Making predictions about what the year in drinks will look like is always difficult, but doing so for 2021 is even harder. From uncertainty about how rapidly and extensively the broader public will be vaccinated, to questions about stimulus and support for bars and restaurants, there are many variables to consider. Yet there are some things that do seem likely, and on this week’s “VinePair Podcast,” Adam Teeter and Zach Geballe offer their predictions for the new year.
With the rise of home bartending during lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, cocktail bars will need to offer a more complex and compelling experience to lure would-be drinkers in, especially with the continued explosion of ready-to-drink and ready-to-serve cocktail products. A public that has largely avoided leisure travel might swarm traditional wine tourism destinations like Napa Valley in the second half of 2021 if doing so becomes safe again. Will a devastated tourism industry be able to handle that influx of business? These are the kinds of predictions being discussed on this week’s episode.
Or Check out the conversation here
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Zach: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zack Geballe.
A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” And Zach man, 2021, man.
Z: I know. It’s a weird time warp because, unsurprisingly, we are recording this before New Year’s Eve. You all are listening to this in the future, which is always the case, but as most pointed at the end of the year. We’ll get to our predictions in a minute, but boy, I’ve been looking forward to it not being 2020 for about the entirety of 2020. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a year to be over.
A: I think that’s the case for most people. Before we jump into the predictions episode, a word from today’s sponsor. Are you aiming to cut back on calories and alcohol, but still want to enjoy a delicious glass of wine? I definitely need to cut back on calories. Mind & Body Wines are your perfect solution. These low-calorie, low-alcohol wines are only 90 calories per serving and are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and made without added sugar. With Mind & Body Wines, you can sip without sacrifice. Learn more at mindandbodywines.com. And now, Zach, that we are thinking about what is coming up in 2021, before we jump into that, is there anything you want to reflect on from 2020 that was just absolutely delicious? Was there something that you came across that you were just like, “man, I’m really glad I consumed that.”?
Z: Well, we all threw on our favorite drinks of 2020 in the last episode. So if you missed that, give it a listen. Adam and I summed up what happened, but at the end we got just about everyone on the VinePair team, including you and me, to mention a favorite drink or two from the year. So, that was fun. And you guys can go listen to that if you want a little more. But in this last week, it’s funny, I’m going to sound a little bit like you. Although obviously it’s a wine we both love. But I did something that I feel like you do a lot on this podcast, which is I opened a really nice bottle of Barolo the other night from a producer, Marengo, that I liked quite a bit, from the Bricco delle Viole vineyard. And it was one of those things where I drink a lot of different wines, obviously. You will hear about some of them on the podcast and all that, but Barolo has always been one of my favorites, always I’m sure will be one of my favorites. And every now and then I return to it. My wife is a big fan as well. It was everything I wanted out of a bottle of Barolo. It had tannin and acidity that I expect from Nebbiolo, but beautifully aromatic, lots of violet, hence the name of the vineyard, and smoky notes, and it’s just delicious. And we’ll get into this with predictions in a minute, but it was a reminder of, “oh yeah, this is considered one of the world’s great wine regions for a damn good reason.”
A: Yeah, man. So I did drink some Barolo. But also what I had that I had never made before and realized that it’s actually a lot easier than I thought, was a Paper Plane. So I made Paper Planes one night, and they were delicious. I mean, I did not have Aperol, so I used Select. So it’s a much darker red. So the Paper Plane actually came out a much darker red color. But I actually liked that, it was really cool. And Naomi was like, “wow, this seems very holiday-themed.” It’s just a deep, dark red cocktail. And it was just really delicious and I forgot how tasty it is. And it’s one of these cocktails that I would order out, but I never made it at home, mostly because I’m usually like, “oh, I don’t have amaro, I also don’t have Nonino. I’m just gonna use a different amaro.” And again, it worked really well. I highly recommend it to people. And then I also made another cocktail that I’ve also enjoyed a lot over the break, The Last Word. That was another really tasty cocktail. Again, it was like, “Why do I have Maraschino liqueur lying around? Why do I have green chartreuse? I guess I’ll figure this out.” I enjoyed both of those. And they were fun to play around with over the holidays. Now that we’re getting into 2021, maybe I don’t have to drink all the time. I already have my rolling machine, I do it all the time. As I’ve told you before, I always take two to three days off a week of not having a drink. And then a few other days a week I’ll have one drink and then on Friday and Saturday we’ll have a bottle of wine or something. I feel like I’m just maybe not going to have a drink for a few weeks. It’s felt like a lot. I was saying, I don’t think that dry January is going to be a huge thing this year. I still don’t think that. I do think that I’m ready to get back into a little bit of shape.
