16 Experts Share 60 Wine Trends
By Carin Galletta Oliver
The 3rd annual VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executive) Conference in Las Vegas, is the hotbed of new and exciting trends in the wine, beer and spirits industry. Napa Technology, developer of the WineStation, asked leading wine industry experts to share what’s hip, hot and happening and what’s not in wine consumption trends today.
Restaurateurs, winemakers, hoteliers and other industry thought leaders weighed in from all over the United States and Mexico with trends that range from an increase in younger and more adventurous wine drinkers to a seemingly more educated consumer.
What everyone seems to agree on, is that a wide variety of wines from around the globe are capturing consumer interest, and wine consumption, particularly by the glass, is on the rise.
Andrew Shipe, vice president culinary & marketing
Aramark – s&e
- Juice Box Generation – The youth that grew up on juice boxes are still looking for those sweet flavors as they move into the wine category. We continue to see a trend towards red blends, Malbec and Moscatos and a movement away from big oak Chardonnay toward unoaked wines which match well with a wide variety of foods.
- Think Outside The Bottle – We continue to see innovation in packaging as suppliers raise the quality in boxed wines and move into kegs and other alternatives. This supports the sustainability movement and makes the operation more efficient for pouring at large volume operations.
- Younger drinkers, millennials, age 21-30, are more adventurous and drink higher priced wines than Gen Xers.
- Boomers are still spending more and more often.
- Blends are continuing to be popular, especially red blends that contain Syrah and Grenache (or any other Rhone grapes) and/or an unconventional blend of red grapes. Cabernet and Cabernet (Bordeaux) blends are the number 1 or 2 selling wines seemingly leveling off at last year’s highest point.
- Pinot Grigio is still very popular and has generalized from Italy to other countries and more and more includes wines labeled as Pinot Gris (both Alsace and Oregon).
- Riesling is growing towards Pinot Grigio levels, especially German Rieslings. A small trend is emerging for dry Rieslings (Germany is producing more of these and are exporting them).
- Merlot is finally making a comeback especially in the higher price point from wineries that have always made excellent Merlot such as Frog’s Leap, Markham, Rodney Strong and Robert Sinskey.
- Chardonnay as a category is still the number 1 or 2 selling varietal (alternating the top spot with Cab)—they have become less oaky over the last 5-10 years.
- A “new” category has emerged: “unoaked” and wines are labeled as such (probably a fleeting trend?).
- Classic wines, especially in the midst of the recession, have been very popular, even at higher prices. It seems that many boomer wine drinkers rather go for the “sure thing” than experimenting. Wines such as Silver Oak, Duckhorn, Grgich Hills, Chateau Montelena etc. have been popular, especially when offered by the glass.
- Cava and Prosecco continue to grow and are used in cocktails—often with hard liquor.
Trudy Thomas, Director of Beverage
JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa
- We are seeing our guests go for value oriented wines, not cheap wines but wines that deliver for the money spent.
- Malbec and Moscato are both continuing their hot streak.
- Wines which make great cocktail wines as well as food friendly wines with good acid and elegance are moving faster especially among female drinkers.
- We are seeing more by the glass sales, especially in the higher price categories.
- Consumers seem willing to spend more on a great by the glass wine than commit to an entire bottle, driven both by the economy as well as drinking and driving more responsibly.
- New wine drinkers are fearless about asking questions about a new wine.
- We are seeing a more educated, price savvy consumer.
- Our guests prefer a list with some comfortable placements whether by name or varietal to the eclectic and obscure wines popular a few years back.
- The drink local, sustainable and organic wine trend is still popular.
- The practice of adding locally produced, sustainable and organic wines is becoming an expected practice not a novelty.
Jesse Inman, Winemaker
Romililly Wines & August Briggs Winery
- There is a general trend towards more balanced wines with respect to alcohol and fruit character. Folks are expressing that they don’t need to be punched in the mouth to enjoy good wine. The foodie explosion has helped this trend, because this wine style is much more food friendly.
- Young people are buying more wine and can’t afford many of the ‘in your face’ style wines, yet want quality. This leaves the door open for obscure varietals and regions that are up and coming, that don’t command high prices.
- The $15-$25 bottle price point is hyper-hot.
Banger Smith, Director of Beverage
- Value Equals Volume: Our 20 for 20 wine list has lead to increased bottle sales and we’ve seen an uptick in multiple bottle sales after introducing value pricing.
Doug Zief, Senior Vice President
- Food TV shows such as the Food Network, TLC, Discovery, and Bravo have led to a more educated, discerning consumer.
- Red wine continues to grow market share; mostly Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Cabernets.
- I see Merlot retreating.
- Chardonnay sales have dropped off of a ledge in favor of mostly New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato (unbelievably!), and Pinot Grigio.
- Italian and French wines have dropped out of favor- Italian wines still have an identity problem as people still think of straw-covered bottles as representative of Italian wine.
- People also refuse to order wines a.) whose grape varieties they don’t recognize, and b.) whose names are intimidating to them.
- The opportunity lies in finding better value wines that we can offer for less and still maintain our margins.
Julie Brosterman, founder
- There is more focus on ‘green’ from lighter weight bottles to labels that have sustainable, bio-dynamic or other ‘natural’ packaging, etc.
