Wine is always evolving, and new trends emerging. With 2017 in the rearview mirror, here are 3 trends that we predict will help to define the world of wine in 2018.
The Triumphant Return of Chardonnay
To be clear Chardonnay has never disappeared, it has just been the victim of broad generalizations and an overall poor image in the eyes of many consumers in recent years. The world's second most planted grape variety by the mid 90’s, the soaring rise of this noble grape was followed by a meteoric fall from grace. Some have said that this was triggered by a so-called “Bridget Jones” effect. Many wine drinkers were exposed to poor quality examples that were bludgeoned with oak chips and massive alcohol levels, and these innocuous butter-ball styles of Chardonnay were guillotined by upstarts Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Maligned, Chardonnay was vilified as over-oaked and “flabby” which is regretful considering there have always been winemakers around the world producing brilliant Chardonnay with love and care.
You can’t keep a good grape down though - Chardonnay has bounced back and wine drinkers are once again being seduced by its charms. The round and buttery type persists (and can be delicious if done well), but we’re particularly excited about the bright new face of this classic white grape. The focus has moved to brighter, fresher version with Chablis, the classic region for this style, leading the charge and making the world safe again for Chardonnay. If you haven’t already revisited Chardonnay, 2018 will be the year to do it! Look for wonderfully fresh examples from California, Argentina, South Africa and more.
The Natural Wine Revolution Continues
2017 was a towering year for natural wine, making major strides into the mainstream. In 2018 the movement will move further in from the fringe. Media outlets like Esquire and Vogue, with their enormous reach and influence, have spread the word and drummed up huge interest. Those familiar with Aziz Ansari’s Master of None may be surprised that 6.5 foot tall Arnold (comedian Eric Wareheim) has even made a Natural wine with Bay Area winemaker Joel Burt. Sommeliers and wine buyers flock to the RAW wine fair, which has gone international with events in London, Berlin, NYC, and LA. Here in the YYC you can pull up a stool at spots such as Bar von Der Fels, Frenchie, Pigeon Hole and Donna Mac (to name a few) to savor a glass of unfiltered skin-contact Chenin Blanc from South Africa or Pétillant Naturel Chardonnay from Australia. At Vine Arts you can find biodynamic wine made by a young winemaker with a less than a hectare of vines, or wine made by a 10th generation oenologist whose family have been farming sustainably for centuries. In 2018 follow the shaman-winemakers down the rabbit hole in search of the weird, wacky, and thoroughly delicious.
Cool Climate is Hot
2017 was the second hottest year in modern history, second only to El Niño-influenced 2016. Wildfire ravaged California experienced a vine wilting heatwave in September, with temperatures reaching a whopping 45 degrees Celsius. Italy had its smallest harvest in 60 years, thanks in part to a heatwave nicknamed “Lucifer”. Is there a positive spin to be made? In Champagne it’s been historically difficult to just get grapes ripe enough. Today average temperatures are up 1.5°C, leading to a winning streak of excellent vintages. The Champenois are so keen on rising temperatures that they’re investing in the emerging English sparkling wine industry. Champagne house Taittinger has announced that it is planting vineyards in Kent. 20 years ago in Oregon, good vintages (when grapes fully ripen) were 1 in 10…today they’re 9 in 10. German winemaker Ernst Loosen seems particularly happy with rising temperatures in the Mosel, saying “I don't want to have the time back of my grandfather and my father. They had only three vintages in a decade getting ripe and had to deal with seven vintages in 10 years which were awful, undrinkable to very mediocre.” At that time winemakers needed to add sugar to their under-ripe grapes. Closer to home, the so-called “magical climate zone” for grape growing is shifting north to our own Okanagan Valley. If the trend continues, and 2018 is as hot as the previous 2 years, cool climate will only be getting hotter. In 2018 we urge you to seek out wines from cool climate regions such as the Jura and Savoie in France, Hungary, Croatia, Austria and many more!