Z: I think it’s a good transition into some of what we’ll be talking about in terms of predictions. Because you mentioned dry January and I think you’re right. I think we’re in this very strange period of time. Right? Especially in the first half of 2021, where on the one hand there are signs of real hope. People are getting vaccinated. It does seem that by the end of 2021, when you and I are doing our year-end review and our predictions for 2022, probably life will be more like it wasn’t 2019 and less like it was in 2020. But we’ve still got a ways to go for most of us. Especially people who are not front-line workers and who are not high-risk individuals. It’s probably going to be months before any of us are vaccinated. And so, a lot of my predictions could split 2021 in half. But I want to start with one that I think is related to what you were talking about with cocktails. And that is, I think when people go back out to drink, I think the bars and the cocktail bars that are going to succeed are, as we talked about last week, are the ones that deliver an experience that you just cannot replicate at home, unless you are an obsessive. So tiki, I think places that are doing really intricate cocktails. I bet you now, after having made a Paper Plane and The Last Word at home, you’re like, “Do I want to pay $18 for that in a bar, or do I want to $18 for something that I never in a million years would try at home?” And so I think for the cocktail-drinking public, these nine, 10, 11 months, whatever, plus however many more before bars reopen fully, are going to have been times when people figured out the Manhattan, they figured out the Old Fashioned, they figured out the Martini, whatever they’re their go-to classic cocktail or in that realm, the Negroni, et cetera. And I just think, if you’re going to make it as a cocktail bar in 2021, you’re going to have to blow people’s minds in a way that happened a decade ago, when craft cocktail bars were really on the rise and people were smoking cocktails and setting things on fire. And I think that is where we’re going to see people’s attention because they’re going to want something they can’t do at home and they’re going to want to show, right? I think we’re going to see suspenders come back. That’s what I would say.
A: I think so. I’m going to build on this because I think it’s one whole idea. So I think two things: One, you’re 100 percent right. And two, another reason for that is going to be because we’re going to see RTS or RTD, however you want to say it, ready-to-serve drinks come online big time in 2021. And I’m not talking about the craft brands that have been doing it already. But I’m talking about the Bacardis, Diageos, Brown-Formans of the world that are going to come out with their brands attached to batch Martinis, batch Manhattans. It’s going to be all over the spirit stores. And again, you’re going to be able to get for most people now, if you don’t want to make it at home, a very solid version of that same cocktail in a box, in a bottle, in a single serve. And you’re just not going to pay that same money for that. It’s more money for that identical drink out. Right? If all of a sudden, and I have no information to back this up, but let’s just say if all of a sudden Kettle One starts bottling Martinis, right, Tanqueray does the same thing. We already know Tanqueray came out this summer with gin and tonic, right? Why are you going to pay for that out at three times markup? You’re just not. Or the other bars that I think will succeed are just gonna be the bars where people are going to just have a good time, right? And those bars are going to do really well with, as we even said, this summer frozen drinks, Margarita, gin and tonics, vodka sodas, rum and Cokes. There are going to be those bars and there’s going to be a lot of fun. And then there’s going to be the serious cocktail bars where you’re willing to spend 18 to 20 bucks a cocktail. But the idea that anyone’s going to spend $16 on an Old Fashioned anymore, I think is not going to be. Unless it’s at a place that does not exist as a bar first. So what I mean by that is restaurants, right? Where you’re like, “Well, I’m already here. And I’d like an Old Fashioned while I’m waiting for my table or to start the meal. So I’ll order one because it’s a cocktail I know, and I really like it.” But if you’re going to a cocktail bar specifically to go to a cocktail bar, I think you’re completely right. Because a lot of these cocktails are going to be even easier to enjoy at home when we have RTDs and RTSs really widely available.
