Hey! It’s early into a new year which means its time for us to make lists of unfounded assertions about what the coming year holds for our particular bailiwick. So as not to be left out of the conversation, here are a few trends in the wine world I see emerging in 2012.
1. A move away from geekiness. 2011 was ruled by the wine geeks, with so-called “orange wines” (white wines with extended skin contact), obscure tiny-production wines from Mediterranean islands, oxidized whites and spicy light reds from the Jura, and amphora-aged vino from Eastern Europe all grabbing the spotlight for a month or two in the blogs and on the tasting calendars of the avant-garde wine community. While these wines will continue to have their place and the wine world is better off as a result of their fleeting popularity, I think 2012 will see a wine discussion that is a bit more down to earth. Which brings me to….
2. An interest in honest, domestic wine making. Instead of pursuing the next weird thing from across the sea, I think we’re going to see increased attention shown toward what is a Renaissance in domestic wine making. A new generation of wine makers in their late 20s and 30s who have spent the first part of their careers working in some of the biggest wineries in the country but have been weaned on a panoply of interesting imported wines have begun to start their own labels and open their own wineries. They’re seeking out the best fruit for the price regardless of a varietal’s popularity and also coming up with new, unconventional blends. These shoestring wineries are also using less new oak in favor of steel, concrete and old or neutral oak barrels and many embracing native yeast fermentation. I think we will continue to see an increase in unique, honest small-production domestic wines whose retail prices will not be astronomical–think $15-$22.
3. Beyond the West Coast. While it will still be quite a while before California and, to a lesser extent, Oregon and Washington, stop being overwhelmingly dominant in the domestic wine market, we will begin to see wider distribution of wines from other states. Virginia, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico and Arizona will lead the way.
4. Unconventional packaging. While efforts to serve kegged wine have stalled due to a distribution bottleneck–it’s a logistical nightmare getting the kegs back to the wineries to be refilled –there’s still a desire for more practical and environmentally friendly packaging alternatives for inexpensive every day wines. The one liter Tetra Pak will continue to see wider application and more wineries will work with 1.5 liter and 3 liter bag and/or bag in the box combinations. I also think there’s a market for 5 liter boxed wine for by-the-glass restaurant purposes, but prices remain prohibitive for the retail realm. The one liter Tetra Pak in particular might one day become the standard for budget wine packaging. Or at least I hope it will.
That’s just a few. What are your predictions?