Making predictions is a recipe for disaster.  Even if you get it right sometimes, only terrible blunders will be remembered.  Nevertheless, here are a few of my expectations for the next few years.

  1. Glass wine bottles will be with us for a long time to come.  Winemakers are conservative people – look how it took 5,000 years for pottery amphora to be replaced by wooden barrels.  I can well imagine an argument between a winemaker and his progressive-minded son 400 years ago: “I can’t see why you want to use those fancy new glass bottle things.  A goatskin dipped in tar was plenty good enough for your grandfather and me.”  And wineries have a lot of investment in facilities designed for glass bottles – why change?

  2. Weird and wonderful containers will be proposed, but will all fall by the wayside.  Cans of wine with a ringpull, bottles made of cardboard with a waterproof lining, plastic glasses of wine with a pull-off foil top, I have seen and tried them all.

  3. Wine in boxes (with a flexible foil liner bag) will continue as a niche item.  Good for parties but not so good for everyday drinking, they will continue to be used for cheaper wines.  My tip for a box of wine – when it is nearly empty, turn it upside down and open the tap to let the bag fill with air.  Then that last glass will come out easily.

  4. More and more wine bottles will be sealed with screw cap closures, not corks.  Cork producers did themselves no favors for decades producing poor quality corks in the face of growing demand.  Up to 10% of wines showed traces of taint (“corked wine”) – a chemical compound called TCA caused by natural fungi in cork.  The Stelvin screwcap was introduced in the 1970s.  It has made big inroads in specific sectors (Swiss wine since the 1980s, now in New Zealand and Australia, even Blackstock Winery in Georgia).  This trend will continue as both premium wineries and the massive volume producers more introduce bottling lines for screwcap.  Don’t expect to find many wine corks in Walmart or Kroger in five years’ time!

  5. Cork will still be around for many years to come.  The cork industry are working hard to reduce the incidence of taint.  Blind tasting tests have confirmed that wine in a Stelvin sealed bottle ages at least as well as its equivalent under cork, but the very high end producers and their rich customers are yet to be convinced for the future. I saw the chief winemaker at super premium Château Margaux confirm that they have been testing screwcap closures for fifteen year with good success – but they needed another 25 years to be sure.  And, of course, pulling a cork does have a celebratory feel.

  6. “Synthetic” plastic corks will become less and less common.  They are difficult to get out, don’t accommodate the minute variations in the diameter of the bottle neck and tend to leak after 18 months.  And glass stoppers (with a synthetic O ring) are too expensive.

Robin Hall

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