I have no crystal ball, but here’s what I see trending in wine down the road as we enter 2017.
Look for more joint ventures between “Old World” and “New World” producers. The aggressive use of oak will subside, but there’s a tendency for producers to look at different formats of oak for aging wine, like the use of bourbon barrels for aging some table wines.
Alcohol levels will continue to rise. Whether the reason is warmer temperatures, winemaking styles or the consumers’ demand for “more buzz for the buck”, it’s a fact. Advanced vineyard management, production techniques, the use of new oak, and, in some cases, the blending in of popular, non-traditional grape varieties are all robbing wine of indigenous qualities.
While this metamorphosis provides wine with smoother, fruitier, more harmonious flavours, it reinforces sameness. If this continues, within 20 years or so, we will be floating in a sea of homogenized, similar-tasting and quality wine void of not only country, but also regional and varietal distinction.
When it comes to wine enclosures, cork is making a comeback. Cork producers have spent billions of dollars to correct the “taint” problem and many producers globally are going back to the “real thing”. Of course, there will still be lots of wine presented under screw caps, polymer (plastic), glass, etc.
Wine and its components will be used more for other things beyond sipping like vino-therapy utilizing the skins, pips, stems and residue from winemaking for therapeutic wraps, messages, soaks, baths and cleanses. Look for it in toiletries, too.
The general trend is to turn all aspects of production over to a younger generation, many of whom are women. Sipping anytime and anywhere, this group likes to try new concepts, is creating a rosé renaissance, and is more interested in “natural” wines. They will steer production, marketing and sales down the road. This group is also responsible for more “agro-tourism” which means staying, dining and even helping out at wineries. Many folks are making trips like these a focus of their travels and some wineries are revamping their facilities to accommodate this type of experience.
There will be more celebrity-owned wineries too as many well-to-dos look for tax write-offs and something else to display and extend their brand. Actors, professional athletes, musicians and others will take the plunge. Even Donald Trump has one in Virginia.
Wine prices are more likely to rise. As grape growing and winemaking become more innovative, complex and difficult, the cost of production will increase, and that cost will filter down to the consumer.
Packaging and labeling practices will become more avant-garde and experimental. As competition for shelf space and the need to stand out increases, presentation should be quite fascinating. Artistic labels, unusual bottles and alternative packaging like wine in plastic, cans, tetra-packs, boxes, and even “on tap” like beer are flourishing. Lots of new, “wine toys” such as aerators, chillers, thermometers, preservers, etc. will continue to emerge. A serious trend is the fact that more folks are choosing to drink at home as opposed to doing so while out. Whether it’s the cost, stricter drinking/driving laws or other reasons, this most definitely will affect licensee alcohol sales.
Perhaps the largest trend has to do with climate change. Warmer temperatures, reduced water levels in many of the larger bodies, severe weather with harsher and more frequent storms, flooding and earthquakes are devastating vineyards around the globe and may result in less wine produced.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, author, TV and radio host, educator, judge.