The world of wine, for all its reputation as a fairly hide-bound place, is constantly shifting. Styles, regions, grape varieties—all of these are just as subject to the vagaries of changing tastes and trends as fashion or music.
But that doesn’t mean that what we’ll all be uncorking next year is without rhyme or reason: Trends emerge and evolve with a fair degree of predictability you just have to know where to look.
In an attempt to have a better understanding of what 2018 might hold in store, I asked a handful of top wine experts for their predictions. Here are their responses.
Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, “The World Wine Guys” and authors, with Kevin Zraly, of the fantastic new book “Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties and Styles”—a book that, since I received my copy, has grown dog-eared and wine-stained from regular use—see in an increasingly diverse range of wines, and wine sizes, being enjoyed. “Big bottles are on the rise, especially for entertaining at home or parties in restaurants,” noted DeSimone. “Look out for magnums in wine shops and on wine lists. Wine drinkers are trading up price wise, so we will see an increase in premium wine sales. We also see continued interest in ‘out of the box’ regions and varieties, which is one of the reasons we included so many indigenous grapes in “Red Wine.” Consumers will be able to find more and more formerly obscure varieties like Georgian Saperavi or Turkish Bogazkere, especially on by-the-glass lists.” Jenssen added that they “expect to see an increase in wines from lesser-known but traditional wine regions such as Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Georgia. Look for Teran (red) and Malvasia Itarska (white) from Istria in Croatia, and Bikaver blends (red) and dry Furmint (white) from Hungary. We also see red blends continue on the upward trend, with an influx of value-driven wines from Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur.”
Courtesy World Wine Guys
A wide range of red wine will continue to gain in importance in 2018, according to Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (with Kevin Zraly, left), authors of "Red Wine: The Complete Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties and Styles (Credit: Courtesy World Wine Guys).
Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, authors of the recently published “Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs,” predict that recent events will impact how Americans drink in 2018. “After the wild fires that ravaged northern California, people will be looking to support the California wine business that took such a major hit. (Paradise Ridge Winery in Napa Valley was to be the first site of our Bay Area book tour for our new book “Kitchen Creativity” this fall until we’d learned it had burned to the ground.) People will opt for more Napa and Sonoma wines to show their support.” They added in their email, “We’ll be turning to wines that reflect our raising consciousnesses, drinking more natural, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from winemakers who have embraced these values in their winemaking philosophies. And our increasingly plant-strong diets (whether as full-fledged vegetarians or vegans, or simply eaters of more vegetable-centric diets) will call forth a trend away from ginormous veg-overpowering reds (like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel) toward more veg-friendly lighter reds (e.g., Beaujolais, Cabernet Franc, Garnacha/Grenache), rosés, and white wines.”
Christopher Howell, wine-grower and general manager at Cain Vineyard and Winery in Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District, points out that, “There is a new cohort of wine producers—literally dozens—who are combing the state, discovering forgotten and sometimes ancient vineyards, then vinifying with a distinctly lighter touch. Some of them have graduated from schools of enology, and through their work are challenging the precepts of their professors. All of these developments are moving our understanding of wine away from a simplistic quest for 100-point ‘cult’ wines, and toward wines of diversity and originality, hopefully grounded in the vineyard.” Howell also sees an “Increasing focus on the vineyard—not only the terroir, but also the viticulture—especially thinking about how to grow vines for the next generation and decades to come. We need to think about old vines. We need to continue to learn more about organic and biodynamic methods in vineyards—we need to learn to see the vines as part of a larger whole.” He also predicts “Increased appreciation of the craft of tending the vineyard—and a re-evaluation of the skills of the people who can do this work. This is not a place for temporary, unskilled ‘labor.’ To be truly sustainable, the craft of the vineyardist needs to acquire a status of respect and appropriate compensation.”
Michael Hill Kennedy II, founder of Component Wine Company, thinks that, overall, “Quality and history will replace uniqueness in 2018, at least I hope. I think we will see a return to some of the classics that have been shrugged off as boring or ‘uncool’ like Cabernets from Napa's classic estates and Champagne from the bigger maisons. I've already started to see top sommeliers going back to classic vintages from producers like Inglenook, Diamond Creek, and even Robert Mondavi. In Champagne and sparkling wine, I see a re-discovery of the excellence from large producers like Dom Pérignon and Ruinart, a big change from the seemingly grower-exclusive lists we have seen over the last couple of years.”
Kennedy also expects “a love affair with Chile on the horizon, and not the $7 supermarket Chile we're familiar with. This is the new and much-improved Chile, with its diverse climates and wines similar to the best from Sonoma Coast, Oregon, and France, and for half the price. Most people are familiar with the big players in Cabernet from Chile, but there are incredible wines of balance and elegance that will be all over the in-the-know sommeliers’ wine lists this year. Look for Pinot Noir from Casablanca and Syrah from cool mountain sites.”
Kaitlyn Caruke, head sommelier of Walnut Street Cafe in Philadelphia, believes that, “Spanish wines are stepping out of the shadow of what's already known…Mencía is my grape of choice right now. I'm a big Gamay person, so tasting through a handful of Mencía-based wines in the past year has been a real treat. It has that same juicy, bright acidity one looks for when drinking Beaujolais. Laura Lorenzo is making one out of Galicia that tastes like five-berry pie. I poured Alguiera from Ribeira Sacra by the glass. The wines are great for food pairing, complimentary to many dishes.” She also is a believer in Australia. “The wines I have seen and tasted over the last year...are incredible and I think they'll explode especially in the natural wine scene. I wouldn't be surprised to see if more wine professionals are traveling Down Under or if some of these wines hit a cult status.” She also hopes “to see more women getting attention for their contribution to the craft. Although not a trend by any stretch of the imagination, boss women in wine like author Marissa Ross and industry legend and author Pascaline Lepeltier are, today, faces to be recognized. I look forward to the new wave of female trailblazers.”
In the end, Dornenburg and Page point out, “We’ve learned that life can be unpredictable, so people will be drinking more of what they love and what makes them happy, including rosé wines and sparkling wines—year-round, and not just during summer and the holidays (respectively).” DeSimone echoes that sentiment. “People are learning to break rules: They drink red in summer and white and rosé all year, and the pairings are more about spicing than ‘red with meat/white with fish.’” Jenssen concurs: “The adventure continues! Consumers will continue to seek out new regions and varieties, and will even pay a slightly higher price for something a little unusual if they think it will impress their friends.” And if it pleases the ever-expanding, increasingly adventurous palates of American wine drinkers.
By Brian Freedman
December 29, 2017
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