The first of each year I like to scour the business journals to research emerging trends in the wine market.
■ As with 2018, packaging will continue to matter to consumers with bling, material and technology. Not only is packaging important but it is changing the interest in brand loyalty to the largest group of wine consumers, millennials. With shelves lined with hundreds of choices, "eye catching" is the key. A Portland State University study showed these young buyers are most concerned with label color and logo. With more and more restaurants moving to digital (tablet) wine lists, the visual presentation will also show a growing impact of how we select wines while dining out.
■ Canned wine continues to grow. Many surveys showed an increase in sales as high as 45 percent from June 2017 to June 2018. This trend has been credited for several reasons — including pricing and portability — but most interesting is the intimidation factor. When consumers were faced with a range of availability the relaxed nature of the can seems to help ease the process.
■ Technology will continue to play a key role with a shift in our buying experience. Producers are stepping in line with other retail commodities giving us a virtual experience. Treasury Wine Estates recently released "The Banished" red wine under its "19 Crimes" brand aimed at men between 21 and 34 years old. This includes a mobile app that activates an augmented reality feature when the phone's camera is pointed at the bottle.
■ Another hot topic will be the discussion of shifting climates and environmental concerns. The top of the list will be water stress and temperature increases. The regions in the past we considered "cooler" are not so cool anymore. Many vineyards will be replanted with different varietals and we will see emerging regions coming to the market where grapes were simply unable to ripen. California will continue to struggle with the aftereffects of the fires and drought in 2019. David Ramey — owner and winemaker of Ramey Wine Cellars in Sonoma County — goes even as far as issuing a warning to consumers in the coming year, "If this continues, the impact on the marketplace will be substantial."
■ It will take a few more years but sake is quickly becoming an established drink in the U.S. market. A recent survey showed it was featured on 2 of every 5 premium wine lists and half of those had an entire section specific to sake. It has slowly been added as a cocktail ingredient but in 2019 we will see more and more restaurants recommending this wine as the ideal wine pairing for almost any dish on the menu.
■ What's next in regions and trending grape varietals? Uruguay seems to be the answer for many wine drinkers in Europe and is quickly entering the U.S. market. And with more and more consumers looking to fruit-driven lighter styles of red wine we will see an emergence of cabernet franc and also more indigenous grapes from Italy with nero d'avola leading the list.
So, all in all we will have some exciting new shifts in 2019. But one I was just not ready to accept is that edible wine "bottles" made from isomalt, a sugar substitute, will become commonplace. For that one, we'll just have to wait and see.
Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, or email:
Food on 01/16/2019