It is once again time to predict trends for the upcoming year. What will 2023 hold for wine drinkers? I don’t know, of course, but this is what I hope for!
1. Our collective obsession with Champagne will finally pass
Bubbles are wonderful things, and there are many champagnes that I like. But, they get far more press and cost far more money than fabulously delicious sparkling wines made in the same or similar method (secondary fermentation in bottle – whether methode ancestrale or traditionnelle). These come from almost everywhere, including Lebanon, England, Georgia, Italy, other parts of France. Speaking of France and not-champagne, I’m currently a bit obsessed with the Catherine & Pierre Breton Vouvray Brut La Dilettante. But, my heart and palate remain firmly with Italy’s Franciacorta. These methode traditionnelle wines are fantastically good, at better value, and with appellation regulations that can be more stringent than those of Champagne. I first fell in love with Contadi Castaldi while vacationing near Lake Garda, and have since had many wonderful producers at Italian weddings and holiday celebrations. Ca’ del Bosco can be stunning, but Barone Pizzini remains my favorite.
2. There will be greater diversity in wine menus
I love wine, but have been opting for an Old Fashioned when I’m out because choices at restaurants and bars have become pretty stagnant; the wines are expected and boring. It is sad to see an entire, global world of wine distilled to so few choices, repeated across so many menus. I hope that beverage directors will diversify their wine lists, not just with different regions and grapes, but also relative to other restaurants’ and bars’ lists. Too frequently in the past few years, wine lists across multiple places have the same, high-profile wines from a few, trendy producers. I’d love to see deserving and delicious wines from producers big and small, hip and “square” (and un-ironically so!), natural and conventional come back to the interested drinker! I’d love to see people take some chances on wines that they *know* are good (because they’ve tasted them and said, “Damn, that is delicious!”) but haven’t served because they aren’t sure hits on the menu. Love Meinklang? Great! So do I! But as this recent article in Bon Appetit light-heartedly lamented, its uniformity across menus is, well, boring and expected. Meinklang *is* for sure a great story, with lands spanning the Austro-Hungarian border. But, there is so much more great wine from Neusiedlersee (such as anything from Heidi Schröck) and – one of my favorites – Somló (see below).
3. More people will Embrace the Unknown
My archaeology work landed me for long periods of time in Aleppo, Syria, where I spent many afternoons drinking Lebanese wine. I also worked in Turkey and Armenia, sampling their juice. So, I knew there was far more to the wine world than traditional “Old” and “New” labels. When I opened Jet Wine Bar in 2010, we carried and tasted Moroccan, Armenian, Georgian, and Pennsylvania wine, among others. We’ve always strived to share “Ancient World Wines” and deliver an experience that includes lesser-known-but-delicious wines. I would have it no other way. I love these wines and Jet has cultivated a very loyal following of like-minded individuals who taste the value in exploration of different grapes, palates, and aromas, and are rewarded with amazing and complex wines. Jet will continue to carry these. Many times, outside of the Ancient World, there are regions or styles from well-known wine countries that are undeservedly ignored. One of these categories is White-Wines-of-Hungary-not-named-Tokaj! Hungary makes some seriously great white wine that is largely overlooked. In particular, the small area of Somló has a superb terroir for crisp and flavorful white wines. The region is formed around an extinct volcano, and wines have a beautifully full-body with great mineral, acid, and fruit. White grapes from the region include the relatively well-known Furmint, but also the wonderfully fun to say Juhfark. I love the wines of Krisztina Csetvei at Csetvei Pincészet. They are not necessarily easy to come by, but are well worth the search. Exploring different wine regions are also a great way to connect to a history or place. I recently adopted 3 kids from Bulgaria and want to know and drink more Bulgarian wine! I’ve been thrilled with their aromatic whites, like Dimyat.
4. We’ll escape the Tyranny of the Trendy
One of the reasons for all that similarity across menus (see #2, above) is that many of these wines are picked for their trendiness. Orange wine? Check. Georgian wine? Check. Natty wine? Duh, Check. But unless one is actively drinking through and learning about those wines – as the leader of a good wine program must do – the choices are either the most popular (resulting in the same menu everywhere) or, even worse, just random. That randomness can result in some pretty crappy wine, as there is good and bad wine in any category – trendy or otherwise. So, while trends are great for highlighting a particular style, production method, region, grape, etc, that may not have many adherents, too many lists show blind submission to the style of the moment, glomming on to a specific producer, appellation, or category to the practical exclusion of all others. The very narrow representation of wine from the Republic of Georgia is a case in point. Georgia has several diverse regions and its producers create wines with numerous grapes and in both traditional and European style. But, if a Georgian wine appears on a menu, at all, it will almost certainly be a qvevri Khaketi Saperavi or Mtsvane/Rkatsitelli. But what about Imereti or Racha? I love the delicate, lighter-bodied wines from these regions, and am currently obsessed with an Ojaleshi from Samegrelo. Want to know more about Georgian wine? Master of Wine, Lisa Granik, published her expertise in The Wines of Georgia.
5. People will frequent local Wine Shops more
Exploring and drinking a range of wines is the best way to further your wine knowledge and get the most enjoyment out of what you drink. While there is certainly information to be found on-line, and crowd-sourced review sites can be good for quick and dirty purchases, there is little better than a knowledgeable, person to visit in real life and help with your choices. So, why not to a shop with a wine professional? Yes, wine is about personal taste. But, wine professionals are amazing assets; they are well-versed about wine, wine making, and wine trends, in general, plus hold minutiae about specific grapes, styles, regions, and wines. Want to explore a style you’ve heard about but don’t understand? Go to a local wine shop and ask! Want to know what wine is most similar to the one you had in Greece but can’t find? Go to a local wine shop and ask! A lot of people love to know the story behind a bottle of wine, and the best source is often the interested, dedicated experts at your local bottle shop. Plus, you get the bonus of shopping local!