Comment - The Losh Cause: What's (not?) going to happen in 2010
The one consistent prediction coming from everyone's crystal ball is that 2010 is going to be a tough year for the global wine industry. Chris Losh, however, believes that the next 12 months will still throw some surprises up for us. And some might be darn near unbelievable.
The Champagne industry does its best to put a positive spin on 2009's sales figures - the worst for decades. "It's not so bad. We sold 250 cases last year," says a spokesman for Moet. "That's 250 cases more than we managed before the brand was created."
Following a festive season in which some of the French population were suspected of having a good time, Nicholas Sarkozy unveils new anti-alcohol legislation aimed at 'preventing wilful enjoyment and consumption of alcohol.' After random breath tests, anyone found to have ingested more alcohol than that found in a rum baba will have to pay a E50 fine or go for a 3km run.
A forecast by the drinks retail body Gloomius predicts 'no sign of recovery at all for the year ahead. Nada. Zip. Nothing...'
As the population of northern Europe shivers in meteorological and economic winter, a new craze takes hold in Sweden: nihilism. 'Young people can't be bothered any more - they just think 'what's the point?' So instead of raves, we organise 'mooches' where they can sit around and do nothing,' says promoter Leif Risingssen.
The 'Mooch' phenomenon spreads across northern Europe like wildfire, spawning a new booze category in the process: 'lethargy drinks'. 'They kind of do the opposite of energy drinks,' says Archie Turnbull, creator of 'Red Sloth'. 'A couple of these babies and you can barely keep your eyes open.'
The industry think tank Nonsensica claims that the recession is over, and predicts double digit growth for the next 12 months.
To the surprise of nobody, the Bordelais hail the 2009 en primeur wines as the 'vintage of the decade, the century, maybe of all time.' Merchants all over the world warn against severe price rises, claiming it will kill the market, and there is an on-line argument between British and American wine critics. It's all so utterly, painfully predictable that an angst-ridden German wine writer drowns himself in a barrel of Sauternes.
The British Beer Federation denies that its new generic campaign 'Wine is dead, drink beer instead' is overly negative. 'Anyone who thinks that is probably a poncey metrosexual Pinot Grigio drinker,' says a statement on the website.
As the Mooching craze continues, Manana chic becomes all the rage. Restaurants wear the slowness of their service like a badge of honour. Sales of Tequila and Mariachi music go through the roof and brands like 'Two Sloths' and 'WTF' hit the market.
The Belgian market forecasting group Tedium-Dull predicts 'cautious optimism' for 2010. 'Some things will do quite well. Others not so well,' reveals an explosive statement on the company's website.
An independent audit of Italian wine reveals corruption on a truly unforeseen scale. Every vine in Italy is, it turns out, fake and incapable of yielding grapes. Instead, all of Italy's wine is pumped into the country via a vast underground pipeline from north Africa. 'We'd have got away with it if it hadn't been for you meddling kids,' said a sinister figure who was manning a roller coaster in the first scene.
Following pressure from the EU, the Chileans finally clamp down on the term 'reserva'. Henceforth, wine bearing this word must have spent a minimum of 30 seconds in contact with some sort of oak,' says a spokesman in Santiago.
The Spanish market analysis firm Hysteria predicts a 'year of unprecedented disaster. The Industry can expect meltdown,' it says. 'We might as well end it all now.'
At the London Wine Trade Fair there is a stir around the Cashew Nut Fenny pavilion. The drink's slogan 'Dare you take on the taste of toes?' rapidly acquires cult status.
A general election in the UK returns the conservatives to power. 'We were at school with most of these guys,' says Montague Baldly-Dimme of old-school merchants Dimme, Plangent and Tweed. 'I would expect them to do us a few favours.' Three weeks later, in a bid to 'crack down on binge drinking' the government doubles the duty on wine.
A survey by the French think tank Optimistica says that the drinks industry is the 'best it's looked for decades'.
As the global consumption of wine continues to fall, Spain announces a continuation in its programme of replanting. 'Soon the entire country will be covered in vines, from north to south,' says a Spanish wine industry spokesman. 'When the recovery happens Spain will be ready to take over the world. Wuh huh huhhh!'
An online TV channel, Martellyvision, showing 'hilarious cognac-related mishaps' goes viral when Simon Cowell describes it as 'the worst thing I've ever seen.'
There is sadness in Germany as the last remaining vineyard is pulled up to make way for a multi storey car park. 'It is sad, but that is the price of progress - and people prefer cars to Riesling,' says a government minister.
The Mooching craze reaches its peak with giant 'pyjama party' sleepathons in London, New York and Stockholm . New brands like Slumbaberg and Doze-zone are served at a G10 summit in Paris, causing the delegates to nod off even earlier than usual. The summit is hailed as a success. 'We achieved as little as usual, but at least we got a good night's sleep,' says a spokesman.
In a bid to balance the books, Constellation sells off Mondavi to a consortium headed by Jay-Z. 'It's important that we passed the brand on to someone who understands the importance of heritage, terroir and paying in cash,' says a spokesman.
A survey by the Italian forecasting group Apocaliptico says that wine producers 'might as well pack up and go home'.
A jubilant press release from the BNIC says that sales of cognac in the home market 'have moved into double figures'. Dominating the market, with five cases is Courvoisier.
Australian inventor Muldoon Wallaby is credited with saving the country's wine industry, when he creates a car that runs entirely on wine. The Chileans immediately claim that the polyphenols in their Cabernet are a cheaper, better option, while the Austrians claim they got there first.
Go ahead Boisset sets up 'the Cru Krew' - wine sold in a 50cl bottle with a squirty cap, targeting the urban youth. 'We think they'll like the edgy packaging and grow to appreciate the balance between fruit and minerality,' said a spokesman. 'Plus it goes very well with scallops and foie gras.'
The trend for ever younger scotch continues when Ardbeg release a 'foetal whisky' of malted barley in a bottle.
There is great excitement in Madrid, where a watermelon is cut open to reveal seeds spelling out the words 'Economic recovery is nigh'.
The craze for ultra premium vodka experiences a renaissance, with the launch of Oligarch vodka, distilled 25 times then filtered through the tights of a $25,000 a night hooker.
The Just-Drinks website receives unexpected boost from President Sarkozy. The health-obsessed premier tells the country he wants the population to savour juice drinks on a daily basis. 12m bemused Frenchmen log on to read Olly Wehring's impassioned blog on the benefits of baguettes over sandwiches.
In an attempt to cash in on the Lethargy Drinks craze, The Cognacais launch a massive, E10m generic campaign for cognac describing it as 'Le boisson le moins energetique du monde'. Two weeks later Leif Risingssen officially pronounces the Mooching movement dead...
There is scandal in Oporto when shipper Dick Seaport's Half Intensity Vintage hits the market. 'We thought people might want something a bit lighter,' he says. 'And it sounds incredible but nobody thought about the problem with the initials.'
The pre-Christmas run-in sees the launch of Naandricks, an 'Indian dry gin' flavoured with coriander, fenugreek, ginger and cumin seeds. 'We're more Bombay than Bombay Sapphire,' boasts marketing manager, Spurious Claim, as he disseminates the cocktail recipe for the Mumbai Mule.
Following a series of attacks involving fermented apple juice, police in the West Country launch an investigation into Al-Cider, a shadowy fundamentalist alcohol group demanding the destruction of 'wine, beer, spirits and all infidel alcopops'.
A poll of respected analysts reveals that 2011 will be simultaneously better, worse and about the same as 2010.
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