When times are good, it seems like they'll be good forever. When times are bad, it seems like it's the end of civilization. Of course, neither is true.
As a winemaker for more than 25 years, I've seen these broad fluctuations on Wall Street and Main Street, and while I can't pretend to know all the ramifications, I can tell you what they'll likely mean for the world of wine.
Here's what to watch for this year:
* The number one trend will be consumers returning to familiar brands. When wine lovers are flush with cash they'll gamble $80 or $100 on a wine they've never tried from regions or producers that seem new and exotic. But when their portfolios are shot full of holes, consumers crave flavors that remind them of better times and they head for familiar labels.
* Related to that, wine drinkers will return to the blue-chip varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. These wines have never gone away, and in fact their sales have remained rock solid, but during times like these they'll take on the sheen of rediscovered popularity.
* It's been about five years since the movie Sideways triggered a flood of interest in Pinot noir. Since then, a flood of Pinot has entered the market, not all of it suitably planted or carefully produced. This is an almost frame-by-frame remake of the Merlot story. In the mid-1980s, Merlot became the rock star of the wine world and within a few years was being over-produced and over-pumped into the market place. When consumers run across enough green-tinged, thin, uneven bottlings of any varietal the honeymoon ends.
* This is probably the year that Pinot noir is going to slow down and Merlot is going to regain its foothold. The Merlots that remain...