The start of a new year lends itself so well to pondering what will be going down in the world of wine over the next 12 months. So we uncorked a bottle of wine and polished our crystal ball to see if we couldn’t make some predictions for 2011. When that didn’t work, we talked to a couple of our friends at Washington wineries and did a little research ourselves.
We think many of the trends in 2011 will likely have more to do with wine drinkers and how they enjoy wine than with wine itself.
1. Wine drinkers will open up more to exploration. Wine lovers are always on the search for the perfect wine, but in 2011 they will be more inclined to look for wines and regions they haven’t tried before. In an interview with Calabasas Patch, Matt Bayless, manager of ?Bernard’s Wine Gallery?, encourages wine drinkers to open their hearts and palates to new wines. “If there’s one piece of advice that I could give to anyone for the year 2011, it would be to be open-minded and adventurous! There is a world of great, undiscovered wine out there and there’s nothing sadder than having someone who claims to be ‘really into wine, but only drink white zinfandel.’ Take a walk into the wine store and ask for something you’ve probably never heard of, even if you have no idea how to pronounce it or where exactly it came from. It could just be the best wine you’ve had!”
2. The social nature of wine will explode on the web. Enjoying a glass, or bottle, of wine has always been more fun with family or friends. And now many wine enthusiasts are discovering that the only thing better than a few close friends is hundreds of like-palated buddies on Twitter, Facebook and social sites like ours, LetsPour. “The social aspect of wine really is our passion,” says Raghav Kher, self-proclaimed chief decanter at LetsPour. “Wine drinkers love the journey involved in discovering wines. Connecting online with enthusiasts they might not otherwise meet allows them broaden their horizons and explore new wines in a way never before possible.” He predicts that virtual wine tastings and social recommendations and just the tip of the iceberg for social wine enthusiasts.
3. Wine consumers will get smarter and more confident about choosing wines. Choosing a wine based on a number oversimplifies the wine selection process. Jon Troutman (@troutmonster on Twitter) speculates that critics’ ratings are popular partly because wine drinkers just aren’t confident about their wine IQ. But we see that changing as wine lovers connect via social media and get recommendations from friends and people whose wine tastes they trust.
4. Millennials will continue to drive, and maybe even change, the wine industry. Bill Owen, winemaker at OS Winery in Seattle, says he’s noticing a lot more young wine consumers than he’s seen since the 80s and that their awareness of wine is powered by social media. Young and wine-savvy, Leah Hennessy and Seattle Wine Gal are leading voices for this growing group of wine enthusiasts. And according to the Wine Market Council, millennials are least affected by the poor US economy, meaning they might just outspend older wine drinkers.
5. Blends will increase in popularity. Mike Stevens, managing partner at Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville, WA, says their decision to focus on blends over five years ago is definitely paying off. “The feedback we receive from our tasting room guests, our chef partners and wine stewards alike all indicate that consumers really enjoy the balance, depth, variety and approachability of blended style wines,” says Mike. “We are very excited about the rising quality of Washington’s Sangiovese, the expansion of Tempranillo, and the excitement surrounding Washington Malbec. All these varietals are important to our blends.”
6. Offbeat and under-appreciated varietals also will increase in popularity. Bill Owen, of OS Winery in Seattle, is betting on Riesling. He’s got us convinced: his old-world style Rieslings made from the new world grapes of eastern Washington’s Champoux Vineyards are arguably among the best we’ve ever tried. And if you think Rieslings are all syrupy sweet, think again! Wine and Food Travel writer Etty Lewensztain (also the founder/owner of Plonk Wine Merchants) has her eye on five interesting varietals: Assyrtiko, a citrusy white from the Greek Island of Santorini; Blaufränkisch, Austria’s all-star red wine; Kerner, a Riesling/Trollinger blend from Germany, Austria, northern Italy and Switzerland that is both feminine and floral; Mencia, a Spanish red that, depending where it is produced, can be straightforward and unoaked or meaty, inky and brooding; and Plavac Mali, a Croatian varietal said to be a descendent of Zinfandel.
7. Wine lovers will want to spend less and get more. This is something everyone wants to do every year, but in 2011 more people will be forced to reconsider how much they are willing to spend on a bottle of wine. Wineries already are catering to this by launching more second labels and delving into clever marketing strategies like little bottles. As the Wine Business Monthly puts it, “The key now is to craft brands that captivate consumers buying in a lower-priced market segment while appearing to be trustworthy and upscale.”
8. Natural wines will evolve. Not to be confused with organic wine, which simply uses organically produced grapes in the winemaking process, natural wine is made with as little manipulation (chemical or technological) as possible. Fans of natural wine are probably attracted more by the fact that these wines are considered “artisan” rather than mass produced. But the movement just hasn’t been gaining steam, and, in fact, a number of sources we read predict a backlash movement. We like the idea of natural wine and hope winemakers dedicated to this idea will work together to develop some consistent standards and take natural wine to the next level. Slate has written an excellent piece on the issues facing natural wines. And Alice Feiring’s upcoming book “Naked Wine” certainly will be worth reading for natural wine fans.
9. Memorial Day will become a big wine drinking holiday. We think every holiday is a wine holiday, so why not Memorial Day too? According to Wines and Vines, wine sales have seen a steady, nationwide uptick during this patriotic holiday over the past couple of years. Can we suggest a bottle of Jarhead Red or Jarhead Chardonnay, wines created by two former marines in support of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation?
10. Wine popularity will continue to surge in Asia. According to Red Luxury, French wines are all the rage in Asia and California wines are starting to catch on. “Wine has become increasingly popular in Asia, particularly Hong Kong,” notes California Vintage Chief Branding Officer Susan Darwin. “Among all Asian regions and countries, Hong Kong’s per capita consumption of table wine is the highest. But the rest of Asia is catching up. The entire Asian wine market is expected to grow at a rate of 10 to 20 percent every year.”
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