The Merging of Winemakers, Consumers in the Evolving Bacchusphere

We’ve all been inundated with negative news that for months has been hard-hitting and persistent. The pandemic, the economy, the social unrest, the turbulent equity and bond markets have all taken their toll on us in unique ways.

As I presented in last week’s column, wine preferences are evolving. A number of consumers are experimenting with higher priced wines. They are discovering that higher prices may equate to higher quality. Crossing this threshold may be life altering for some in their wine-centric cosmos. 

This trend has evolved over the last decades as new wine consumers have come of age and entered the wine-buying marketplace.

And the wine industry has been responding. This progressive change has culminated in a realistic benefit to wine consumers.

The trend? Higher quality wines, of greater diversification and at lower prices – the QDP Index.

This value-to-price phenomenon has emerged over a number of years and is now hitting its full stride. Everywhere we shop for wine we see “new” grape varietals from previously unsung regions – all at higher quality levels than in the past. We are immersed in a global trend that embraces innovation but is firmly anchored in tradition, a trend that levers the tried and true with bold nuances. It is global yet highly localized.

Let’s explore the underpinnings and the ultimate consumer benefits of this trend.

In my opinion, the greatest impact on the QDP Index is sociological. There has been a generational shift in the focus of winemakers that is common to all winemaking regions. It has manifested itself in today’s generation of young men and women who have a newly-placed sensibility of the environment, a combination of global and local perspectives on winemaking and a perpetual eagerness to explore, experiment with and employ the latest trends in winemaking. These young winemakers bring to their craft the legacy of their forefathers coupled with the present-day awakenings of their peers around the globe.

Here is one example: In Spain, winemaking has been a tradition for thousands of years. And for those millennia, the craft of winemaking has been passed down from generation to generation with little change. Local palates had become accustomed to these wines and Spanish producers were able to eke out a living. Then along came the European Union in 1993 and a revolution began to take place.

Spain began to wake from its agrarian slumber and embraced the collective benefit offered by its membership. This meant a new purchasing power, the availability (read profitability) of unencumbered cross-border trading and the sharing of knowledge with sister countries. The sons and daughters of winemakers who came of age in this new era were sent to France and Italy to be educated in the latest techniques and technology being employed. In one fell swoop, Spanish wines leapt into the 20th century.

Today, wine consumers are enjoying significantly higher quality wines (thanks to a greater appreciation of natural farming and painstaking attention to natural wine making techniques) produced from diversified grapes not previously exported, all at prices well below comparable offerings from other countries. The QDP Index is clearly evident in the Albarino and Monastrell wines that have been revitalized after centuries of old-world styling – and in an affordable $10-to-$15 price range.  

Of course, these young winemakers needed a market in which to ply their wines. Herein lies the flip side of the QDP Index: the young generations of wine consumers.

In the United States, wine is becoming the preferred alcoholic beverage of both Generation X and the Millennials, in spite of press to the contrary. These new generations of consumers, always seeking new adventures, have found that wine offers a high-quality product that is broadly diversified at very affordable price points – and have brought young winemakers and their wine-consuming counterparts to new heights of mutual satisfaction.

The confluence of these factors will continue to expose consumers to new grapes, from revitalized wine regions, produced by maverick winemakers. Every wine-lover – of every generation – can enjoy the benefits of this positive trend.

Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is the co-chairperson of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at nantonaccio@theexaminernews.com or on Twitter @sharingwine.

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