Alongside virtually every other industry catering to consumers, the wine industry had a difficult time in 2020. While there’s a sort of tongue-in-cheek counterargument pointing to the desire of many people to turn to small luxuries like wine as a means of coping with the stresses of 2020, the bottom line is that the industry was difficult to sustain. Stores and restaurants saw dramatically less activity; wine tourism and tasting were more or less impossible; marketing and shopping methods had to be adapted on the fly. And that’s all to say nothing of interruptions in wine production and supply chains.
None of that is meant to imply that wine wasn’t available in 2020. To be sure, if you wanted a bottle you could find one, one way or another. But the tumultuous year (and ongoing difficulty relating to COVID-19) did lead to shifts in how the wine industry operates. These in turn have begun to produce some trends that we expect to see continuing and/or emerging in 2021.
Movement Towards Canned Wine
Canned wine is not an entirely new concept, but it is one that more winemakers appear to be looking into. In recent years, this has seemed like a change in search of a trend. That is to say, it has seemed as if some companies producing wine at a fairly commercial level have begun to investing cans merely as a way of changing up their look. During the pandemic though, we began to see rising consumer demand for canned wine in the UK.
“Freedom of consumption” along with “ease of transportation” and “value for money” were cited as reasons for buying canned wine. In other words, consumers found that can were easier to handle and store, as well as cheaper to consume. These are handy benefits given how much more consumers are relying on the quickness and convenience of preferred shopping options, and considering how many consumers are facing a growing need to conserve finances. We expect many will continue to appreciate the perks of canned wine for these same reasons well into 2021 (though the trend could be limited in the long term).
More Delivery Options
We also expect to see continued momentum toward wine delivery in 2021. Some of this will come from the first sources you come to mind: major wine retailers and online delivery kit services that are catering to consumer needs during the pandemic. Some of it will come from restaurants as well though. Restaurant reinvention during the pandemic has included, in some cases, the creation of wine kits that establishments are selling directly to their customers.
We will also likely see more delivery activity associated with more all-encompassing online retail outfits as well though, in part because these will be the most affordable options. Free delivery from retail stores is available for a huge range of products, which in some cases do include bottles or cases of wine. Given how many more people are already relying on online shopping, and how many people are looking to save money, free delivery of bulk, retail wine could ultimately wind up being a more significant trend than more niche or specialist online wine shopping.
Innovative Tasting Opportunities
Wine tasting is a relatively large industry unto itself, and one that was forced to adapt and experiment somewhat in 2020. We have read, for instance, about tasting activities being conducted over Zoom, such that people can enjoy and analyse wine together remotely. And because it still seems likely that it will be a while before people can safely gather for ordinary tastings, we expect to see ongoing innovation on this front. Keep an eye out for more tasting kits, for instance — miniature wine collections that could be shipped to consumers such that they could sample different bottles and potentially participate in digital classes or discussions on those bottles.
A Q3 Tourism Boom
This may be more wishful thinking than a logical prediction. But with the massive caveat that we need to see a meaningful decline in viral spread due to widespread vaccinations, it may well be that we’ll begin to see a tourism spike in the latter half of 2021. People are itching to get out of their homes, and many can’t wait to take a trip or two as soon as it’s safe to do so. This, plus the justifiable desire many have to relax, treat themselves, and relieve some stress, would likely lead to a spike in wine tourism.
It’s difficult to say exactly where this would take place, and that may ultimately depend on the state of COVID-19 in different places as well. But those interested might want to consider some of the best wine tourism regions for 2020 — many of which went largely un-visited because of the pandemic. Place like Lombardy and Sicily in Italy and Alentejo, Portugal were highlighted as preferred destinations last year, and may make for safe and reasonable autumn tourism for UK wine lovers in 2021.
Time will tell if these ideas come to fruition. For now though, they’re among the trends we expect to define the wine industry for the year ahead.