Tish writes for a trade magazine, and he is looking for trends that consumers will see on store shelves and restaurant wine lists. Which means pricing, no matter how much the industry wishes otherwise, is not returning to pre-recession levels any time soon.
• A very, very expensive wine: The most perfect bottle of wine in the history of the world, if the Winestream Media is to be believed, is the 1947 Cheval Blanc from Bordeaux in France. Someone who buys into that theory spent almost $200,000 recently for a case of the 1947, which got 100 points from Robert Parker. Said the agent for the buyer: “The price may seem high but compared to the true value of this lot, it’s not over the top.” Of course, what else would we expect him to say? By comparison, that $200,000 would have bought almost 1,700 cases of $10 Hall of Fame wine; three Porsche Boxster convertibles; or a 10-acre vineyard in Texas. I love wine, but if I had $200,000, it’s the Boxster.
• Restaurant sales remain depressed: One of the reasons why wine prices haven’t picked up is that Americans aren’t eating out as much, depressing demand for restaurant wine. That trend looks to continue in 2014, and may well force restaurants that sell wine to do the unthinkable — price wine more fairly. I have been hearing rumblings that this will happen next year, and will write more about it in January. I asked one expert, point blank, why this should happen now when it has never happened before, and she told me the situation is more serious than it has been in recent memory. There seem to have been cultural, demographic, and economic shifts related to the recession (and which the story in the link discusses) that indicate that Americans are going to eat out less and less.