The last 5 years or so have seen a very distinct zeitgeist in wine and beverage culture. Between so-called natural wines, orange wines, pét-nat, obscure wine regions, minimal intervention wines, etc., the catchphrase may as well have been “the weirder the better”--and sommeliers and other beverage professionals seemed to relish in dealing in wines that the average consumer would neither recognize nor understand.
While there is certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these styles, and there are many phenomenal examples of each, to many it comes as a welcome change that the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction. 2019 reflects a wine culture that is at once casual and classic, and driven by the values of the consumer. Let’s take a look.
The Biggest Wine Trends of 2021
One of the biggest changes in 2020 was the growth of online wine purchases. There was already a trend in place, but the pandemic accelerated this trend. For many years, wine sales lagged the growth of other consumer goods being sold online. There are a few factors that made it less attractive to purchase wine via e-commerce sites. The cost of shipping, the arcane state-level wine shipping laws, and the low quality of online wine retail sites contributed to this slow growth.
Several factors have started to converge that made online wine purchasing more attractive. Here are a few of those changes:
- Several states have made it easier to receive direct wine shipments.
- Creative solutions like Vivino and Drizly have allowed local retailers to post wine inventory on professionally run e-commerce sites and apps.
- Programs like Wine.com's Stewardship offer benefits that include free shipping similar to an Amazon Prime membership.
The numbers have been stunning. The direct-to-consumer wine site Winc saw signups increase 578% in one week early in 2020. They have added over 20,000 new accounts since the start of the pandemic. Vivino saw sales up about 140% YOY during the second quarter last year.
Given that the pandemic continues to affect consumer purchasing habits, we feel this will be one of the 2021 wine trends to keep an eye on.
Wine in Cans
There has been a rise in the availability in recent years of wines in “alternative packaging”; boxed wine has become available in higher quality and quantity, and bagged wine has been introduced to the market.
This year’s most prominent new packaging, though, has been canned wine. These are generally quaffable, fruity wines of reasonable quality sold individually in artsy packaging. Occasionally flavors or mixers will make an appearance in the blend.
These cans are perfect for casual drinking, as the non-fussy packaging is small, non-fragile, and does not require an opener. People are transferring the wines to a glass or enjoying straight out of the can, often at the beach or at a picnic. I for one applaud the availability of quality wine in an approachable, casual vessel.
Try: Wine Society Tempt Red, Underwood Riesling Radler, House Wine Rosé
While “weird” and esoteric wines have dominated recently, there is now a definitive swing back to exploring “classic” wines; wine-drinkers are familiarizing or re-familiarizing themselves with the wine regions which have for centuries made benchmark wines of consistent style and quality.
New technologies in wine preservation have made it more possible to enjoy high-end and vintage wines-by-the-glass, often from these classic regions which age so beautifully. In addition to dry, unfortified wines such as Rhone, Barolo, or Mosel wines, for example, this also includes a resurgence of sherry and vermouth-often appearing in cocktails.
Try: Domaine de la Mordorée Côtes du Rhône 2016, Emilio Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Sherry Los Arcos
Wine Choices Driven by the Values of the Consumer
Wine-drinkers are now looking beyond the packaging and taste of a wine, and are interested in a more holistic view of what is in the bottle (or bag, or can…).
Many restaurant wine lists are appearing which feature only those wineries with female owners or winemakers, for example. Consumers are also more interested in the sustainability practices of a winery, and this is reflected by the surge of seals from certifying bodies found on wine labels. Many wineries are also now supporting various causes via donations or other forms of aid.
Try COHO Winery, Napa, CA (provides support for the preservation of Coho salmon habitat), Susana Balbo Wines, Mendoza, Argentina (run by Susana Balbo, winemaker extraordinaire and Argentina’s first female enologist).
Low Alcohol Wines
The millennial generation is on the whole very interested in health and well-being, and this has found its way into the beverage market as well. Beverages such as White Claw offer low sugar, low calorie, low alcohol ways to enjoy a drink.
Similarly, people are seeing out lower-alcohol wines, and enjoying a wine spritzer no longer elicits jokes and eye rolls (usually). While there are companies producing wines with some or all of the alcohol removed to achieve low abv, this process, on the whole, has yet to be perfected and often the taste of the wine suffers. Try instead to find unadulterated wines that are naturally low in alcohol.
A few good examples include Txakoli, Vinho Verde, and German white wines.
There is also a beverage called Piquette, which until recently was almost impossible to find on shelves. This style re-uses the pressed grapes after the initial wine is made to create a light, sparkling wine that was historically made for the vineyard workers. Making Piquette requires the addition of water to the grape pomace, leading to a juice with lower sugar—this, in turn, creates a wine lower in alcohol.
Try: Txakoli Ameztoi Rosé, Wild Arc Farm Piquette, Hudson Valley, NY
Wine and weed were bound to find their way together at some point. This has become possible through the sweeping trend of legalization of cannabis, as well as the surge in popularity of non-psychoactive health-driven cannabis derivatives such as CBD.
Naturally, these wines are only available in states in which they are legal, and will usually not be shipped across state lines. Many of these, of course, are being made in California. One catch: since cannabis and alcohol can not be sold under the same roof, all of these wines have had the alcohol removed. Should you find yourself in the sunshine state, keep an eye out for cannabis-infused wines.
Try: Rebel Coast (CA), CannaVines (CA)