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Vinexposium
/ 21 Jun, 2022
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Changing consumer patterns: which organoleptic profiles will appeal to consumers in 2030?

FINDINGS #2
20 JUNE 2022


SYMPOSIUM “ACT FOR CHANGE”
PANEL DISCUSSION: “CHANGING CONSUMER HABITS; 
WHICH ORGANOLEPTIC PROFILES WILL APPEAL TO CONSUMERS IN 2030?”



 

INTRODUCTION

On 20 and 21 June 2022, international professionals and experts gathered at the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux for the second edition of the Symposium “Act for Change”. These two days of talks were organised to shed light on the major changes and impacts on the production and distribution of wines and spirits by 2030. It was an opportunity to get together and discuss, exchange ideas, and work together to better prepare ourselves for the challenges that await the wine world in the coming years. 
When asked about what organoleptic profiles would appear by 2030, Cathy Van Zyl, Deputy Editor of Platter’s, said the South African market was changing to lighter wines. In return, Colin Hampden-White, Whisky Consultant, shared how the profiles of spirits are changing; they are becoming increasingly stronger in flavour in response to consumer expectations, as confirmed by Pierre Mansour, Wine Purchasing Manager for The Wine Society, who finds that climate change has shaken up consumption habits. Finally, Stéphanie Marchand-Marion pointed out that wines could survive the climate challenges of tomorrow, provided that the right balance is found regarding their composition, which is possible today in preparation for tomorrow.

SPEAKERS

This panel discussion was moderated by Jane Anson, a journalist specialising in wine, founder of janeanson.com, contributor to Decanter, and author of Inside Bordeaux. Around the table were Cathy Van Zyl MW, Deputy Editor for the South African wine guide Platter’s, Colin Hampden-White, Whisky Consultant and “Keeper of the Quaich”, Pierre Mansour, Wine Purchasing Manager for The Wine Society and Stéphanie Marchand-Marion, Lecturer at the University of Bordeaux.



THEME: WHAT ORGANOLEPTIC PROFILES WILL CONSUMERS PREFER IN 2030?

IN SOUTH AFRICA, WINE CONSUMPTION IS LOW BUT THE MARKET IS STILL DYNAMIC 

In South Africa, people usually tend to drink beer, but we’re trying to change the trend. With our wine guide Platter’s, we calculated that two million litres of beer were consumed in the country in 2020. Wine accounted for only 8.7% of alcoholic beverages consumed throughout the country. We also noticed that wine consumption has decreased. In the 2000s, wine consumption accounted for 11% of alcohol consumed in the South African market, compared to 8.7% today. Spirits, like beer, have seen an increase in their consumption. In 2000, the spirits market was worth around €99 million compared to €150 million in 2020. The big losers in South Africa are the more structured wines, both in white and red. 

Although consumers are shunning wines, the market remains very dynamic. Consumers are moving towards increasingly dry white wines. In detail, these more straightforward and acidic wines represent 42% of sales. As far as red wine is concerned, the trend has gone the other way. The well-structured red wines are no longer sought after by consumers. Customers are now moving towards lighter wines. Another notable fact is that only 2% of wines sell for more than 10 pounds, the equivalent of 12 euros, which is very low in the context of South Africa’s relatively high standard of living. 

In our 2022 guide, we also counted seven new types of wine that we did not have at all in the 2000s – proof that this market remains dynamic. There are nearly 200 wines that I would describe as alternative, subject to no legislation or legal classification. We are talking about long-aged white and rosé wines, some with as little as 4.5% alcohol. This is despite the fact that wines must have an alcohol content of between 6 and 16.5% to be considered wine in South Africa. At Platter’s we report about these wines and we want them to have a real legal classification. 

There is a real interest in these wines by consumers. For example, there are white wines made with skin-contact maceration, a winemaking process designed to extract aromas and aroma precursors from the grapes. Consumers are looking for wines that are lower in sulphur and with less alcohol. I’d say that these wines also respond to the general trend of searching for well-being, authenticity and, of course, sustainability. In fact, consumers are increasingly accepting and demanding “flavourful” wines, i.e. wines with fruity flavours but without sweetness or acidity. 

(Cathy Van Zyl MW, Deputy Editor for the South African wine guide Platter’s)

CONSUMERS ARE DEMANDING STRONGLY-FLAVOURED SPIRITS AND THE MARKET HAS BECOME MORE PROFESSIONAL AS A RESULT

First of all, I would like to start by saying that whisky is a rather unusual product, as it is usually the result of several blends. Whisky has a unique taste, with flavours of walnuts, hazelnuts and herbs. Until ten years ago, we didn’t understand how to mature whisky properly. We ended up with spirits aged for twelve years that were similar most of the time.

Nowadays, I feel that whiskies are of better quality. They have had to adapt to consumer demands which have increased over the years. The quality of single malt whiskies, i.e. from a single distillery, has increased a lot, such as in the use of oak to mature the whisky, which has also varied greatly according to taste. In short, I would say that industry professionals and consumers alike have been the driving force behind these changes: they have boosted the market.

