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A Year of Wine In Review (2020)

Written by Madeline Puckette

When you look back on 2020, you may not be able to fight the urge to drink directly from the decanter. No one’s judging you.

What really happened in wine in 2020? Reality is stranger than fiction.

There’s Never Enough Wine – Year of Wine In Review (2020)

You can’t hurry through a vintage, even if sometimes you want to hit the “Skip” button and never look back. But, it would be a shame not to reflect on those highs, lows, and hilarious moments that made 2020 such a pivotal year in wine.

Governments are getting their greasy paws all over wine sales.

Getting a great bottle of wine just got a lot more difficult thanks to international trade policies. 😢

  • US levels second tariff against European alcohol, causing US imports of French wine to drop by half.
  • Europe responds to US tariffs by shifting wine exports to China.
  • China kicks Australian wine trade in the gut with 212% tariff. Drink some Australian wine right now!
  • The South African government locks down wine exports, cutting a $600M per year industry in half. Time to stock up on South African Cabernet!

Kelly Muller managed to capture 2020 in one photo of her 82-year-old mum and it went viral. via fb

Total wine sales are up! But, it’s not exactly what you think.

Total sales volume for wine during 2020 is up substantially. Sales peaked to nearly 30% more during March–May compared to 2019. What are people buying?

  • Wine sales got dominated by Sparkling wines and wine-based cocktails.
  • Big brands pushed tons of wines this year, while small winery brands dependent on in-person sales suffered.
  • People felt the need to stock up and we saw a large increase on box wine sales.

Independent wineries had to get creative selling wine this year.

With restaurants closures during COVID wineries had to get creative. There was a massive uptick in virtual tastings, live streams, and online sales in wine this year.

Here are some of the more creative sales efforts:

Wildfires have become a yearly challenge in California – Firefighters battle flames in Hidden Valley. 2013. Source: Daria Devyatkina via CC BY 2.0 No changes.

Climate change is in full effect.

Back in 2015 we reported on a climate change study pointing to several wine regions becoming “unsuitable” by year 2050. This year we got to really experience what that actually feels like.

  • Germany experienced its ninth warm winter, which resulted in nearly all of the Ice Wine makers missing the target.
  • California and Oregon get hit hard by wildfires in late summer, destroying a dozens of wineries, homes, and in some places, the entire grape harvest…
  • A proactive British company invents a paper wine bottle using recycled material. It saves on waste, stores as easily as glass, and insulates better! Drinking from a paper bag has finally achieved the elegance it deserves.
  • For wineries, there is now an all-electric tractor that can run without a driver.

So many spills of tasty red in 2020. Source: gromgull via CC BY 2.0 No changes.

A massive surplus of wine leads to a mysterious boon in accidental wine spills and celebrity wines.

We’ve been swimming in an ocean of wine as of late. It seems like every week there’s a new celebrity coming out with a rosé (Post Malone and Kylie Minogue), a “pure” wine (Cameron Diaz), or a bottle of badassery (Snoop Dog and Mary J Blige).

What’s weird is all the mysterious reports of wine spills and new wine-based distillates.

The wine industry takes a hard look at itself in the mirror… and doesn’t like what it sees.

This year, more than ever before in Wine Folly’s short decade in the business, we’ve observed the wine trade take a serious look on racism and sexism within its own ranks. Some big changes are on the horizon, and they were partially inspired by the efforts of a few trail blazers.

  • Penny Prentice’s “Uncorked” film hit Netflix, chronicling a young African American man’s journey to become a sommelier. It becomes the first Black-lead wine-focused narrative in popular media.
  • Tahiirah Habibi from Hue Society got personal on IGTV about her experience pursuing a sommelier program and being forced to say “Master.” It broke out across the wine sphere and eventually lead to the Court of Masters ceasing use of the word “Master” in their programming.
  • Victoria James releases her memoir “Wine Girl,” helps encourage others to step forward in the #metoo movement in the wine industry.
  • A group of 27 women reveal sexual misconduct in the Court of Master Sommeliers which causes us to take a serious look their wine education and mentorship program.

All in all, everyone has had a serious thirst for wine. And, it got to our heads…

Raise a glass to 2020… and wave it goodbye. Let’s do a better job in 2021 shall we?

It’s been an interesting year, a stressful year, and a year of change. Enjoy a good bottle and see it out the door in style. Got any news from 2020 the world needs to know? Jump in the comments and send over a link.

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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