2015 was quite a busy year for the wine industry. From restaurants introducing Coravin wine programs, wine keg systems, digital wine lists, or foregoing menus all together, the year was marked by sommeliers and restaurant beverage directors pushing the limits and experimenting with unusual varieties, regions, food pairings and service styles.
This exploration was not just restricted to traditional wine by the glass offerings, with bar managers incorporating wine into their restaurant cocktail programs and the craft beer industry taking some inspiration from the wine industry as well. Even chefs got into the mix, experimenting with crafting their own wine to best suit their cuisine.
Now, more than a week into 2016, three wine industry experts share their predictions for the year ahead.
Anthony Cailan, Retailer/Sommelier at DomaineLA
"What I've noticed in the past few years is that consumers are becoming more and more informed. People aren't stereotyping wine as often as they used to.
I think the next trend is going to be chill-able reds. Reds from the Loire, lighter more natural styles of Cab Franc or Gamay from Beaujolais that will be drunk more frequently this year.
It's going to be the year of "Glou-Glou" (French term for glugable)."
Kevin O'Connor, Owner/Wine Director at aestus, co-founder of LIOCO Winery
"Diners in general are getting more confident than ever in their relationship with wine. As they drink more, and try different wines, the need for increased variety will naturally arise given their broadened curiosity and consumption. In 2016, I foresee a greater willingness to let go of their trusty Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon as they venture into the exciting new waters of Falanghina, Riesling, Gamay, and Nebbiolo. They will be less apt to ask for a wine by name, but rather by its character or ability to match the dish they'd like it to complement.
This new level of comfort, combined with experience with wine, opens the door to explore not just new varieties but entirely new regions. I find my guests at aestus more than willing to venture into places like Sardinia, the Jura and parts of the Loire Valley other than Sancerre. I truly believe this puts the onus on us wine service professionals to match our guests' new-found appetite with a stronger commitment to continue our own education, and continuously retool our wine programs accordingly.
Hot category: Sparkling Wine (other than Champagne)
Cremant de Loire (made with mostly Chenin Blanc) and Sekt (made with mostly Riesling) are great with or without food and far less expensive than champagne.
In Italy: Puglia and Calabria (especially for reds).
In France: Central Loire Valley Cabernet Franc based-reds (Saumur-Champigny) and Chenin Blanc-based whites (Anjou Blanc). So much serious wine at great prices! Also in France, Cru Beaujolais which are Gamay-based reds. Look for wines from Julienas, Fleurie and Morgon!
And from more far flung regions, look to Hungary's Tokaji region for intriguing dry whites made from Furmint. Also from Croatia seek out compelling versions of Plavac which has DNA links to Zinfandel."
Floreana Edwards-Younger, Sommelier/Manager at Redbird Restaurant
"I predict that naturally made wines will continue to step into the spotlight this year. They are so alive and vibrant — I love having a natural wine in my wineglass. And as a plus, they cause practically NO hangover! Natural wine is simply grape juice that’s fermented with none of those nasty chemical additives. It also has a minimal impact on the environment. So, drinking natural wine is kind of a no-brainer for me, and I think that is catching on with the public.
Simply because I enjoy drinking them so very much, I’d love to see more wine made with carbonic fermentation and oxidation. Carbonic fermentation is hands down insanely delicious, and everyone should drink more of it, so there. I’d be thrilled to see more carbonic wines coming out of California. I adore oxidative wine styles because of the nuttiness it imparts, and also its staying power on the shelf. I don’t always want to drink something fruity, and I don’t always want to drink the whole bottle at once, so oxidative wines like sherry or Savagnin sous-voile make me a very happy girl indeed.
Jura and the Loire seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. So let’s keep our eyes peeled for lots of delicious Trousseau, Poulsard, Cab Franc, Savagnin, Sauv Blanc, and Chenin Blanc.
I am seeing a lot more Eastern European and Middle Eastern wines, too! Many guests are surprised to see wines from Greece, Georgia, Israel, and Slovenia on the wine list—but grape cultivation originated in the fertile crescent about 9,000 years ago. So, why shouldn’t we be drinking wine from there? They invented wine! If anyone knows how to make wine, they do. So hopefully, more Mediterranean countries (aside from the obvious Spain, France, and Italy) will start to pop up more on wine lists."