Z: And I actually wonder, Adam, this is a thought that occurred to me while you were talking and is not something I had exactly thought about. But I wonder if even in the situation you described, at a restaurant, I wonder how many of those kinds of establishments, and I have some thoughts about restaurants that I’ll get to in a little bit, how many of those restaurants are really going to truly have a dedicated bartender on staff? If you can get a good- quality RTS or RTD cocktail as in your average neighborhood restaurant, do you really want to pay someone to make a Manhattan when you can just have a server open a can or a bottle, pour it into a glass or pour it over ice or whatever. You can keep your bottle of premixed Martini in the fridge, pour into a Martini glass, garnish it, and serve it. And you don’t have to pay someone to stir a cocktail. I’m not sure that right away, that’s going to be what people are OK with. But as these products become more ubiquitous, I think that will happen. And there are a lot of cocktails, frankly, I don’t even think that’s a bad thing. There’s certainly a part of me that will bemoan the lack of bartenders in restaurants and bars, from someone who thinks that it’s good for us to have jobs that people can do, since our society in this country in particular still really requires you to have a job, to be a part of society in any meaningful way, for most people. I do think you’re going to look at a lot of these positions in restaurants and bars and say, “Well, if I can pay essentially the same thing for a premixed Martini, if my pour cost is essentially the same as to buy a bottle of gin and a bottle of vermouth, and then I don’t have to pay someone to do that.” To me, that’s a hard value proposition to pass up if you’re a restaurant. And I’m sure that the big players are going to be happy to subsidize that cost, to some extent, to get those products not just into liquor stores and grocery stores, but into restaurants and bars.
A: One hundred percent. So I think another big trend we’re gonna see this year, and this is more of a prediction trend, is the return to normal is going to be uneven across the world. And what I mean by that is, I think we’re going to see a lot of countries, we’re already seeing this, by the way, that we’re haphazardly rolling out our own vaccine here and hearing about how that’s working compared to other countries that have a different organizational system, right? It’s going to take longer, I think, for us to roll out our version of the vaccine than for, let’s say, potentially in Italy or Germany, for example. And we may start seeing that those countries are getting back to normal. For trade people listening, these big conferences, there may be an in-person VinItaly this year, right? I mean, I’ve heard that it’s going to potentially happen this summer, right? There may not be a lot of Americans attending. But there may be a lot of people from Europe who attend because they all got the vaccine faster than we did. There may be a ProWein this year. There may be some other version of Bar Convent, right? ‘Cause Bar Convent Berlin happens in the fall. Right? So that may still happen this year if Germany all gets vaccinated, right? We may not have a Bar Convent Brooklyn. Or we may not have Tales in the same way, depending on what the rollout looks like. So what I’m trying to say, I guess, is there’s going to be some frustration. I think at some point being on the outside, looking in. And for other countries as well, right? As we are just all figuring out on our own. We have seen this from what happened in 2020 with how each country handled dealing with the virus in the first place, right? And who mask-mandated, who didn’t. Who locked down travel. Who didn’t. It’s going to be the same. And I think that’s to say that, I don’t think 2021 will fully be normal until, as you said, Zach, the very potentially end of the year. And I think along with that, there will be some frustration. Some people who say, “Oh, well, this doom and gloom, blah, blah, blah.” And I don’t think it’s ultimately going to be, but I think there could be months where it feels that way. When we see that there are other countries that have vaccinated faster or were more organized to do that. And we just weren’t and therefore we’re not able to return to normal as fast as they are.
