The world of wine is undergoing a renaissance — and if you’ve ever wanted to jump in, now’s the time! The wine trends of 2016 are emerging, so don’t get left out. Check out our guide to find out more about the methods and possible madness behind some of the coolest trends in wine, from the all-natural to the technologically enhanced.
1. Small Batch and Natural Wines
You may not give much thought to the production process of wine, but it gets quite complicated on a commercial scale. In fact, there are over 200 different additives a winemaker can use throughout the process, most commonly including sulfur, tannin, yeast and sugar. While nearly all commercially used additives in wine are perfectly safe, there’s a group of individuals who consider them a detraction from the art of wine-making.
These individuals and manufacturers emphasize the personality that shows through when wine is made simply using grape juice and the fermentation process. That personality is referred to as “terroir,” the sense of place imparted by a wine. Natural winemakers believe the best way to let a wine speak for itself is not to mask its voice, but to let it tell its own story with minimal interference. To that end, natural wines generally meet these criteria:
- No chemical pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard
- Use of wild, indigenous yeasts
- Hand-picking and gentle handling of grapes
- Low or no filtering
- Low or no sulfites
It makes sense for mass producers of wine to carve the process down to a science. After all, the way they make money is by delivering a product that consistently tastes the same. However, consumers are now choosing wines more and more based on their story and how they tell it.
The idea of a small-batch wine made completely by hand may be appealing because of its character and novelty as well as its unique flavor. It brings attention to the ecology of winemaking and the subtle differences that can occur based on what local animals and insects affect the grapes’ growth. Even the fermentation and aging processes can be dramatically altered by the climate they happen in, and flavors show it when the wine is left to mature naturally.
Wine lovers looking for something different should definitely get a taste of the natural wine trend — not one is the same.
2. High-Altitude Wines
It’s pretty unlikely that any of your everyday wines have their vineyard altitude printed on the label, but this 2016 wine trend may change all that. A few winemaking pioneers, mostly in South America, have hit on a secret you may not believe: Grapes grown at higher altitudes have a distinctly different flavor profile than those grown in lower areas. Are they better? A few daring wineries certainly think so.
Nicolas Catena, owner of Catena Zapata Winery in Argentina, has been studying the effects of high altitude on the quality and characteristics of wine grapes for over 20 years, and he’s convinced that altitude does make for a better product.
According to him, there are a few key things that happen when you grow grapes around an altitude of 3,000 feet:
- Grapes are exposed to lower temperatures and higher solar radiation
- UV rays can penetrate grape skins more effectively and ripen the seeds
- Skins grow thicker in reaction to the same UV rays
It also turns out that wine grapes benefit from the limited water resources found at higher altitudes. “Water stress” as it’s called, leads to a higher ratio of flavor-producing compounds to water in the grapes.
Overall, this leads to grapes that show more concentrated flavors in their resulting wines. Thicker skins mean that the soaking and fermentation steps of winemaking will be richer in flavor and have a higher intensity of phenolics — the naturally occurring compounds in grapes that give wines their unique profiles.
If you’re looking for bigger, bolder flavor in 2016, the high-altitude wine trend is worth checking out.
3. Millennial-Driven Markets
Wine trends and supply are, of course, driven by the consumers — and who those consumers are makes a big difference in what they demand. As it so happens, millennials are proving to be the biggest growing market segment in 2016, and that means some interesting changes to the world of wine consumption.
- In the U.S., millennials make up 24% of the wine consumers’ market
- 28% of younger millennials report drinking wine on a daily basis
While people age 21-33 aren’t the biggest section of consumers yet, they’re the fastest growing, and they drink much more wine than baby boomers did at the same age. This means millennial tastes are soon going to be the bulk on store shelves, but what do millennials want to drink?
You’re probably familiar with the craft beer movement — after all, it’s hard to ignore that novelty packaging. Winemakers are following in the same footsteps, creating new and unique brands that millennials identify with.
Marketing is an increasingly important part of appealing to millennial tastes, as you’ll find when perusing the wine section at your local store. You may have noticed a proliferation of boxed wine, single-serve packages and even wine in a can!
Over the next year, you’re also likely to see an increase in locally sourced wines and wine on tap, thanks to the happy and growing relationship between millennials and wine consumption.