Taste preferences for whisky have also changed. Consumers like spirits with smoky notes. This flavour originates mostly from Ireland, with nuances of peat and coal. Now, as proof that the market is dynamic, Germany produces some very good smoked whisky, as does the UK. In short, the market is adapting to consumer tastes.

This change is due in particular to exchanges between consumers on the one hand and producers on the other. Many shows, magazines and other key players discuss the latest fashionable flavours. In the past ten years, as you can imagine, trends have changed rapidly. Gins are now being flavoured, whereas before they were neutral. All spirits have diversified. Vodka is adopting this new trend as well. Vodka didn’t use to have any taste. Increasingly, it now does, thanks to using barley differently, for example. There is a lot of collaboration between key players in the world of spirits to achieve unique, inimitable tastes and this trend is likely to continue. 

In terms of adapting spirits production to climate change, the solution is mostly local. The main challenge is to harvest locally. There are many new distilleries that can boast of producing everything on a small scale. They can trace everything from the composition of the barrels in which the spirits are matured to the type of barley harvested. Everything is traceable. And this is what consumers are asking for. Marketing tells us that consumers increasingly want to know the source of what they are drinking.

(Colin Hampden-White, Whisky Consultant and “Keeper of the Quaich”)

THE RETURN OF “HONEST” WINES IN THE CONTEXT OF CLIMATE CHANGE IS SHAKING UP CONSUMPTION HABITS

The UK market, where I work, is very popular, not only for entry-level products, but also for specialised and even premium products. There is a lot of diversity and different organoleptic profiles, and this will continue to increase. There are refreshing wines and simpler wines with residual sugar. Each vintage is different and consumers are curious to discover all these differences.

I believe that the market has three distinct dynamics. The first is climate change, which is central to our clients’ concerns. In fact, 65% of consumers rank climate issues as a priority when choosing their wines. Unfortunately, producers do not yet have sustainable answers to these demands, although initiatives are emerging in response to this concern. They are the very expression of more eco-friendly practices, in estates where management to produce quintessential Bordeaux wines is a priority: I call these “honest wines”. They are the purest expression of the region. For me, the pioneer in this field is the wine from Beaujolais, a region located north of Lyon in France. It has fascinating fruitiness and is unusually crisp and fresh. In fact, people are looking for a wine with authenticity, one that is inimitable. We can also mention the wines of Santorini, in the Cyclades in Greece, where their fresh taste is irreplaceable.

This brings me to my second point. The weather is getting hotter and hotter, and buyers want fresh, light wines. They generally shun overly structured wines that leave a strong tannic taste in the mouth. But on the other hand, winters are going to get colder and colder. And in this context, customers will want to buy sweet white wines. Climate change is leading to more diversity in wines, up to 2030 and even beyond.

Finally, 70% of consumers want to adopt a healthier lifestyle. In the world of wine, healthier lifestyles mean fewer calories while making beverages with other characteristics. For example, people want drier, more brut wines. This new way of life even paves the way for alcohol-free wines. Moreover, people are eating less and less meat, some are vegans, others vegetarians; wines must therefore be adapted to this new diet.

(Pierre Mansour, Wine Purchasing Manager at The Wine Society)

CONTINUING TO DEVELOP TOOLS TO UNDERSTAND HOW WINE IS MADE, TO BETTER ANTICIPATE THE FUTURE

At the Bordeaux Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ISVV), which is one of the leading institutes in the field of wine in France and in the world, we carry out research in various areas. We study the soils, different types of vines, the resistance of grape varieties to climate challenges and even changing consumer behaviour in the wine industry. We offer short courses from one day to one week, for students and industry professionals and even one-year diploma programmes. We also house start-ups that work on energy transfer and offer various services. 

So we are looking closely at issues concerning the evolution of wine in the future. Personally, I study wines in relation to the latest trends in taste, both from a consumer and climate change perspective. More specifically, I work on the mechanisms of ageing wine, and especially the grands crus to understand the composition of future wines. I can say, for the moment, that the possibilities of how wine will change are drastically different compared to ten years ago. Specifically, even if we lack the tools to really understand the wines, 
our research is more precise. For example, I conduct experiments on carbon isotope indicators, atoms that have the same number of neutrons and electrons so they can remain neutral. With my team, we are also trying to understand whether the use of yeast or harvesting at a different time changes the flavours of the wines.
Our results show a clear change in flavours over the past fifteen years. At the time, it was difficult to remove unwanted aromas from wine, as they broke down its natural taste. Nowadays, wines are much better. By 2040, according to our predictions, producers will have to find a balance regarding the level of sulphites, as climate change increasingly affects crops. It will also be necessary to fine-tune the relationship between the level of alcohol and the way the wine is aged. 

(Stéphanie Marchand-Marion, Lecturer, University of Bordeaux)
 

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