Z: For sure. And that’s interesting because I had a couple of things on my list of predictions that tie into this. So I’m going to say that I think one thing that’s also going to be true is that Q3 and definitely Q4 of 2021 are going to be monster wine- tourism quarters. We can discuss it with someone else on a different podcast, on a different dimension. But let’s be honest. This whole period of time has dramatically impacted or just dramatically and differently impacted different parts of this country and in different parts of society. And there are a ton of people that I know who are, frankly, financially doing just fine. They were able to work from home. Frankly, they probably spent less money on a lot of things this year than they would have, and yes, they maybe went out and bought the rower or the Peloton, or they paid the astronomical prices to get free weights or whatever sent to their house. But for the most part, they’re not traveling, most of them. They’re probably not dining out as much. And for a lot of people, when that feels safe, when things are reopened to some extent, I mean, Napa, Sonoma, maybe if the weather’s decent still the Finger Lakes, Virginia, and Europe, too. If people are able to travel there safely and legally, I think it’s going to be a massive, massive second half of the year for tourism because so many people have missed that element. And obviously it will be big for tourism in other ways outside of wine, but that’s what we talk about here. And so it’s going to be a monster year. And yet what I think is also going to be complicated, is to what extent are the places that have been suffering and the industries that have been suffering — hospitality, tourism, to some extent air travel although they’ve obviously been heavily subsidized, are they going to be able to meet that demand? I think that’s the other big question.
A: It’s gonna be interesting. This is just anecdotal, the airlines have not released this information. I think Q3 and Q4 is the smart call here. The reason for that is, I think most people in the U.S. are hopeful that they’ll have access to the vaccine by June or July, right? So that means that the second half of the year, but really heavy in like that September, October, November, December. So I think the last four months of the year, the end of Q3, beginning of Q4, people feel like they’ll feel really safe. And I’ve seen tons of people posting online throughout this week that they have gone ahead and purchased airline tickets for that time next year, because airline fares right now are at an all-time low. So people saying, “Well, I’m going to take the risk if I need to. If I need to cancel, I’ll buy it with insurance or get reimbursed.” But people are saying that they’re seeing flights in comfort from New York to Vienna for $400 round trip over Christmas. Flights to Rome. Just because, right now, no one is traveling, so the airlines are keeping their prices low. So I think you’re right. And I think it’s going to be a combination of people who are just planning ahead and saying, “I’m going to grab it.” And there’ll be the people who did just fine saying ”screw it, I don’t care, by the time I’m ready in June to book that trip in the fall, the prices have tripled. I’m going to pay it, too, because I made a ton of money on the market in 2020.” And they’re going to go. I think it’s going to be, OK, boom time. And hopefully these tourism locations are prepared and are ready to staff up. Because I think you’re right. That’s going to be the biggest question because so many places have cut jobs, have closed, whatever, are they going to be prepared? And are the same people going to be in the market ready to work?
Z: Well, that’s another one of my other big predictions or at least things to watch for 2021. I think that the demand will be there and the demand will be there for tourism and also be there for eating and drinking out just in one’s own hometown or city. But I think a huge as yet unanswered question, and it will have to be answered in part by federal and to some extent state governments but also by people like you and me and everyone else, who reopens when it comes to restaurants and bars and what kinds of places are there to meet that demand? Because the demand will 100 percent be there. It will be a huge year, second half of the year, probably for restaurants and bars. Because every last person is sick and tired of eating at their house, drinking at their house. As much as we’ve all come to appreciate parts of it. I think that it’s true that some things will linger that we talked about, that certain cocktails will be at-home cocktails more than they’re out cocktails. But the point is people are gonna want to go do s***. I mean, we see this now when it’s unsafe for most people to do stuff and it will be all the more so when people feel it is safe or reasonably safe to do so. Yeah. But of course the big question is, again, are all the places that reopened going to be only the places with corporate money behind them? Huge multinationals behind them? I don’t know. I honestly think this is one of the hardest things to answer because we’re still in this period of time where a lot of places that are quote unquote closed for now that have not officially announced that they’re closing, but are figuring out if there’s money that comes from the federal government to help those small, independent restaurants and bars reopen, which will cost an individual operator more than they could reasonably afford in most cases. Especially if they didn’t have huge savings, which they presumably burned through trying to stay viable in the early part of the pandemic, potentially. I just don’t know whether the places that reopen, if they’re going to be as many of them, and if they’re going to be with the ethos that I think you and I generally prefer to support, which is not a massive chain of restaurants. I don’t know, I honestly don’t. I wish I could feel confident that I can make a prediction that the neighborhood spots, the small restaurant companies that we like, that I worked for, are going to come back online. I will have to wait and see on that one, I think.
