By Quentin Havaux
One of the main goals of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is to observe, recognize and inform about current trends in the wine industry. For our forecasts for 2019, we looked at the most recent developments in the wine market and compared them with our data.
Wine consumption driven by the health and wellness trend
The focus on health and wellness is also influencing consumers’ choice of wine.Today’s consumers are aware of the origin and production methods of wine, thus increasingly favoring organic winesas a symbol of higher quality. Recognizing this development, CMB introduced an “Organic Wine Trophy” two years ago.
Entries of organic and biodynamic samples to CMB have gradually increased over the past 10 years and have more than doubled since 2015. The organic wines, which receive the highest number of accolades come mostly from Italy, France, Spain, China, Greece and Moldova.
Veganism, one of the fastest-growing consumer trends, is also expected to be reflected in wine production in 2019, leading to more vegan-friendly wines, with key information on the label.
There is also a growing interest in low-alcohol winesand wine-based alternatives with lower alcohol content. In terms of consumer preferences, experts believe that in 2019 light, vibrant red wines will lead the way.
At the same time, climate change is affecting the levels of residual sugar in wines and prompting vineyards to be moved to higher ground, or farther north in Europe and North America.
“One of the greatest challenges in the future will be to produce wine which is fresh, fruity, pure and with lower alcohol content”, comments Baudouin Havaux, Chairman of the CMB.
In 2019, consumers will not only be increasingly aware of the type of wine they drink but also of the way they drink it. A trend towards more balanced wine consumptionis gaining traction, where wine is viewed as part of a meal rather than a drink on its own.
Premium wine for Chinese consumers
Despite China’s slowing economy the country is expected to increase its wine imports by 8 % in 2019, according to the International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR). The estimated rise is seen as a result of the increasing number of young consumers choosing wine over baijiu and other alcoholic beverages and older consumers switching to wine for its perceived health benefits.
And although domestic wine production is declining in volume, the quality of Chinese winescontinues to rise.
The 2018 CMB host country posted an increase of 168% in medalscompared to 2017. Interestingly, the most expensive wines with a CMB award in last year’s competition were from China. Internationalvarietals grown in China also performed well: the county won the highest number of medals for Cabernet-Sauvignon.
“In the future, our children and grandchildren will drink Chinese wine of the highest quality”, said Baudouin Havaux, Chairman of the CMB at the official opening of the competition in Beijing in May 2018. “A country once famous for tea-drinking, China may soon become one of the world’s largest wine consumers. And what consumers in the leading global economy want is premium wine.”
High-Potential Export Markets
WhileChina will continue to be an attractive market for exporters, industry insiders believe Singapore, the Czech Republic and Taiwan have the highest potential as new wine markets over the coming five years.
Although the Czech Republic has the highest per capita beer consumption in the world, at 150 litres annually, wine is increasing in popularity and over the past two years the country has registered remarkable growth in wine imports (mostly from Georgia).
International and indigenous varieties
Production of international varieties has grown across the globe. International varietals will continue to be popular and attract crowds of devoted fans. “Fine wine is made in many different parts of the world”, comments Thomas Costenoble, Managing Director of the CMB. “Varieties that were once native have become international and are similarly of excellent quality”.
At the same time, a stronger focus will be put on indigenous wines. The future of the wine industry may be in indigenous varieties. Increased wine knowledge amongst consumers is likely to make them more inquisitive and eager to experiment. In 2019 consumers will be increasingly looking for specific, local wines and for the varieties that they can’t pronounce.
Countries growing mostly local varieties and entering their best local products in the CMB were rightly distinguished by the competition’s judges. In 2018 Italyreceived medals mostly for wines from the native varieties Primitivo,Sangiovese and Montepulciano. Portugal and Greece, two countries growing hundreds of indigenous varietals, gained their highest share of medals for their country-specific Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, Savatiano (in Greece) and Touriga Nacional, Castelão, Touriga Franca, Baga(in Portugal).The highest number of Swiss medals was awarded to theindigenous Chasselas, the most common white grape variety planted in around 27% of the country’s vineyards.
Consumers may be willing to pay more for something a bit unusual. Lesser known wine producing countries may get more of a look-in. The next CMB host country, Switzerland, a country more famous for its watches and private banking than its wines, registered a 16.6% increase in the number of medals, including Grand Gold (2018 vs 2017). Albania, the Czech Republic and Kazakhstan witnessed a good success ratio in 2018, and Bulgaria has secured Grand Gold recognition for three years in a row (2016~2018).
 In China the variety is planted over 60,000 ha- the largest global area of Cabernet.
 Italy’s vineyards are primarily planted with native varieties.