Q1 is a time for review in the wine industry. How did 2021 take shape? What do the trends mean for 2022?
As various industry reports are being released, we thought it would be fun to take a look back on 2021 ourselves. Being a team of fulfillment specialists affords us a privileged point of view here. We can speak to wine sales and the DTC channel having seen it up close, on the ground. We see the actual orders going out the door to customers.
And what we see is this—the industry has gone through some substantial changes, no doubt about it. The “necessity is the mother of invention”’ principle is prevailing, which makes us optimistic about what the rest of the year has in store.
Here are three trends to watch in 2022:
Tasting Rooms Have Evolved, and Will Continue to Do So
One of the biggest changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was its effect on tasting rooms. We’re not talking about tasting rooms closing and re-opening; we’re talking about how it accelerated a trend that was already under way.
Many tasting rooms now offer “reservation only” experiences, citing both safety concerns and staffing issues. Most are charging fees for these reservations. And people are more than happy to pay, thanks to the combination of scarce seating opportunities and pent-up demand from the pandemic.
But the real trend here is the word experiences. Many tasting rooms extended their outdoor areas for safety concerns but learned that these were a great way to showcase the property. Added events and perks created a fun atmosphere. Instead of hopping from tasting venue to tasting venue, patrons are picking an experience to have and making an event of it. We expect that this trend will continue, with venues trying to outdo each other when it comes to attracting and retaining tasting room patrons—while also figuring out ways to accommodate all that demand.
Challenges to the Ecosystem Are Driving Innovation
There’s no doubt that the ecosystem in California has been challenged over the years, both by wildfires and by drought. Those challenges have meant that vignerons are looking at new ways to grow grapes, even when conditions are less than ideal.
For example, we are seeing more vineyards turn to dry farming—foregoing irrigation and depending only on natural rain for grapes. Others are using satellite imaging and drones to measure water uptake and crop health, allowing them to precisely control conditions for individual patches of land. Still others have experimented with using grow lights to produce more light in higher elevations. And everyone is watching how automation can be implemented for harvest to directly combat a dire labor shortage.
Granted, these technologies have been talked about for some years now. What is exciting is seeing more and more vineyards trying new things and finding ways to adapt. Conditions might change, but the people in this industry are resilient…which is why we predict even more innovative things in the year to come.
Online Availability Has Skyrocketed
There are now more wines being sold online than ever before, thanks to COVID restrictions that left consumers wanting to have their favorites delivered to their homes. We saw wineries of all sizes really put time and money into their websites and online stores, leaning heavily on the DTC wine sales channel.
But online sales mean more than that, too. Wineries are discovering ways to create online experiences (there’s that word again!) that can stand in for more traditional tasting room visits. This includes everything from virtual tastings and email marketing campaigns to culinary experiences with world-famous chefs. In 2021, online channels made ordering easy but now are also changing how wineries build their brands.
What’s Next for 2022?
If we all learned something over the past few years, it’s that you can’t really predict the future, because the future can always throw a curveball. But you can look at trends and be prepared for any number of possibilities.
We can’t help but be optimistic going forward here in 2022. Consumers have become accustomed to buying wine online but are also eager to get into tasting rooms to have a more intimate experience. All that demand means that wine will sell, and it will be cost-effective to try new and innovative things, whether you are a grower, a vintner, a marketer, or a channel manager.
With a little hard work and ingenuity, 2022 could be a great year.