A: I think what’s going to happen, we’re talking about openings, we’re about to see the largest group of new faces, money, and names in the hospitality industry in decades, because there is a lower barrier to entry. The power structure has been dismantled. There is none, right? Right now it’s about, can you afford the real estate and do you have money? And as we’ve said earlier, there are people that are hospitality fans. There’s also a generation that maybe has been saving and didn’t open, right? I think there’s going to be the places that do have, the mom and pops we’re talking about, are going to be people we’ve never met before. Because I think a lot of the people who we’ve met have gotten f***** and have lost a lot and are probably out or are out of the cities we live in. And maybe they’re going to go and open a great place in the Hudson Valley or somewhere in Pennsylvania or Jersey. ‘Cause they want to stay close to the city or for you, outside of Seattle, maybe they’re going to go to one of the wine regions or whatever, and open a nice restaurant where they can afford the rent. Because they’re done with the city, right? Because they probably got screwed by their landlord. But I think a lot of people haven’t had that experience because maybe during this pandemic, they were still in finance or they were in consulting, whatever, and they did well and now they want to back something and they have a buddy who, over the course of the pandemic, got really good at making bread. And they’re gonna open a bakery together. I mean, who knows? But I’m hearing this stuff. And I just feel like it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens. And the biggest question to me that we talked about a lot over the last few months, what does the structure of that restaurant look like? How many people will be hired for each job? Or will this be a completely new business model, right? How much will it be that every single restaurant, even the casual neighborhood restaurant needs a somm, right? Or did you just get really good at buying wine? Because you got into wine over the pandemic, and you could probably do it yourself. Why would you need to hire someone that has some certifications, right? Because you’re just opening at the end of the day, a place that serves really dope burgers and good salads and maybe a solid fried chicken, you know what I mean? If that’s what you’re doing, you don’t need a somm. Because as you said, people are going to be desperate just to go out and eat anything, including burgers. I want to eat a burger out. I want to be in a crowded restaurant. I want wine that I can buy off a list. I just am ready for that, and I think most people are. And people are going to go crazy. I think it’s good. I think we are about to see a new version of the Roaring ’20s. I think it’s going to be a massive, Roaring ’20s again, where people are going to really party for the next two years. Again, we’ve talked about this, but people who feel like we just got out of college, what it feels like to just be married, what it feels like when you go out after having your first kid. All of these things, people thought they missed and you’re gonna try to play catch up. And so I think it’s going to mean people are going to spend more income. Whether that’s a good thing for the long run and the healthy economy, maybe not. They may not save as much as they should, although they do have this to look back on to say, “Well, maybe I did need that rainy-day fund.” I just think it’s going to be really interesting to see what it looks like. But what is exciting to me is I do think you’re going to have a lot of new blood come into the industry and people that we are just unaware of. Because yeah, they got into making cocktails or something and say, “I want to own a cocktail bar.” And they’ll probably do it. That also means we’re about to see the return of the Eater Deathwatch, where there’s going to be a lot of places that don’t make it because the people who run them are green. I’ve had people reach out to me over the last month, emails like, “Hey, I’m thinking about opening a wine bar would love some thoughts” or “Hey, I was going to open this really cool cocktail bar, I’m based in Brooklyn.” A lot of people, actually,
Z: Adam, are you announcing a VinePair bar?
A: No, not at all. I don’t want to do that. But I do think that there’s a lot of people who are thinking about it throughout this whole pandemic, like, “yeah, I had a good job. I also f****** hate my job. So I want to do this instead. This sounds fun.” And they didn’t experience any of the pain that the people who owned restaurants through this pandemic experienced, right? So they’re going to come into it without having to deal with it, and they’re going to have the capital. It’s going to be really interesting.
Z: For sure. And along those lines, a thought that I’ve been having is — and you talked about whether the structure of these restaurants and bars will be the same as it had been — I think that along with that, you’re going to see the first real serious decline in two things. One is, I think tipping culture is on its way out. And I think that a lot of these places that reopen are not going to be centered around tips. And I think the other thing that’s going to change is I think we are going to have a bigger bifurcation of the industry between full service and casual or counter service.
