All across the globe, the wine industry is ringing in the new year with prognostications. Everyone has a crystal ball trying to nail down what the next big trends will be.
Some of these predictions bear fruit, while others are just throwing spaghetti at the wall. But in an industry where it takes vines at least three years to be productive and another 1 to 3 to get wine to the market, wineries and retailers need to be a step ahead of the trends.
The difference between success and failure in the wine industry is to be more proactive than you are reactive.
That is what makes trends and prediction articles worth reading–even if you have to take them with a grain of salt.
One recent article by Andy Young of The Shout, an online news service covering Australia, caught my eye. While written from an Aussie perspective, these predictions of Cellarmasters’ Joe Armstrong do hold intriguing relevance to the American market.
First up, Armstrong says that “Cava is the new Prosecco”.
“Our palates are getting fatigued with Prosecco’s fruit-forwardness, so Cava’s dry and biscuity characters are welcome flavours,” he said. — Andy Young, The Shout, 1/7/2019
It wasn’t so much the preference for Cava over Prosecco that surprised me. I’ve been bearish myself about the Prosecco market. I expect its bubble to soon burst as over-expansion and poor quality examples flood the market. Yet it’s not overproduction that has Armstrong and Young seeing Spanish Cava poaching Prosecco’s market share in Australia.
It’s a craving for something drier and less fruity.
Young and Armstrong also predict growth in rosé wine–particularly domestic rosé. But it is not wannabe influencers and #YesWayRosés hashtags that’s fueling its growth. Instead, domestic Aussie rosés are moving towards a style that has been a trademark of French rosé long before anyone made their first duckface on Instagram.
“Due to the popularity of French rosé, more Aussie rosés are being made in that typical, French dry and savoury style. The rise of domestic, dry rosé is a win for consumers as they are affordable and of great quality,” Armstrong said. — Andy Young, The Shout, 1/7/2019
Additionally, Armstrong sees Australian consumers gravitating towards wines coming out of Spain, Portugal and Italy–countries that have been popular picks with prognosticators in the US and UK as well. These folks also see in their crystal balls an uptick of interest in wines from European countries as part of what’s being dubbed “The Year Of The Curious Wine Drinker.”
Despite the vast diversity of grape varieties and terroirs, there is a common theme among these European wines.
They tend to be dry.
They tend to be savory.
Kind of like the food that we’re eating now.
Mama, this ain’t the Coca-Cola generation anymore
In the US, there is an old marketing adage that Americans “talk dry, but drink sweet.”
For many years, there has undoubtedly been truth to that saying. Mega-corps have sold millions of cases sneaking residual sugar into “dry wines.” But it’s not only faux dry wines that have caught Americans’ fancy. This country was also at the forefront of the recent Moscato boom that is just now starting to wane.
And why is it waning?
For the same reason that Pepsi and Coke are seeing declining soda sales.
Part of it is health consciousness–with the upcoming Generation Z being particularly “sugar conscious.”
But it is also driven by a desire for balance. (Sounds familiar?)
Food and wine, wine and food. Tomayto, Tomahto
In New World regions like Australia and the US, the association of wine and food hasn’t been as culturally ingrained as it has been in Europe. But that’s changing.
However, you don’t need to have wine with food to understand that our taste in cuisine goes hand in hand with our tastes in wine. When we craved sweet, boring dishes, we ate TV dinners and jello pops. We drank with them Blue Nun, Riunite and high alcohol reds.
Now that our tastes are going more savory and exotic, what are we eating?
Dry-aged poultry and pork
Among many other things.
Wine doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The beverage that goes into our body has to appeal to the same eyes that see our food, the same noses that perceive aromas and flavors and the same taste buds that respond to umami, sour and sweet flavors.
Wineries that cater to the tastes of the past are going find themselves left in the past. You don’t need a canary to see that American (as well as Australian) tastes are changing.
Likewise, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict what the next big wine trends will be. You just need to follow your stomach.