Over 259,000,000 hectolitres of wine was made across the globe in 2016. Diversity is wine’s greatest strength, and the only constant in wine is change. As we tick over to 2017, here are some trends I observed this past year.
Unpredictable weather is the new normal
Vintage woes in France and Argentina underscores the new normal: unpredictable weather. Turbulent conditions in France with a rain/heat dance in Bordeaux; early freeze in the Loire and Champagne, hail in Burgundy; optimal conditions in Piedmont, but lighter and smaller in Tuscany; a record cool year in Argentina, positive and fruitful hopes in California; bumper numbers in New Zealand; a damp Bordeaux-like vintage in Chile; and pretty good across the board in Australia. Here in B.C., we experienced one of the earliest and hottest growing seasons ever.
The Great Paradigm Shift continues
Traditionally the great archetype for red wines has been Bordeaux, specifically the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wines of Chateaux Lafite, Latour, and Mouton. Now it’s different – lighter, more elegant wines of Burgundy are increasingly being seen as the supreme ideal. But it is important also to recognize the increased appreciation of food-friendly Italian wines, Rhone wines, and Iberian wines. The hegemony of oaky blockbusters is over. And for whites, the old domination of Chardonnay is being challenged by Riesling and other varieties such as Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino, and Albariño. The world of wine is becoming more multi-faceted – as it should.
The democratization of wine
In the past, wines were defined by a) whether or not they had a Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator score, and b) how high those scores were. That was then, this is now. The old arbiters are being replaced by something new – shared notes, community chat, dialogue; consensus is replacing blind adherence to an oracle, which is a reflection of the increasing sophistication of consumers.
Everybody’s doing it, not just aspiring sommeliers, and wine is better for it. A great audience demands great art, and one of the reasons that wine is getting better is that there are more people better able to appreciate it. Education is the key. From formalized wine certification courses, to amateur groups, online wine classes, blogs and podcasts, access to knowledge has never been easier.
Purchasing online is on the rise
Mature markets around the world have adopted the convenience of choosing bottles from an e-commerce wine shop and having it delivered to their doorstep. Statistics reveal that up to 20% of wine buying takes place online in these markets, which shows that consumers love having the option for home/office delivery, but still like to visit a bricks-and-mortar store like New District Wine Shop.
Rosé and Sparkling are here to stay
Pink wine has taken its rightful place as a year-round anytime go-to option, not just a summer novelty. The fastest growing category in wine is holding steady, and made with more intent and purpose than ever before. As with Rosé, Sparkling has had a big breakthrough. Sparkling doesn’t have to be Champagne, and we don’t need a special occasion to drink it. Prosecco, Moscato, Cava, and of course BC bubbles are all deserving of their own place, just like Champagne. Some of our favourites? For Sparkling, we recommend the Parés Baltà Cava Brut and the Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Quality Brut, which was included in the 2016 Advent Calendar. For Rosé, try the Haywire Secrest Mountain Gamay Noir Rosé.
By the glass
Partly because of the advent of the Coravin wine preservation system, there are more wines available by the glass in more restaurants more often than ever before. This is a spectacular boon to consumers, who can drink better while drinking less. Available at New District Dunbar Wine Shop.
Wine in cans
They are doing it in Provence, Marlborough, Australia, and California, and more are to come. Admired for convenience, portability and tight seal, premium and value wines alike are getting into the can game. Validation of the can from the craft beer industry (they keep light and air out brilliantly) has really appealed to time-strapped millennials.
‘Place not grape’ is a new mantra: suddenly wines from Spain and Portugal, Slovenia and Croatia, Armenia and Georgia as well as Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily have the credibility they have always deserved. We are all starting to drink with greater awareness of the somewhere-ness of wine.
It’s all about the backstory
Wine is not only about taste. It’s about stories. History, ambition, tradition, family, and vintage combine to make a bottle of wine what it is. A truth about wine is that the more you know, the more you taste – and the more you are able to appreciate it. This critical aspect of wine is understood more than ever by winemakers, critics, buyers, and sommeliers. Stories make wine intimate, relevant and memorable.
Finally, the wine world said farewell to some luminaries in 2016. A general champion and consultant for great whites (dry and sweet), and the man credited with overhauling white Bordeaux, Denis Dubourdieu passed away in July at age 67. Dubourdieu was a revered professor, researcher, winemaker and mentor for many. Nicknamed the Pope of White Wine, he consulted for Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Margaux’s magnificent Pavillon Blanc, among many others. His enduring legacy is the Institute of Sciences of Wines and Vines in Bordeaux.
Also in Bordeaux, Paul Pontallier guided Chateau Margaux for 33 vintages as Managing Director. He held a doctorate in Oenology and was as refined and elegant as the wines he made. Pontallier passed away in March at age 59.
Just as elegant was the powerful and charismatic Margrit Mondavi who died at the age of 91. Universally beloved for her gracious warmth and sharp intellect, Margrit was Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Robert Mondavi Vineyard, and single handedly changed the cultural landscape of the Napa Valley.