A: You’re 100 percent correct. I was about to say that, too. I know you listened to the Popina interview I did. So when I moved to New York over a decade ago from Atlanta, there were a lot of restaurants that had the model that Popina switched to over the pandemic, right? They’re not fast casual. This is not Chipotle. They are casual dining establishments with great drinks programs, et cetera. But everything was ordered at a counter. And then you sat down and there was just a runner. There was Taqueria Del Sol. There was Figo, there were a bunch of them in Atlanta. And I was always shocked that I came to New York and there were two things: It was either a sit down restaurant with a server and a menu and whatever, or it was everything trying to be the next Chipotle. And I think that middle that James has pivoted to is going to stay. And I think he’ll stay, right? I would assume he would at least for certain services, maybe he’s fine dining on Friday and Saturday nights, or during the day, it’s counter service. Who knows? But I think you’re completely right, it’s going to be this way at a lot of places. People are going to go to a place where they can order a solid burger, but sit down and order a nice bottle of wine off of a list that then is brought to their table with their burger. I think you’re completely right. And going to be really interesting to watch.
Z: And I think it’s also one of those things where you realize an industry reset is going to make and will continue to make a lot of these, “well, that’s just the way we’ve always done it” kind of policies and practices look really obsolete. And again, unfortunately, it’s the case that front-of-house labor, in particular, is going to be the loser in all this. Because that’s where I came from, mostly. There’s a lot of positives to that. But the honest truth is, the experience that people like about restaurants is a little bit about service. It’s a little about sitting down and having someone come to your table and bring you a menu or talk to you about the menu and take your order and great. And there will be restaurants that do that, but I think there will be fewer of them. Because for most people, most dining experiences are not meaningfully different if you order at a counter and sit down, versus if you sit at the table first and look at the menu there. And it allows operators to cut costs, which is going to be huge because whether it’s existing businesses that try to reboot, or some of these new ventures that aren’t backed by huge amounts of money, they are going to be tight on funds. I think also you’re going to see, along with that — and I hope this isn’t too in the weeds or too technical, but I think you’re going to see a lot of distributors and purveyors who also got badly, badly f***** by the way things went down, especially in March and April where people closed down and basically said, “Hey, look, I’m not doing any business. I can’t pay you what I owe you. I can’t pay you for the wine shipment I received last week.” And a lot of places operate with 30-day terms or 60-day terms where you don’t pay the moment the wine shows up at your doorstep. You pay once you’ve sold a decent amount of it or when you have cashflow coming through from that. And so same thing with food, et cetera. I think you’re going to see a lot of the distributors and purveyors that are still there, that maybe were able to pivot to selling to grocery stores or to places that were doing delivery and takeout, et cetera. They’re going to be cautious, too. Everyone’s going to be cautious. I mean, a lot of cash on the barrelhead transactions for a while. And so things that allow you to keep labor costs down, especially front-of-house labor costs down are going to be big. I have one last two-part prediction, which is like a happy ending and an unhappy prediction. So I think happily for most of us, I think that fairly early in the Biden presidency, the tariffs on European wine and spirits are going to be repealed. I don’t really see that as being a thing that sticks around, it’s made zero sense for anyone. And it’s a thing where all levels of the industry, big, small, everywhere is in agreement that tariffs suck, really. There’s no one who’s benefiting from it in this country, which means that I don’t think it’s going to last longer than the current sitting president will last. Unfortunately though, I think previously I was pretty optimistic that a lot of things that happened through this pandemic would create a groundswell of effort to really make direct-to-consumer, especially liquor shipping, more permissible. I’ve gotten less optimistic about that. I don’t think that we’re going to see big changes in 2021. I don’t mean we won’t see them ever, but I think one of the things that’s happened in the pandemic is power has even more firmly consolidated in some of the big brands, because they’ve been the ones who’ve really been killing it (the big companies). And I think they don’t have a vested interest in upending things. And the big distributorships very much of a vested interest in keeping control of liquor distribution. And I just don’t see there being enough of a groundswell to make much of a change in 2021. I hope I’m wrong. I really do. But that’s my two-part legalistic prediction.
