Whether your favourite tipple is red, white or pink, you can count on plenty of new and interesting wine experiences to tickle your taste buds in the coming year or two. Wine blogger Alder Yarrow, ranked one the world’s top 10 social media wine experts in 2017, talks us through what’s new, different and up-and-coming.
Wine is an ever-changing industry whose capacity for reinvention never ceases to amaze. New regions, new wines and even a new generation of wine consumers are just some of the trends shaping the landscape for wine drinkers in 2017 and beyond.
Californian Alder Yarrow, a wine blogger since 2004, sees the rise of millennials as one of the biggest influences on global wine consumption. Millennials – people born between 1980 and the late 1990s – are already the biggest wine-drinking generation in history. In 2015, they consumed 160 million cases of wine, equivalent to 42% of all wine drunk worldwide. And they are thirsty drinkers, knocking back an average of 3.1 glasses a sitting, according to the Wine Market Council.
Millennials care little about the origin or vintage of the wine they drink. They’re more interested in the experience of wine and take a huge interest in new wines and wines from regions they may not be familiar with.
“Everybody’s courting them, even though millennials haven’t come into their full income earning potential yet. But as they get older and start spending more on wine they will be the force of all forces to be reckoned with in the wine world,” Yarrow says.
Attracting millennials is tricky. They are the least susceptible to traditional mass-market advertising of any generation. In the past, you could publish a TV or magazine ad and expect people to flock to your brand. Millennials, however, are more likely to be attracted by a blog, social media recommendations from friends or wine apps.
“They pose a challenge for any company trying to seriously court them. We’re seeing a lot more creative advertising and marketing schemes and product placement to try and get their attention,” Yarrow says.
“When I started my blog there were essentially four or five outlets for wine information in traditional media in the US and only a handful more in the world – established magazines, established critics – and you had to pay for that content. Then I and a bunch of others came along and there was a huge wave of free online content about wine to help people choose. Now wine blogs are establishment and apps are the first real new way for getting and consuming wine information for those who want it.”
What, then, are the wines that people will be drinking? Many experts tip whites from France’s Loire Valley to be the “next big thing”. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are already well known, but smaller regions like Anjou-Saumur, Touraine and Vouvray may be poised for more exposure while, Yarrow says, the Jura and Savoie regions are also catching the eye of enterprising sommeliers.
Sicily, long the sleeping giant of Italian wine, is another to watch. The island produces a fair portion of Italy’s basic wines and its whites, in particular, have a reputation for anonymous flavour. But, according to Yarrow, finer wines from the Mount Etna area in particular may be about to come into vogue.
“One of the reasons is the resurgence of interest in light coloured reds – reds that aren’t huge and massive, with thick, dark, black fruits. People are interested in lighter coloured, textured red wines,” he says.
Meanwhile, New Zealand wines will continue to impress. “We’re finally seeing New Zealand Pinot Noir get some traction over Sauvignon Blanc. More and more people in my position and sommeliers are talking about how great some of the New Zealand Pinot Noirs really are,” Yarrow says.
Elsewhere, rosé’s emergence from ugly duckling to fashionable tipple continues apace. Sales have been rising sharply for a while, with growth hitting double figures in the United States in each of the past four years.
“Particularly in America, rosé became a very uncool beverage for many years, one that people loved to hate, that men thought impugned their masculinity and most people wouldn’t be caught dead drinking! But in the last 10 years we have seen that image erode to nothingness and now rosé is taking its rightful place as one of the most popular wines in the market,” Yarrow says.
Rosé interest centres on Provencal-style wines, which means the Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Cunoise and Syrah grapes. A number of impressive rosés made from Pinot Noir, notably in California, are also garnering increased attention.
Last, but by no means least, sparkling wines have lost none of their fizz. Boutique sparkling wines are cropping up everywhere and Pétillant-naturel (Pét-Nat for short) wines are all the rage in hip wine bars. These natural sparkling wines are made using the méthode ancestrale, meaning the wine is bottled before primary fermentation finishes and without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars.
“Pét-Nat wines tend to be a little more wild, unruly and funky in their taste profile but have become quite chic,” Yarrow says, who also predicts the Prosecco boom will continue to run and run.
Prosecco sales have gone through the roof in the United States – so much so that Yarrow says the Italian sparkling wine is increasingly used as a generic term for sparkling wine.
“I guess it’s not so surprising as it tends to be a slightly sweeter, more accessible sparkling wine,” Yarrow says.
And as with so much that’s happening in the world of wine, it’s millennials who seem to be behind Prosecco’s rise and rise.
Yarrow says: “My anecdotal experience is that Prosecco consumption is being driven very heavily by a millennial audience, while the Pét-Nat and boutique sparkling wines are very much part of the hipster, wine geek circuit – people who are looking for alternatives to the mainstream.”