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Beverage trends: Early 2018 edition

We haven't had this conversation in a while, and I think it's high time! What are the beverage trends you're seeing in your market right now, and what do you think is ahead?

Here are a few to get us started... I think younger consumers are more curious than ever to learn, evidenced by the market for classes, consumer-oriented books on wine, and expert-driven wine clubs, as well as the ongoing success of sites like 's Wine Folly. "Unique" grapes are still cool, perhaps an evolution of earlier enthusiasm around natural wine, orange wine, etc. Restaurants seem to be tipping back toward fine dining.

What do you think?

  • Right now, I'm seeing a lot of Georgian wines being poured by the glass and featured with wine pairings in the Chicagoland area. 

  • Vermouth is very on trend. Funny, since it would have been at the absolute bottom of the cool list just a few years ago. I quite like a vermouth and soda aperitif, so it's not a trend I mind at all—unless the trend takes it towards increasingly extreme styles.

  • Australia is really moving towards the "Unique" grapes. Australian grown Fiano, Sangiovese, and Nebbiolo specifically are finding massive success in the Sydney wine market.  Minimal sulphites, natural, and orange wines are seeing a major uptick; with many wine bars exclusively pouring from these categories. The younger, more informed, and health conscious generation coming up right now is definitely giving that trend a bigger push in that direction. 

  • I'd like to think that sommeliers should start focusing on Merlot again - this noble grape has never seen a major resurgence since the movie Sideways. I've recently had some outstanding La Jota Howell Mountain, Three Palms Vineyards, Petrolo Galatrona, and of course the legendary Masseto. Not too sure what's stopping us from listing great Merlots or even recommending it. 

  • It can vary from vintage to vintage, but the Merlot from Ridge (from the Monte Bello vineyard) can be fantastic and a relative deal. I would second La Jota. Ehlers in Napa is also a good bet. I'd love to see some young producers explore Bennet Valley more. It's a great spot for Merlot and Matanzas Creek has been making great value Melot from that area for decades.

  • The biggest trend I've noticed is Importers and Distributors selling wine through Instagram. They "announce" the new arrival and its gone before you know it. They've realized people are locked into Instagram on their respective devices and have figured out how to capitalize on it. 

    Not that I think this is new, but I keep seeing more people talking about it, the "hip-ness" of Pinot Meunier varietal-Champagnes. Special Club seems to be cool again. 

    It seems like Spanish wine is gaining some ground outside of traditional regions. I don't necessarily think the wines are as rare, or as cool, as Instagram makes them out to be. 

    I definitely think this trend has been happening for a while, but I feel like guests are finally asking for Chablis rather than me having to sell them on it. 

  • Do we think that since Merlot has become such a hard sell to consumers that it's not worth the effort to, in most cases, down-sell from Cabernet or other things? and Not as "fun" to suggest to people as any odd ball variety you can think of? -- I am not in this camp, I really enjoy Merlot. I am just wondering what the overall Somm community feels about it, since it will take a movement to help the resurgence of what should be a varietal that is highly touted and loved, but just isn't at this point in time. 

  • I am quite pleased about this trend—multiple types of Spanish vermouth on a list?! Delightful! But, like many things, I think it will be slower to gain traction with a broad audience. Last time I sat at a bar enjoying vermouth, I got multiple questions from strangers. Over the holidays, I shared some reserva vermouth with my sister-in-law, who was a little puzzled—it reminded her of what she used to sneak out of her parents' liquor cabinet, she said. My explanation that it was the same thing did little to lessen her confusion...!

  • I spoke with a banker the other day (a friend of mine) and he stated that he still gets more requests for loans to open breweries than ANYTHING he gets requests for, which is crazy to think. It would seem to me that there has to be a cap on how many new breweries can open and sustain. Could we see a downward trend this year in number of breweries that open up, or will the numbers continue to rise?  I thought we were there, but the numbers keep rising, so clearly not.

  • Funny, that’s exactly what I was drinking. I go through a lot during blood orange season. One slice of blood orange plus the juice of the rest of that half. 

  • Good vermouth is about the best value going in wine.  Given how little you have to use compared to a glass pour when you're drinking it with soda, it equates to a $6-8 bottle of wine and yet is so much more delicious.  

    What's more, back in 08, when the economy was tanking and the Haus Alpenz products were just coming into my market, I did a taste test where we blind tasted some regular bar customers on a martini and manhattan, one each made with top-shelf base spirit and what we'd been using for our vermouth vs one made with our well base spirit and some of these better vermouths.  To a person, they chose the one made with the better vermouth.

    Of course, the drink with the well base spirit (keep in mind our well isn't generic crap, but still much cheaper than top-shelf) was much cheaper overall.  It was then that I realized that vermouth makes the drink and started looking for more.

    It's exciting now, how many are being brought even to my b-level market. 

  • I couldn't agree more but I think we will all start seeing a resurgence in Merlot after the "Sideways Catastrophe". I just added Joyce Merlot BTG in Los Olivos, CA where Sideways was partially filmed. Also, Cheval Blanc will always be cool for those who can afford it.

    I see no end in the Mezcal craze. 

  • People being open to trying new grapes - this is especially true of whites from Italy, Greece and Portugal. Customers seem more and more come in with an idea of the style of wine they want to drink, and as long as the product fits that, they're open to exploring the less well known regions of the world. Millennial's seem to really want to learn about the world of wine, and with this comes the step away from traditional regions to places they've never heard of. The success of Wachau seems to come from this. 

    At least that's my perspective on my area of the London on-trade.