- Beer lovers are discovering wine.
- Many wineries are participating more on social media channels, which is increasing consumer education about food pairings, varietals, value and so much more. Technology is really bringing excitement to the wine industry.
David M. Morgan, Vice President of food & Beverage
Omni Hotels & Resorts
- Whites other than the traditional Chardonnay are growing in popularity. In Florida and most hot weather states, there seems to be a trend on many wine list with categories like “Interesting Whites” or “Non-Traditional Whites.” This is very true at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Northeast Florida
- Italy’s Pinot Bianco is one of the top sellers on the Verandah Restaurant’s 40 Wines for 40 and Under.
- Whites from traditionally red-famous Rhone Valley are becoming more popular in the United States and are being grown more frequently throughout the New World. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are three whites that are making people forget about the famous white grape just North in Burgundy.
Angelica Sbai, Beverage Manager
Certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine, BarSmarts Certified
Bravo Brio Restaurant Group
- In 2011, we saw a surge in Malbec and old world Italian wines. Malbec has become our number one red wine by the glass.
- California always holds its own carrying nearly half of our wine sales.
- Pinot Grigio has always been our top selling white varietal with Chardonnay and Riesling close on its heels.
- With the help of features and promotions, we have been successful in guiding our guests towards more obscure Italian wines including Valpolicella, Greco di Tufo, Garganega and Aglianico.
- We have also seen a growing demand for wine dinners, flights and tasting events. Guests are really opening up to new wines and winemaking methods.
Jorge Moran Ize, Executive Assistant Manager
Presidente Intercontinental, Mexico
- Spain continues to be the number one country from which we sell the most wine. The predominate region is the Ribera del Duero.
- French and Italian wines are the second hottest selling bottles, nearly at the same level as the Spanish wines.
- We are very excited to see the growing popularity of Mexican wine.
Robert Larsen, Public Relations Director
Rodney Strong Wine Estates
- The way people are “geeking out” with wine education is a trend I expect to see more of, but in a friendly, hands-on kind of way, instead of the stuffy, “you don’t belong in this crowd” way of the past.
- Exploration and discovery are two constants that excited young wine drinkers are elevating to new heights all the time.
“At Rodney Strong’s Meritage blending seminar guests get to blend five Bordeaux varieties we use in our Symmetry to make their own blended wine. Our other seminar is a Pinot Noir clone tasting, for our Davis Bynum wines, where the attendees taste six different clones of Pinot noir, I had 80 people in the last Pinot clone seminar who were super engaged and full of really great questions.”Larsen said.
Jax Sperling, Director of Culinary R&D
Genghis Grill Franchise Concepts Lp.
- Although relaxing with a glass of wine while enjoying a fast casual meal may seem unusual, at Genghis Grill, we find our advocates are well educated on wine varietals and are pleasantly surprised to find their favorites here.
- Name brand recognition, along with common varietals, are key to the success of selling wine in the fast casual dining segment.
- Consumers know which wines pair well with each of our 80 fresh ingredients and are increasingly expecting fine wines at fast casual establishments
Fernando Salazar, Vice President of Food & Beverage
Wyndham Hotels and Resorts
- Consumers are more savvy and ready to experiment with grape varieties other than the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Cabernet.
- Wines from Spain are hot right now, particularly from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat. From Tempranillo to Mencía to Garnacha for reds to Viura and Godello and Verdejo on the whites, all these wines are getting consumers excited.
Bardenay Restaurants & Distilleries
- Besides the ever-popular “it” wine that is Argentinian Malbec, our guests are enjoying red blends, particularly from Washington state, featuring traditional Bordeaux grapes with Syrah.
- Rhone-style blends are also very popular, where more familiar varietals like Syrah are combined with lesser-known Mourvedre or Grenache grapes.
Bob Midyette, Director of Fleet Beverage Operations, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises
- We certainly see more entry level wine consumers approaching and trying wine.
Jayne Portnoy, Vice President Marketing
- Wine managers are increasingly relying on data to help increase profitability on wines by the glass program.
- Consumers are demanding more diverse wines by the glass selections, allowing for big splurges in small does, thus seeing a growing demand for intelligent preservation and dispensing options.
- The surge in the use of the WineStation within retail and restaurant environment showcases the consumer demand to have the ability to “try before they buy.”
According to Bob Midyette, “Technology is really helping us bridge the gap and reach the hesitant wine consumer. For example, the new Napa Technology wine dispensing units at our Vintages Wine Bar concepts allow guests to sample premium wines by-the-glass. We also use iPads with wine details to help engage, inform and entertain guests. We view technology as an area of comfort for the novice, allowing them to cross into the great unknown of wine. We’re always looking for ways to effectively use technology to create a gateway and reach these new wine consumers and we’ve been very successful so far.”
These 16 wine experts have their finger on the pulse of the hottest trends happening in wine bars, restaurants, hotels and cruise lines. Keeping up with today’s educated consumer who expects choices in varietals, price points, quantity and more is driving the rapidly changing wine consumption landscape across the United States and Mexico.
Technology, data, wine preservation and education is helping satisfy customer demands and maintain profitability.
What wine consumption trends do you see? Which do you think will continue? Which wine trends will retreat?