Since this is my last post of 2013, it is my understanding based on the acclamation of the media that my only two options for such an article is either a 2012 retrospective or a look forward to 2013, even if the latter will leave me in the eighth circle of hell with my head on backwards.
So, without further ado, a few modest predictions for the wine business and wine trends in general for 2013:
1. The Rise of California Wine. Now I get that this is a silly statement to make as California wine doesn’t really need any help to assert its dominance in domestic markets. That being said, much of the California wine world has been neglected in the geekier wine circles of San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in favor of the hottest new snake-skin fermented wine from Northeastern Southern Sardinia. But, with the rising cost of imports and a few mediocre harvests in France, Italy and Spain, unique, small-production California wine has become price-competitive with its European peers, especially since we’re going to see….
2. A California beyond Napa (and Sonoma). Thanks to the increased popularity of imports, especially blends, American wine drinkers are becoming more receptive to wines and grapes that are different from the single-varietal Cabernets, Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots from Napa and Sonoma Counties that have been the standard-bearers for California wine since the 1970s. Look for wines from California’s Central Coast to continue to increase in popularity and branch out from the high-octane Rhone varietal-dominated wines that have been the region’s benchmark for the last twenty years. We’ll also see an increase in crazy blends (a broad term for blended wines that aren’t done in the style of an Old World region like Bordeaux, Cotes du Rhone, or Tuscany) as well as increasing use of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese varietals from areas like inland Paso Robles, Sierra Foothills, Lodi, and Lake County. In my own personal experience, I’ve seen California Tempranillo Albarino, and Barbera become wildly popular (relatively speaking) over the last couple years.
3. The tightly curated wine list will be the in thing for most every new, trendy, wine-focused restaurant. If you’ve only got room for a a few dozen SKUs, why even try to be all things to all people? Instead, why not focus on one region or sub-region of a country or countries? Already popular at restaurants like Bestia in LA and Bar Bambino in San Francisco, I think that most every restaurant that opens without the space or budget for a 500-bottle list will feature a hyper-focused wine program. While I think that lists with an ultra-specific geographical emphasis will merely be a trend (unless, of course, explicitly tied to the cuisine) and is not indicative of a paradigm-shift in wine programming, I do think think specificity in other areas (organic/sustainable, small-production) will remain popular as wine lists shrink due to space and budget constraints. It’s more work for the wine buyer to keep the list modern and vital, but buyers (and importers) are up to the challenge.
That’s it for now. Any of you have predictions for 2013? Any wine trends from 2012 that you’ll be happy to see go?
Have a great New Year!