Predictions are often carelessly thrown together lists, since few people remember them 10 years later. Who is going to call the author after a decade and complain about his boneheaded observations? Still, I confess to having given the following 12 predictions considerable thought. Moreover, I am confident that they will come true sooner rather than later.
1 Distribution will be revolutionized
I predict the total collapse of the convoluted three-tiered system of wine distribution in the United States. The current process, a legacy of Prohibition, mandates that all foreign wines must be brought into the country by an importer, who sells them to a wholesaler, who sells them again to a retailer. Most U.S. wineries sell to a distributor, who in turn sells the wines to a retailer. It is an absurdly inefficient system that costs the consumer big bucks. This narrowly restricted approach (blame all the lobbyists funded by powerful liquor and wine wholesalers) is coming to a dramatic endhastened in part by the comparative ease of ordering wine over the Internet. Differing federal court opinions over the last decade have insured that eventually the Supreme Court will have to rule on whether wineries can sell directly to whomever they wish, whether it is a wholesaler, retailer or consumer. Imagine, if you can, a great Bordeaux château, a tiny estate in Piedmont or a small, artisanal winery in California selling 100 percent of its production directly to restaurants, retailers and consumers. I believe it will be possible by 2015.
2 The wine Web will go mainstream
Internet message boards, Web sites tailored for wine geeks and state-of-the-art winery sites all instantaneously disseminate information about new wines and new producers. Today the realm of cyberspace junkies and hardcore Internet users, these sites will become mainstream in 10 years. A much more democratic, open range of experts, consultants, specialists, advisors and chatty wine nerds will assume the role of today's wine publications.