4. Wine Technology
Although wine is arguably one of our most ancient forays into science, it’s remained relatively low tech for the past several hundred years. But luckily for the tech geeks among us, one of the most interesting wine trends of 2016 is going to be the way we incorporate technology into the making and consumption of wine.
One pioneer in high-tech winemaking is Napa Valley’s Vineyard 29. Their wines are a fusion of tradition and technology, spearheaded by former Intel executive Chuck McMinn. According to McMinn and his team, there aren’t as many differences between the production of wine and computer chips as there are parallels, and the wine they produce displays the same attention to detail.
Each vine is fitted with sensors that measure the plant’s water intake, and staff can also measure how much of each desired chemical compound ends up in the wine. Though experts disagree on how much data collection can actually help the somewhat mysterious process of winemaking, we’re sure to learn more from this 2016 wine trend.
On the consumer end, we now have more ways than ever to find, buy and share wines. For example, the app Wine Ring allows new wine connoisseurs and veterans alike to learn a little something new about their taste profile. All you have to do is look up your wine in the database of over half a million labels and rate it on a scale from dislike to love. That’s it! The app’s algorithm will do the rest of the work for you, helping you to identify the next stop on your wine-sampling adventure.
High-tech winemaking and drinking are a great way to delve into the complexities of wine or simplify the process if it suits you. Anything that makes wine more accessible is a good thing in our book, so we’re glad to report that tech is one of the top wine trends of 2016.
5. Lower Alcohol Wines
Big, rich and alcohol-laden wines have had a good run for a while now. Being able to push the bounds of winemaking to their alcohol-producing utmost while still retaining a good flavor and profile has been looked at as a sort of holy grail for some time, but the fact is there’s a time and place for these types of wines — and it’s certainly not daily drinking.
With almost a third of millennials reporting they drink wine daily, it’s time for winemakers to catch up to the demand for high-quality wine that can be shared without worrying about unbalanced flavor and bitterness. Plus, for people who simply enjoy drinking wine, it’s helpful to know you won’t be too tipsy after one glass of a Shiraz that’s 15% ABV.
Wines that are lower in alcohol content allow for much subtler bouquets of aroma, as the complexities aren’t masked. Too much alcohol can also cause imbalance in an otherwise well-crafted flavor profile.
Lower alcohol wine is also one of the main aspects that makes some wines healthier than others. In fact, a 2012 study revealed that among people who drank red wine, gin and non-alcoholic red wine, the group that drank non-alcoholic red wine had blood pressure levels that were significantly lower. That implies that the lower the ABV in your drinks, the healthier it is. For baby boomers in particular, the upward trend in lower alcohol wine is great news!
As daily wine consumption continues to grow, lower alcohol wines will have an opportunity to come to the forefront as drinks that can be enjoyed on any occasion.
6. Coravin & Single-Serve Wine
Consumers and connoisseurs have more tools than ever to try the vast array of fine wines out there — but one thing is still stopping them: accessibility. Top-shelf wines are too often served only by the bottle, since opening one and exposing it to air irrevocably changes its profile and characteristics — and if it doesn’t get sold, it will go bad within weeks. Add this to the growing public preference for wine by the glass, and both restaurants and patrons have struggled with how to handle more expensive bottles of wine.
Luckily, there’s one product that’s dramatically shifting the way wine is consumed — by eliminating the pour altogether. A company called Coravin has created a system that allows you to pour, taste and enjoy your wine without removing the cork and exposing the wine to the oxidation that degrades it.
How does Coravin work? The proprietary system uses secure clamps to hold the bottle in place while a thin, hollow needle accesses and extracts the wine without damage to the cork. The system then replaces the air in the bottle with argon gas, neutralizing any oxidation that would occur normally.
This is huge news for, well, everyone with a stake in the world of wine! Restaurants and tasting rooms will be able to offer nearly any wine by the glass, meaning that the variety of accessible, high-quality wines will be greatly expanded for those who want to enjoy them. Of all the new 2016 wine trends, this is one that has extremely high potential to become an industry fixture.
7. Sparkling Wines
Most wine lovers have been known to indulge in a breakfast mimosa, but it may be time to start letting the bottle breathe through lunch. Coravin’s founder and chairman Greg Lambrecht is certain that sparkling wines are going to see more play in winemakers’ lineups this year.
