There’s an old saying that gets kicked around a lot in Canada – and I’ve never been sure if it was actually ever said, or one of those great urban legends that takes on a life of its own – but years ago when I played hockey as a youngster, I was often told not to pass the puck to where the player was, but rather to pass the puck to where he was going to be. With this in mind, as wine importers we spend some time towards the end of each year taking stock of what has been – and giving some time and thought to where the market might be heading, and how we can get there sooner. With all this said, I thought I’d take a few moments today to write a bit about some of the emerging wine trends we seen in the world of wine – and some ideas we think you should try and keep on your radar the next time you go shopping for a new bottle or two.
#1. High Altitude Wines
Soil and climate might be the more obvious elements of “terroir” – or the impact of place on the flavours of wines – but altitude and elevation are quickly emerging as important criteria in identifying exciting and delicious wines. In short, vineyards perched at lofty heights tend to experience vast changes between day and night temperatures helping maintain freshness and balance in wines. The slightly cooler growing conditions allow grapes to hang longer into the fall, leading to better and more complex flavour maturity without over-the-top sugar maturity and alcohol levels.
#2. Large Format Bottles
It’s no secret that larger format bottles tend to allow wines to age somewhat more slowly than those packaged in smaller bottles. Serious collectors have gone out of their way to get their hands on Magnums, Jeroboams and Nebuchadnezzars for many years, but the increasingly affordable and accessible wine preservation systems that are popping up in both restaurants and homes will encourage buyers to consider larger formats for everyday drinking – as well as for the most famous and highly collectible wines of the world.
#3. Multi-Grape Blends
There is something appealing about the simplicity of naming wines based on the grapes they’re made from. It makes it easy for us to identify a style and flavour profile we enjoy, or that matches with our favourite foods. That said, there is little doubt that the greatest wines of the world are made from multi-grape blends – and quite often, even so-called “varietal” wines like Cabernet Sauvignon from California or Shiraz from Australia contain some percentage of other grapes, but producers make the marketing-based decision to leave these secondary grapes off their labels. To draw a musical comparison, varietal wines are kind of like a single note, delivering purity and precision, whereas wines made from a blend of grapes are more like a chord, offering depth, richness and complexity. As wine drinkers around the world become more knowledgeable and experienced, multi-grape blends are rapidly gaining in popularity.
#4. Higher Acidity & Lower Alcohol
While higher acidity and lower alcohol are not always tied together, they tend to be found in the same wines quite often. We North Americans are conditioned to enjoy sweeter beverages as children, drinking fruit juices and soda pop. That said, the best wines to serve with food almost always contain lower levels of alcohol (which can be quite filling) while showcasing higher levels of acidity (which spurs on appetite and digestion). Particularly if you’re looking for a wine to serve alongside a meal, you’d be well-served to hunt down wine made in a cooler climate, or grown at higher altitude.
#5. Indigenous Grape Varieties
Much like the emergence of multi-grape blends, the increasing willingness and appetite of wine drinkers to go beyond the comfortable and familiar old grapes, and to search out new flavours is great news for regions where local grapes are still widely grown. This isn’t to say that Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio or Shiraz can’t produce great wines – but rather, there are places where other local grapes perform much better. Places like Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Baltics are all home to a wide range of lesser known grapes that offer immense drinking pleasure, adventure and discovery.
#6. Discovery, Exploration & Experiences
As the world becomes a smaller and smaller place, we have the opportunity to explore and learn and experience new things like never before. Wine and culinary tourism and travel are becoming huge industries, and many of us are traveling to indulge in life’s most delicious experiences. Canada’s diversity has brought the world’s most amazing flavours and foods to our doorstep, and more than ever we have the tools, ingredients and knowledge to make amazing meals at home. Embracing these experiences and the process of exploration are probably the broadest and most overarching trends we see across all categories of food and drink today.
Regardless of what you plan on eating and drinking in 2016, please accept our best wishes to you, your family and loved ones for happy and healthy 2016. We’re certainly excited to continue bringing amazing new discoveries and established favourites to your doorstep – and look forward to helping do our part to make the your coming year as delicious as possible.