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On the up in 2020

Published:  02 January, 2020

Looking ahead to the first year of a new decade, the Harpers team delivers its (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) predictions for the year ahead…


Under the ever-closer scrutiny of eco-conscious consumers, evolution and innovation in the packaging and transportation of wines and spirits will continue to gather pace, with premium bulk shipments and alternative formats such as aluminium cans fast reaching a tipping point whereby green credentials become the business norm. 

Wine duty increases will finally be frozen as the Treasury, under pressure from industry lobbying, accepts that the tax-to-return threshold has been met, with aspirational wine-drinking voters and trade alike breathing a sigh of relief. 

The gin boom will continue, albeit at a slightly slower pace, but with peak flavoured gin in sight as subtler exotic botanicals, with more juniper cut-through, increasingly redress the balance with discerning consumers. 

Low and no will continue to accelerate as trends, but naturally ‘lighter’ wine will also increasingly edge into the picture, offering all the character and quality of the vineyard, while appealing to the wellness groundswell. 

After an initial honeymoon boost to sales of Italy’s most popular fizz, pink Prosecco will prove something of a damp squib, with the category as a whole flatlining for the first time in living memory. Meanwhile, other sparkling wines, including a resurgence in crémant, growth in interest in New World contenders and booming English production, will increasingly step up to the mark as fizz drinkers edge up the premium ladder. 

With MUP introduced in Wales and Scotland, a majority of England’s quality-focused independent merchants will cautiously welcome the advance of a date for the introduction of minimum pricing on their patch of UK Plc. The multiples, however, will be less impressed, as the impact on the use of wine as a footfall-driving loss leader plays into the hands of their drinks retailing indie rivals. 

The modern way

Fusion drinks, breaking old category boundaries, mixing up fizz, still wine, spirits, beer, juices and more, delivering refreshing, lower-alcohol drinks for a novelty-hungry and adventurous generation will keep on rolling through the new year. As will close cousins such as hard or spiked seltzers, and we expect kombucha and the likes of kefir to capture more of the market. 

Products that upcycle cast-off ingredients from the food industry – stuff that would otherwise go to waste – will enjoy their moment in the sun, with drinks distilled or fermented from banana skins, coffee bean husks and toast already leading the way. 

The ‘wine list’ will continue to evolve, with old-skool divisions by countries and regions being supplanted by wines arranged by style. And wine itself will continue to climb down off its pedestal, mixing it up alongside spirits, beers and no-alcohol options, with drinks increasingly clustered by flavour profile and food pairing possibilities. 

Ex-Royal Navy officer Dan Jago will open a hybrid gun and wine emporium, while also releasing an own-label gunpowder-infused rum in a nod to his former life on the high seas. 

Brexit will rumble on, and on, and on, and on, and on… until a damagingly hard exit at the end of 2020 finds a desperate UK government negotiating with Donald Trump, now Supreme Commander of Great America, to become the 52nd state. In an unforeseen turn, we will all be forced to drink his wine, while watching repeats of THAT Simpsons episode which first called his ascendancy a couple of decades ago. 

With CBD hitting high notes at the premium end and the decriminalisation/legalisation of cannabis spreading around the globe, many more will be watching this space…