The wine industry has always been a place of continual change, be it with winemaking, viticulture or consumer tastes. But the future? It's going to be even more dramatic.
Climate change, for instance, is going to lead to an earthquake across the board. Yet, look at the movements seen in the Bordeaux - while the region's championing of Cabernet Sauvignon for cellar-worthy red wines has been emulated around the world, we're now seeing the first steps to change the Bordeaux varietal mix by experimentation with a number of grape varieties, an idea that would have been inconceivable only a decade ago.
However, one of the greatest developing challenges to the global wine industry has to be the changing attitudes to alcohol. Many people are increasingly striving to lead a healthier and more productive life, with alcohol consumption seen by some as contrary to those aims.
This is happening across the age spectrum, too, with drinkers young and old looking to reduce consumption, cut it out altogether or never take it up. According to the IWSR, 71% of Australians are planning to consume less or zero alcohol in 2022, with most respondents (65%) reporting that they are keen to discover new low or no alcohol drinks.
Already, Australians have reduced per capita alcohol consumption by ten per cent over the last ten years. With the passing of older generations - who have traditionally been a strong market for the wine industry - that trend could potentially accelerate. An increasingly diverse and multi-cultural society, whereby many younger Australians have at least one parent from a culture where the consumption of alcohol is not a traditional component of everyday life, is another factor. It means that younger generations will not replace a drop in volumes of wine consumed by older consumers as they reach the age of 18.
For decades the beer industry has worked on these challenges, first with low alcohol beer and, more recently, alcohol-free beer. With long experimentation and technical advances, the brewing industry can now produce a high-quality product with beer like characters and lower or zero alcohol. In a short period, these have now become an accepted part of the beer industry, no longer frowned upon as they once were. The brewing industry has done an exceptional job at pivoting to respond to the changing needs of its customers. The same can not be said of the wine industry, although that is changing. Arguably, the industry has already handed brewers first place in the fight for the low and zero alcohol consumer. Much of this probably relates to the fact that the industry is often production rather than market lead - where we often make products and then find a market for them.
Today more and more wine producers are finally playing in the zero and low alcohol space, responding to the changing demands of wine consumers. But there is another attractive piece to this puzzle: zero alcohol and low alcohol wines may potentially, although not overnight, open up vast untapped markets via followers of various religions that frown on the consumption of alcohol (especially Hinduism and Islam). There are also many Christians who also choose to abstain from drinking. With over two billion Muslims alone worldwide, the market potential is obvious. The wine industry, particularly its most prominent players, can not afford to ignore the low and zero alcohol market segments. There is little doubt these will make up a vital category in the coming decades.
Now is the time for low alcohol wine!Read more about the zero alcohol wine show here. Entries close 29th April.