As sommeliers prepare to enter December mayhem mode and suppliers get ready to receive desperate last-minute orders on Christmas Eve, the wine trade starts wondering what’s going to be the next big hit on Britain’s wine lists. Just in time for this busy season, Bibendum has released a new report exploring the trends that captured the on-trade's attention over the past year, and what's on the horizon for the world of wine.
South America and indigenous Italy rising
In the past 12 months, indigenous varieties and little-known wine regions have made their marks.
‘People are interested in things they haven’t tried already. We’re seeing that our guests are receptive to interesting things,’ Ben Robinson-Young, sommelier at Harborne Kitchen, told Imbibe.
Bibendum's report highlighted South America and Italy as key areas of varietal and regional diversity. Meanwhile, regions in France and eastern Europe are emerging, with Croatia particularly noted as an up-and-coming winemaking nation following Hungary’s growing success.
‘We are looking at what more can be done with Argentina and Chile,’ said Paul Meihuizen, Bibendum's wine buyer for South America. Meihuizen thinks that the trade is open to embracing indigenous grapes to counterbalance the predominance of international varieties, pointing to Pais in Chile and Bonarda in Argentina as examples.
‘Obviously it’s not easy to move people away from the classic Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc,’ he said. ‘We are working with Garage Wine & Co doing nice stuff in Maule, Chile, with Carignan, Garnacha and Pais.’
Robinson-Young has noticed South American wines garnering more attention of late, as well. ‘When it comes to South America, Uruguay is definitely attracting a lot of interest,’ he commented.
Meanwhile, Petersham Nurseries head sommelier Mattia Scarpazza supported Bibendum's findings on the growing popularity of local Italian grapes: ‘Verdicchio, Arneis, Teroldego or Nero D’avola can produce fantastic wine at a good value,’ he explained. He also noted that these same varieties are being planted in New World countries, giving customers more options.
Vegan on the rise – or is it?
According to Bibendum, vegan wine will be another key trend in 2019, benefiting from the increasing popularity of vegan food. The report stated that ‘one in every 10 premium, trend-setting outlets [already features] vegan-friendly lines on their wine lists’.
Scarpazza backed up Bibendum’s predictions based on his experiences at Petersham Nursuries. ‘With so many consumers turning vegan, there is definitely a lot of potential for producers who place the vegan on their labels,’ he said.
However, not all sommeliers agree. Harborne Kitchen’s Robinson-Young showed scepticism: ‘Often it’s not even easy to tell by the label if a wine is vegan or not,’ he remarked. ‘People are seriously interested in vegan food; we do vegan menus with a wine pairing flight, but people don’t even ask whether the wine is vegan or not.’
Though Bibendum's claims around vegan wine trends are contentious, its findings around obscure varietals and regions certainly demonstrate that the market's hunger for the new and the diverse won’t be appeased anytime soon.