A: So yeah. I have one other prediction, but I want to comment on one of the things you said. I think that you’re right about DTC. I think there will be more people that do do DTC once in a while than there used to be. The people who are screaming that DTC is the future and they’re building the next great X, Y, or Z I think are gonna not be correct. And that’s because you just cannot replicate the experience of going to the shop online. People have tried until you can build a Pandora or Spotify-like model for alcohol, which is very difficult, especially given all of the different labels. What was it, 130,000 new wines came into the market over the last year, right? Unless you can figure that out, you’re only going to be able to do that with the big brands. And the big brands are also already in the supermarket. They’re already at the liquor store. And I think that what most consumers do still value is walking into the store and asking someone and being pointed, “Hey, I read about this orange wine on VinePair. Can you point me to the orange wines you have in the store?” Because they don’t want to sit and go through that on wine.com. Not to pick on wine.com, but just all the orange wines on wine.com are available. They don’t want to do that. That is a waste of everyone’s time, right? Even if I felt that way about clothes, I’ve done a lot of online clothes shopping — I’m a fancy man, I like fashion — but I want to go back into the stores, because I would like to ultimately talk to the people at the stores, the brands I like and be like, “Hey, what great jackets do you have in?” Or whatever. Instead of looking for 35 parkas, that’s what I was doing today, right? To figure out how I can get something for the winter. I just don’t want to do that. And I think that it’s going to be a mix. We’re going to gain a little bit, but I don’t think it’s going to be to the level that everyone thinks it’s going to be very honest. And I think you’re right there. So the other thing I do strongly believe is going to happen in 2021, I think it’s going to make a lot of people who listen to podcasts, especially those who work with brands, et cetera, very happy, I do very strongly believe the data supporting the rise of premiumization will continue. The drive towards consumers to spend more money on wine, beer, and spirits is going to continue. We’ve seen it grow in the pandemic. I don’t think that’s going to change. I think the people who, as we said, had done pretty well already in the pandemic are gonna continue to do well. There’s not going to be a massive fall off there. They’re going to have money. They’re going to look for premium wines. They’re going to look for premium beers. I remember at the beginning of the pandemic, I was like, “Oh, there’s gonna be the death of the really expensive 4-pack of craft beer.” There hasn’t been. No, no, no. There hasn’t been at all. People are buying them. I was wrong. I think it’s going to continue in a very, very, very strong way, especially people wanting to go out and party and celebrate and have a good time. So if you are working with premium brands, you are going to be in a great position. If you’re working with those brands that are sub-premium, below that $15 price point, really $10 price point, I think it’s not going to be as positive as people were hoping it would be in April when we were talking to them saying, “Yeah, this is going to be just like the 2008 recession.” I don’t think it’s going to be.
Z: Yeah, well you’re right, because this recession, such as it is, is even more than that one is so weirdly divided. People who were going to spend on relatively expensive wine have largely not been hurt. I mean, there’s a lot of s***** things about it and we’ll see, legislatively and whatnot, what happens in 2021. I think in general, you’re right. I think that one thing that was wrong that maybe we got wrong and I think lots of people got wrong early on was there was a period in April or March, April, whatever, when people were hoarding and like “I’m going to buy a bunch of cheap booze.” I think maybe it also made sense when people thought that they were only going to be quarantining or staying at home for a month, two months, maybe three months. And when it became clear, well, s***, this is stretching on for who knows how long. People are like, “You know what? I want to actually drink something I like. Not just something that I bought in a panic because it was the $11 bottle of generic wine on the shelf when I happened to be at the grocery store and it was the only thing I could find.” I think you’re right. I think the premiumization will continue and will stay and will provide lots of opportunity.
