The State of Wine 2018 – James Melendez

Firstly and importantly, this year (2018) has been challenging…. only a month and week and half in.  I feel like I have lived half a year in those few weeks.

It hasn’t been all negative or all positive but an admixture of both.  My continuous education has been great so far–accomplished more this year so far than previous years in this time frame.  Though I work double hard to keep my skills set sharply focused and the acquisition of knowledge continuous and I make sure I do this early in the year.

I started exercises at beginning of year which was good; had to stop a bit due to a fall on my shoulder –not while exercising but while shopping; it was a superbly rainy day.  I always wear tire-grade shoes with additional grippers.  Note to self: I won’t go out again on a day life than and order things on Instacart.

I have spent way too much time on YouTube’s major changes to smaller producer community (yes, that includes me).  Thank you YouTube and Logan Paul.

***

Now onto wine.

I did visit Temecula for this first time at the beginning of the month.  Some initial thoughts were I was expecting a much larger region.  I thought while looking at a map it seemed larger than it was–not a larger drive like going through Napa, Willamette Valley of other wine regions.

There were fewer producers and often the facilities were larger.  All wineries had tour buses and were packed.  Many of the wineries require customers to pay before going to the tasting bar–maybe it is due to crowds?

I noticed that there were several larger operations with a hotel, restaurant a winery–a very foreign concept when compared with Napa or Sonoma.  Me and my tasting mates did struggle to find sparkling wine–we eventually found some.  Wine varieties tended to be Bordeaux, Rhone and Italian varieties–I counted about 20 varieties and some grapes coming from neighbouring Cucamonga AVA namely Zinfandel from the Lopez Vineyard.

I liked the experience but was not in love with it either.  I am of course open to tasting new wines and new vintages from Temecula.

***

While State of Wine sounds like a large topic and it is I think my article is centered on a few thoughts and potential trends.  Not meant to be a formal address of all wine regions and producers.

  • US wine market will grow modestly this year (Silicon Valley Bank Premium Wine Division – predicting slowing sales)
    • Napa overwhelming proliferation of labels will obviously continue and perhaps some price barriers will be hit for this years release i.e. no continuous runaway price points (higher than inflation or high single digit increases in pricing is not sustainable)
    • Because of Napa’s massive proliferation of labels is concerning because at some point the region’s production becomes more and more commoditized (which is truly the opposite of the desire of many Napa Valley Producers)
    • Please read this is not a criticism of Napa Valley fruit or any specific producer – I have always appreciated Napa Valley wines
    • There are probably more labels in the Napa Valley AVA than any other wine region on the planet (compare that with neighbouring AVAs)
  • The US market for imports will remain healthy and wine promotion of global wines will be as intense as last year
  •  Wine marketing like all marketing objectives is nearly solely obsessed with millennials; and while it is one of many segments there are still lively markets of non-millennials that is often ignored and even under-served; in my thought it represents opportunity
  • I am concerned about a year of drought in the Western US; amazingly dry and warm–if dry and warm now–what will later this year be like.  My neighbourhood in San Francisco was 114 degree Fahrenheit on the hottest day ever last year of 106 (the City’s official high temp) on September 1, 2017
    • Might this year have a higher Growing Degree Days (GDD) (a continuous trend?)–I think this year is a nearly a certain yes
    • Early budding, early picking–Yes.  But if this developing into a long-term trend for higher than average temps how might that be changing in traditionally cooler sclimated
      • In my hamlet of San Francisco fog seems to be so rare when at one time it is was quite common a considerable portion of the year
    • And what about fire condition in the driest areas of California this year?  Is California prepared?  I am very concerned that California is not prepared for another year like last year

In San Francisco wine events are as challenged as ever for space coupled with difficulty from CA ABC on where events can be held and under what circumstances is a huge challenge.  San Francisco’s loss of the Concourse Exhibition Center & Trade Show was a major loss for event and for a civic life in The City.  Was the space perfect or ideal–no not at all but it was space for a city that prides itself on events.  The sunset of event space is upon the City.

San Francisco lack of civic leaders and civil leadership has led the City where it is today.  Great if you work in one of the city’s newly minted skyscrapers or have ultra wealth to the buy the home of your dreams in the sky.  The lack of event space has been by design–condos king and everything else a minor manordom.  The City from above looks fabulous but the ground is cracking and the lack of infrastructure is evident when trying to get around the city in car, foot or public transport

The City has hosted many wine events both trade/media and consumer.  It has been the consumer that have hurt the most–a struggle to find where to hold a consumer event.  It is also about marketing… how to market with less paper and more digital.  I have been to some very vibrant consumer tasting which tells me that consumer wine events are not downtrending but there is quite a market for this type of tasting. So there is considerable opportunity but the holdback on cost of venue and the simple availability is out of reach for many.

The trade/media tasting will go on because they have budgeted for more expensive venues.  I have never been to wine tasting event in San Francisco where it was partially empty.

Twitter tastings–I like them and I think there is a good way to capture impressions with analytics from Twitter or other platforms.

I think the best are where there are hosts like Frank Morgan’s Virginia Wine Chat versus just a Twitter tasting where impressions are recorded tweet by tweet.   I have only seen one cross my desk this year and I do think there may be fewer this year.  But there could also be an uptick in the back half of the year which has happened in the past.

Wine influencers–on the wane?

Firstly, I think ‘wine blogger’ is an antiquated term that describe only one of many things a person might do as opposed to pulling out the spice rack of possibilities for online treatment of wine.

To a small degree Yes but only with those who are have not been writing, Tweeting, Instragramming or YouTubing on wine for a while – I do see a pull back.  But for the established writer, videographer a need from producers to leverage influencers is certainly there and does represent an opportunity.  This is the case with many other industries – beer, fashion, food, technology, travel, etc.  I do see an opportunity to leverage their influencers more.  I see many producers where I get a sample of wine or wines without a simple ‘like’ or retweet.  I know for myself I do ask “why am I doing this” for a specific producer?  Being a wine influencer is a partnership and the both are in a win-win position when either PR, marketing or producer does something simple by acknowledging, liking or even posting to a Facebook like page.

I do get acknowledgements (likes, FB postings, LinkedIn postings etc) from a small majority of producers in the early 50% range.  There is nearly another 50% who do nothing.

I remember I gave a talk in Spain about social media and wine and I asked a simple question how many had a Twitter account over 2/3rds raised their hand and then I asked how many posted weekly and the hands came down dramatically –perhaps that number was 10% of the 2/3rds posted weekly.   Now, this is not unique amongst just Spanish producers, I believe this is the case with all wine producers with social media presence.

One of my closing comments on social media and wine for that presentation is that social media is what we have always dreamed about… a great and FREE tool.  There are truly few nearly free things in life.  And yes social media does cost in terms of time to update, review and analysis but it need not be an overwhelming amount of time devoted especially for a smaller producer.

I hope each year is a spectacular vintage for all wine producers and I do hope for more wines from lesser known regions make it to US shores.  I was so excited when I was in Orange County and found a Crémant de Luxembourg of all things?!   Luxembourg was on my list to taste.   Here is my posting: My Wine Tasting Wish List 2018  In most years I rarely if never get all of the wines I want to taste.  To get a wine this early was remarkable–could be a good sign.

We do live in not just interesting but great wine times–I hope you have a great wine tasting year ahead!

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

© 2018 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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