Bottoms up: There's enough wine to go around
Go ahead and pop that cork — fears of a global wine shortage are overblown.
Industry analysts say better-than-expected production in some E.U. countries like Spain and Italy will help make up for a shortfall in France, and New World wine producing countries like Chile and the United States are cranking out a bumper crop.
Research issued by Morgan Stanley this week alarmed oenophiles with the warning that 2012 produced "the deepest shortfall in over 40 years of records," according to analyst Tom Kierath.
"As consumption turns to the 2012 vintage we expect the current production shortfall to culminate in a significant increase in export demand, and higher prices for exports globally," he wrote.
But consumers shouldn't cry in their wine just yet. Stephen Rannekleiv, a wine analyst at Rabobank International, an agricultural lender, said this decrease marked a return to a more typical level of production and wouldn't lead to bottles vanishing from store shelves.
"We didn't think of it as a shortage. We thought of it as moving closer to balance," he said. "We're coming out of close to a decade of a supply glut."
A new report from an industry trade group also offers hope for wine drinkers. "The vitivinicultural world has returned to 2006 production levels this year despite the persistent decline … of the global vineyard surface area," said a statement issued this week by the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine.
Part of the apparent contradiction can be chalked up to the complexity of trying to forecast how weather and other factors will affect grape harvests around the world in any given year.
"There's a lot of moving parts when you're trying to measure what's happening both with production and consumption, and there's not great visibility on what's happening in real time," Rannekleiv said.
"Last year, the position that we were moving to a tighter supply position certainly seemed justified," he said. But both Spain and Italy wound up producing much more than they initially predicted, and winemaking countries in the Southern Hemisphere, from South Africa to Chile to New Zealand, did well. In the United States, some California winemakers are actually running out of fermenting tanks to hold the juice.
And although the amount of farmland dedicated to growing wine grapes has shrunk, this doesn't necessarily mean harvests have dropped by a corresponding amount. Rannekleiv said improvements in technology and production infrastructure have increased the amount of wine that a vineyard can produce.
The OIV did say that last year's poor harvest could shake up supplies in the "bulk market" — cheaper wines made with grapes that come from all different places depending on which regions grew a bumper crop in a particular year.
"Consumers will still be able to find their favorite wines on the shelves although the grapes used to make those wines may be sourced from a different region," Adam Rogers, senior research analyst at the Beverage Information Group, said via email. "Wines from regions that suffered poor harvests due to inclement weather will mostly see the largest price increases."
"[Supplies of] Bordeaux and Burgundy will probably be tight," Rannekleiv said. This could mean higher prices for higher-end wines from some appellations, but prices are less likely to rise on cheaper wines, he said. "It probably won't be anything dramatic one way or another. Most importantly, he said, "There's plenty of availability."