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Sommelier Bees, Floating Vineyards and Other Amazements


I came across the new “Future of Wine” report by the London wine merchant, Berry Brothers and Rudd, and it contains some predictions that are real eye-openers. I offer no comments; this is just to share.

Berry Brothers and Rudd has been selling wine for 310 years, and they tend to take the long view. The new report looks 50 years ahead, to the year 2058. Here are some of its more startling prophecies:

-China will be the world’s leading wine producer, with Cabernet Sauvignon “to rival the best of Bordeaux” and world-class Chardonnay. “China has the vineyards, but not the technical expertise,” the report says. But that will change in the future.

-India also will be a source of fine wine and is “likely to challenge the supremacy of traditional winemaking countries.”

-Global warming will lead to a “radical shake-up of the wine world.” Warmer regions, such as California, will simply become too hot to produce fine wine, and Australia “will be too hot and arid to support large areas of vine.” Meanwhile more northerly nations, including Canada, Ukraine and Poland, “could feature more prominently, especially when they attract investment.”

-Global warming also will lead to the UK being able “to produce sparkling wines similar to Champagne itself.”

-”Big brand wine could be grape or blend specific, rather than from a particular country.” What this means is that instead of a big brand (Mouton-Cadet, Lindeman’s, Gallo) making wine from a single country or region, “Grapes will be gathered from all over the world and blended to suit consumers’ tastes.” This means that instead of ordering a glass of Aussie Shiraz or California Merlot, consumers might order a Gallo red or Lindemans white.

-Genetically-modified grapes will result in varieties that are resistant to disease, while designer yeasts will produce lower-alcohol and reduced-calorie wines.

-With land use in greater demand, vintners will turn to hydroponically-grown vines grown in off-shore floating vineyards.

-Glass bottles will be a thing of the past. Instead, wine will be “put into plastic or reinforced cardboard containers” sold in a variety of sizes.

-Cork also will be history, with screwtops, stelvin, glass stoppers and other man-made closures replacing it. The most expensive wines will be closed with “a synthetic ‘smart cork’ embedded with a chip hardly larger than a grain of rice. The smart cork can hold pages of information about wine, its producer and its provenance, and the chip can both send and receive information – bringing an end to fake bottles.”

-If there are still any corks left, honeybees, which have an exquisitely fine sense of smell, will be trained to sniff out corked bottles before they’re opened. “By 2058, every sommelier could have their own personal bee.”

-The finest wines will continue to be seen as attractive investments, “with futures markets and hedge funds capitalising on interest in the leading châteaux.” Along the same lines, “global bidding wars for the top wines” mean that “prices will continue to rise inexorably over the next 50 years until fine wine becomes the preserve of the very rich.” A case of 2005 Lafite-Rothschild, currently worth about $17,000, will be worth nearly $20 million in 2058. (!!!)

Readers, what are your predictions about wine for the year 2058?

  1. This is truly enlightening, as I had not thought of futures regarding wine. Canadian wines, for instance, have done nothing for me (taste-wise) in the past, but I will begin to look into that world now and consider investing sometime down the road.

  2. Steve,
    First, it’s about time I get to take advantage of what you know. My Napkin and other California wine experience is a bit dusty.
    Second, BBR is good. I’d like to be around to see what we pour in 2058. (But I doubt it).
    Third, do you think California is truly on the edge of wine? And what about clonal and yeast manipulation? Who benefits? Will it make white zinfandel better?
    Go Steve!

  3. Hi Kathy,
    I hope you are indeed around in 2058 and healthy! Say hello to the sommelier bees for me. As for California being on the edge of wine, I guess it depends on what you mean by the edge. I sometimes wish Cali winemakers [and growers] were more adventurous in growing some of the less traditional varieties. But I understand the market well enough to know that it would be awfully hard to sell something called “Tinta Cao” even if it was a good wine! Finally, to paraphrase Woody Allen (in “Sleeper”), maybe someone in the year 2058 will say, “Can you imagine that back in the 20th century, people didn’t realize that White Zinfandel is the world’s greatest wine?”


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