A: At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the things that everyone got wrong, including us, was that we saw all these massive layoffs happening and we thought that they were going to continue. And yes, they did in the industries that we all know have been massively affected, including the one that we love, and that industry is going to need all of our help. In the advertising industry, I’m talking to agencies, or consulting, finance, et cetera, they just use Covid as an excuse to cut, to trim fat, right? That’s what they did. And you listen to any economist who has studied this for the past few months, and that’s basically the conclusion they’ve come to. Yeah, all these industries just used Covid as an excuse to literally trim back at excess bulls*** and save money and basically come out leaner, right? They didn’t cut because they were bleeding. And I think that we’re going to see that completely play out in 2021 where a lot of these companies are going to be totally fine with workers who are making not very good salaries who have money and are going to spend it. Well Zach, I can’t wait to talk more about what’s to come in 2021. So I think it’ll be a really exciting year. I think there’s gonna be a lot of cool s*** that happens. I’m definitely excited to stand in a crowded bar again. I don’t know about you. But we’ve waxed on and off for the past 30-plus minutes about our predictions, but we threw it out to some of the listeners and asked them. You’ve picked some of the best ones that were sent to you via either audio recording or on Instagram of what some of our listeners’ predictions are, so I’m going to let you play that package right now.
Z: Let’s do it. Hey everyone, Zach here. We’ll hear some listener predictions in just a minute, but I wanted to share some that we received via Instagram, of course, at VinePair and a few that I really loved that were some fun predictions. Prediction for a big year for fruit brandies. I think that could be super exciting. More transparency in spirits, so better ingredient labeling and nutritional information. Canned seltzer cocktails, another call for high-end canned cocktails, a few of you thought that that was going to be a big deal. Hard seltzer is going to have an even bigger year than they did in 2020, which I guess if everyone’s out drinking again in public, that could be the case. Frozen drinks. I think they had a pretty big year this year, but I could see them taking off again. Some upgraded and more fancy cocktail mixes for at-home work, something that Adam and I just touched on in the episode. And then, a couple that I really enjoyed were people talking about canned Champagne. I don’t know if a Champagne house would go that route, but you never do know. And then someone might just be giving me a hard time, thinks we’re going to have a big year for a natural white Zinfandel. So, we’ll hear from the listeners in just a second, but thank you all for sharing. And we look forward to getting your thoughts on 2021 as the year progresses.
Rockford: Hi, my name is Rockford. In 2020, consumers have realized how hard it is to buy your wine and have it delivered to your house as compared to groceries. So for 2021, my trend is any initiatives that can streamline this process or initiatives that can simplify overall these rules that prevent us from getting our wine delivered to your home. I think the pandemic has shown us that there is demand for wine delivery. I saw that in my neighborhood Facebook group, where people erupted in cheers when they learned that Total Wine delivered to our neighborhoods.
Lucy: Hey VinePair crew, this is Lucy calling in from London. My prediction for 2021 is Cru Muscadet. In 2020, we saw a huge amount of interest in Cru Beaujolais. And I think 2021 is the year for Cru Muscadet. It’s an amazing terroir-driven wine. Great with food, without food, and it’s got serious aging potential.
Morgan: Hi VinePair listeners, my name is Morgan Stutzman, and I work in marketing with Trinchero Family Estates. I think this year will be the year of comfort and health. I think the hard seltzers will continue to show growth and we will see the wine-based seltzers emerge within that category as the consumers branch off from traditional beer-based seltzers for more premium and different options. I think we will see an increased interest in the better-for-you wine products. The new, younger consumers are looking for more wine products that can fit into their active lifestyle without giving up their glass of wine at the end of the day. And lastly, I think the RTD market will continue to grow this year. I think Margaritas will continue to capitalize on the going out experience at home. And as people are potentially able to gather as this year goes on, I think that the larger format classic cocktails will become popular for hosting.
A: Those were all incredibly insightful.
Z: Yeah. We have some smart-a** listeners. Well, smart and smart ass actually, to be fair. There were a few that were like, “the ‘VinePair Podcast’ gets a new host” but we’re not going to play that.
A: So we’re not gonna play those, come on. But Zach, let’s keep it going into 2021. Can’t wait to talk more.
Z: Talk to you next week. Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair Podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week, please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now for the credits, VinePair is produced by myself and Zach Geballe. It is also mixed and edited by him. Yeah, Zach, we know you do a lot. I’d also like to thank the entire VinePair team, including my co-founder, Josh and our associate editor, Cat. Thanks so much for listening. See you next week.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.
Published: January 5, 2021