What’s the appeal of sparkling wine? Well, for starters, it just tastes good — and that’s more important in the wine world than you might think. New wine lovers are more interested than ever in finding what fits their palate, and most people find sparkling wine easier to enjoy in both warm weather, and as a starter wine. Due in part to this, consumption of sparkling wine of all kinds has been increasing in recent years, as shown by these statistics:
Rosé is making a comeback as well, with some interesting twists. Look forward to seeing rosé wines carried through early winter, and look out for the shift toward lighter red coloring and a fuller-bodied flavor instead of classic light pink varietal.
8. Sustainable & Biodynamic Wines
Where natural wines are a celebration of what’s not added to the wine, biodynamic winemakers focus on what is added. These two types of wine exist in a diagram where all biodynamic wines are natural, but not all natural wines are biodynamic. This is because the biodynamic approach to winemaking involves a highly holistic view of grape-growing, where the plants, soil, flora, fauna and even spiritual or metaphysical forces form an ecological system that should be respected and cared for.
A lot of people may turn their nose up at the methods behind biodynamic wines — and there is certainly an element of oddity to the process. You might see farmers looking to the phases of the moon to guide planting or harvesting patterns, or perhaps witnessing people filling cow’s horns with cow manure and burying them over the winter. It’s an interesting approach, but the results make it tough to doubt the method.
Biodynamic winemaking just so happens to go hand-in-hand with sustainability, though it’s not a necessary precursor. Today’s wine drinkers are often just as interested in where the wine comes from as in how it tastes, and biodynamic and sustainable wines help to lower the overall carbon footprint.
9. High-Quality, High-Value Wine Regions
When it comes to wine, location can’t be ignored — so keep an eye out for wines from Australia, Portugal and South Africa. Over the past years, Napa and Bordeaux have dominated as the middle of the road for wine investors, but their pricing has been steadily inflating. As such, many are turning to Australian winemakers, whose products are often an excellent value for the quality.
Portugal is also an emerging producer of excellent wines, and there’s a huge range to explore. The country is home to over 250 varieties of grapes and a wide array of soils and climates. It’s the perfect place for winemakers to perfect old traditions and experiment with new ones, so next time you’re in the market for wine, check out the new and interesting wines Portugal is producing.
South Africa’s history with winemaking is a long one, but it’s only now that the country is gaining real notoriety as a producer of quality wines. Interestingly, the effects of the storm El Niño and a warming climate have caused an unprecedented variation among vintages, meaning that South African wines will have more character — and therefore more appeal — than ever before.
10. Bourbon Barrel Wine
One of the most crucial elements of the winemaking process is the aging, and much of it is done in barrels. While white wines can get away with being “unoaked,” red wines almost always spend time in an oak barrel. This is a practice dating all the way back to the Romans, and for good reason: Oak is soft enough to easily make barrels out of, it’s fairly abundant and it’s waterproof. But even more importantly, it softens and smooths wines while imparting unique flavors. For example, oak barrel-aged wines often benefit from additional flavors such as caramel and vanilla, or even a buttery quality.
This tradition is getting a new twist, however, from winemakers who have decided to up the ante by recycling used liquor barrels for wine aging. Rather than going for the usual French oak, some winemakers are opting for charred American barrels that have held whiskey or bourbon.
Though many established experts scoff at such deviation from the French tradition, many others firmly believe there’s a place for fusion and experimentation. And it’s hard to argue with the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon that come out of those bourbon barrels, and their exceptional notes of smokiness and vanilla.
If you’re the adventurous type, be sure to take a walk on the wild side with bourbon or whiskey barrel-aged wines in 2016. Check out 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel for an excellent value American Oak Aged red wine.
Stay On-Trend & Ahead of the Wine Trend Curve
There’s a lot to learn and even more to love about the expanding world of wine, even if you’re halfway to sommelier yourself! Staying on top of new wine trends doesn’t have to be hard when you’re shopping from a wine store with friendly expertise – Marketview Liquor.
At our online store, you’ll find a huge selection wine and spirits. And if you need some pointers to help you find the latest and greatest of any wine, check out our blog and Mike’s Picks for excellent, affordable wines.
Buying in bulk? Marketview is the perfect place for that, too. Not only do we offer mix-and-match discounts on cases picked from select bottles of wine, but we also we save you money by providing free shipping on eligible wine bottles when purchasing six or more bottles.