With the holidays past us and everyone enjoying our happy new years full of goals and hopes for the coming year, we also tend to look back on the last year and see if we can figure out any trends that will continue or burgeon in the new year. This is true in our personal lives and it is also quite true within most industries, including the wine industry. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share with you just a few of the trends that I personally expect to see in 2018 and perhaps you can take away some useful information for your own enjoyment as you choose what to imbibe this year.
Prosecco and Sparkling Wines keep Bubbling
Over the past 15 years or so, Prosecco has grown into the most popular sparkling wine in the world with an estimated 300+ million bottles produced annually and the U.S. is one of the largest export markets for the Italian sparkler. This popularity is not likely to decrease in the coming year and, in fact, what we may see is that consumption of sparkling wine in general will also increase as wine drinker’s love of Prosecco has changed our thinking such that sparkling wines have become a legitimate option as an “every day” wine and not just a pleasure reserved for celebrations or special occasions. Additionally, we will see that the market will crave more variety within the category and more people will start experimenting with Spanish Cava and French Crémant, which is made using the same method as seen in Champagne, but is not FROM Champagne and can be enjoyed at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, with the rise of sparkling wine production out of areas such as Tasmania, in Australia, South Africa and Argentina, the slate of products from which we can choose will remain very robust in 2018, giving us ample opportunity to whet our craving for bubbles.
Emerging Regions and Older Ones making a Comeback
I expect to see the wines of Australia make a strong showing in 2018. Australian wines quickly got a stigma for cheap wine because many producers hitched their wagons to the “critter label” movement seen in the mid-90’s and 2000’s, with the epitome of this being Yellow Tail. While these wines did well in the marketplace at the time, many people forgot Australia had a long history and track record of making some of the most premium wines in the world, like Penfold’s Grange Shiraz, and when the lust for the critter labels subsided, Aussie wines fell off dramatically in the U.S. market. However, recent efforts toward smart, effective winemaking and a re-branding of the country’s wine industry as a whole have led to many of us rediscovering just how good Aussie wine can be.
Also look for more South American wine options as well this year, and MUCH more than just Malbec. The U.S. now consumes more Malbec that Argentina itself. However, it is becoming increasingly costly to buy Malbec grapes in Argentina, due to high demand and short vintages recently, and the margins winemakers have to work with are disappearing. The little know secret in the U.S. though is that Argentina does an even better job making Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and it makes sense that we will increasingly see more of these wines in our market. Add to this that the lack of production in Argentina in recent vintages has opened the door for more wines from Chile, Uruguay and even the likes of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru coming to the U.S. Chile in particular, like Australia, has really started to shed its reputation as solely a producer of “value” wines and is gaining a great deal of attention in the “premium” sphere. So, look for an influx of higher quality wines from South America this year.
It’s All About Style
Lastly, a word about the styles of wine that will most likely dominate our market in 2018. In addition to the popularity of sparkling wines already mentioned, expect to see a continuing increase in both the quantity AND quality of Dry Rosé. In particular, French Rosé from Provence has seen a steady increase in popularity in the U.S. and in 2018, we will see an increasing number of premium dry Rosé wines produced domestically from California, Washington and Oregon. Also, Chardonnay will continue its dominance in the market as the most consumed white wine, but the lighter style currently in favor will continue to show brighter fruit and acidity and less oak and butter. And finally, look for premium Sauvignon Blanc to make a resurgence as well. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are still the best-selling white wines in America, but many people are turning again to Sauvignon Blanc as a wine that can give some pleasing weight and body while still offering a freshness that makes it so food-friendly. While French Sancerre can sometimes be too austere and New Zealand Sauvignons can be a little over-the-top with its explosion of tropical and citrus fruit, look for wines from Chile and South Africa, which are somewhere in between and really growing in respect for high quality production in recent years.
Here’s to a happy new year and may your glasses be filled with great juice!
– Brian McClure. Director of Wine and Beverage at the Greenbrier.