Yesterday a reporter for U.S. News & World Report called to discuss the global wine glut.
It was the kind of interview where you can spend hours answering a seemingly endless stream of questions.
Reporters are like that. So are complex subjects, such as wine gluts.
The last time I spoke with this reporter, three years ago, I spent about an hour talking about various wine trends. When the story came out, I think my thoughts had been reduced to one sentence, or one paragraph.
This time when he called, I said, let’s cut to the chase: Yes, there is a wine glut. But it’s not with the elite wines of the world.
A year ago, a vintner from Australia told me that his country could probably skip an entire vintage and still have a healthy supply of wine. (This year, a severe frost cut the crop size drastically and may reduce that glut.)
This morning I read a story about how too much wine is being produced in European countries--France, Italy and Spain in particular, where consumption has declined. Their solution to the oversupply: Distilling excess wine and turning grapes into fertilizer, according to the story.
There is also an oversupply of grapes and wine in California, which is probably a good thing, since it keeps prices down. But of course it’s not good news for those who are growing grapes or making wine in areas where there isn’t sufficient demand.
Elsewhere, as wine becomes more popular, more countries are producing it. It won’t be long, we’re told, before the middle classes in China and India become target consumers. Both countries will also continue to make strides as winegrowers.
Trouble is, predicting consumer trends based on agricultural models is always challenging. Just when you think you need more vineyards, there are too many.
All this is a reminder that at the end of the day, for all its glamour and glitz, wine is farming, subject to the vagaries of nature and consumer whims.
When will the gluts end? When people drink more wine than producers can make.
When will that happen?
Read our previous articles about the wine glut in Australia and in Europe.