Trends are easier to identify when there is the benefit of distance and hindsight. They are a little more challenging to gauge when you are in the process of being a part of one. It can be a case of not seeing the forest for the trees until exiting.
For trends in the wine I focused on our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom. There were several reasons the many connections with Ireland culturally, economically and geographically. But the main reason was scale – the UK’s massive critical mass compared to Ireland makes it more obvious to notice and measure trends forming.
I started with an established oracle of knowledge, Wine Intelligence and their UK Market Landscape 2016 Report (available for €3,100).
‘If you need evidence that the UK market is changing, a good starting point would be the number of wine drinkers currently active in the UK. From a high of 29 million in 2014, we now estimate that the monthly wine drinking population has fallen to around 28 million today. Those who still indulge in a regular drink are trading up and spending more than before for every occasion tested. While volumes are down, spend per bottle is growing in the off-trade and the notion of “less, but better” has become a key consumer driver. Deep discount multi-buy offers are showing a long-term decline in importance as a choice cue for buying wine, whereas country of origin, region of origin, brand, and recommendations are taking centre stage in the beauty pageant that is the supermarket wine aisle.’
‘Today, 36% of regular wine drinkers state they are highly involved with wine and consider choosing wine as an important decision. This coincides with a statistically significant reduction in unadventurous drinkers who claim to “know what I like and tend to stick to what I know”. When making choices, drinkers are increasingly attracted to wines from non-traditional varietals and new origins. Less mainstream grape varieties such as Tempranillo and Carmenère have experienced a boost in popularity to the detriment of more common varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Drinkers are also developing tastes beyond the traditional France-Australia axis: Argentina and New Zealand remain big growth stories.’
I would add South Africa as a producer to watch with excitement. Having attended the Beautiful South (a wine trade fair showcasing thousands of wines from Chile, Argentina and South Africa) for two years recently and having visited the wine lands and winemakers in South Africa afterwards in 2013 and 2015, the quantum leap in self-confidence and sheer diverse offerings in style and varietals is seriously impressive.
Meanwhile, in the UK: ‘The rise of better-informed and more adventurous regular wine drinkers has produced a fundamental shift in the way UK consumers shop and what they consume. For the first time in 5 years Aldi and Lidl aren’t growing their wine consumer base. Only 16% of UK regular wine drinkers have bought wine from Aldi in the last 6 months compared to 18% in 2015, and 12% from Lidl – no change from 2015.’
In Ireland as in the UK, not necessarily because of but accelerated by the international food scares and scandals, customers whether on the high street or in restaurants are increasingly interested in provenance. Knowing where the food has come is increasingly important. This preoccupation with location of origin has encouraged marketeers to promote the farm source and often putting a human face on it – the farmer’s.
This growing interest by the consumer in food’s origins is reflected in the importance the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine) is taking this into the world of wine. The OIV are keen to ensure that traceability is a priority within the viti-vinicultural sector. To champion this they organised in Logroño, La Rioja, Spain on 24th November a ‘Wine Track 2016 Conference’ on traceability and authenticity in vitiviniculture.
Perhaps that could explain the recent trend in popularity in the Grower Champagne industry and the impressive quality and trendier image as an alternative to some of the more familiar grand-marques Champagne. There are echoes in the American and Irish beer industry with the larger breweries and artisanal craft breweries.
Sparkling wines are one to watch. For instance, Matthew Clark, the UK’s leading drinks distributor, has predicted that the demand for classic sparkling wines will soar well into 2017. If 2016 was the year of Prosecco, then 2017 will be the year to truly go global with sparkling wines. Italian sparkling wine as a category has continued its ascension with a 48% growth year on year. Consumers are becoming more adventurous and are happy to experiment with sparkling wines made with grapes from organic and biodynamic vineyards.
Tiffany Mogg, Matthew Clark’s Wine Supplier Manager says that though the big brands ‘deliver on quality’, offering something that the consumer doesn’t recognise isn’t necessarily a big risk. To prove the point, responding to the demand for something new, in 2016 Matthew Clark diversified the range of sparkling wines with a focus on boutique and heritage brands. It introduced into its portfolio Cavas, a Crémant d’Alsace and a South African Cap Classique whose focus was on high quality and innovation. Mogg states that these styles are ‘attractive to the classic wine drinker, as well as millennials, delivering on depth of flavour and food-matchability.
Into 2017 we can expect consumers to demand sparkling wines which aren’t just a flash in the pan – or the pop of a cork – they must be able to handle the bar, the toasts and see through an entire three course meal.’
Staying with sparkling wines, one eyebrow raising trend in the UK is the resurgence of Lambrusco. But real Lambrusco (made by an Italian black grape of the same name) and not the fizzy red, pink or white version of partially fermented grape juice and with a screw cap. Endorsing this trend is Carluccio’s restaurant chain in the UK where Lambrusco has just recently returned to the menu and various suppliers are pushing it.
Cool Picpoul (de Pinet)
For lovers of the leaner and unoaked white wines. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio have a new challenger, Picpoul de Pinet. It is one of the few dry white wines in France’s Languedoc region to be made from a single grape varietal, Piquepoul. In a relatively short period, plantings in the Languedoc increased from 600ha to 1,400ha.
Sometimes used as a blending grape in the neighbouring Rhône regions, it is valued for its refreshing mouth-watering citrusy acidity. Unblended, Picpoul de Pinet has a grapefruit and saline character making it versatile to match with food.
Yes Way Rosé
Rosé wines continue to enjoy popularity. In the mid-priced range of restaurants and bars in the UK, rosé wines have enjoyed exceptional success. The one downside is that in the on trade, rosé wines are weather dependent. On sunny days, sales soar; on rainy days, customers veer towards red. I am reminded that on a recent trip to Australia, rosé wine is very popular domestically. It is a clever way for growers of black grapes to diversify sales in summer by vinifying the black grapes as a rosé wine for chilling.
Other wines in vogue in the UK are Sherry. However, primarily and not surprisingly pioneered by Spanish restaurants. With so many styles within the Sherry family, it is one of the most accomplished food wines, if not the most. Because of its diversity, Sherry benefits from having the range explained and the restaurant setting is a perfect school.
Skin contact or orange (as in colour) wines made from green grapes are slowly gaining ground following the slipstream of natural and organic wines.
As with Sherry, skin contact wines really benefit from being explained by a sommelier. I spoke with some experts for their views on skin contact wine.
Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine and an author and organiser of RAW Wine Fairs in London, Berlin and New York: “Part of the challenge to understanding what defines an orange wine is the absence of an actual definition. Often, orange wines can be confused with Natural Wines which champion minimal use of sulphites and interference and prefer wild yeast to ferment the wine. Whereas, an orange wine is a white wine that is made like a red wine. It must maintain grape skin contact with the evolving juice to wine throughout the fermentation process until all the grapes’ sugar is fermented into alcohol, producing a dry wine. My advice is to forget everything you know about wine. Because the character of orange wine can be so challenging it is best not to relate to it as a wine, but instead as a remarkable and complex drink.”
Julie Dupuoy represented Ireland and was awarded “Third Best Sommelier in the World 2016” and is Sommelier at Dublin’s Michelin starred Greenhouse: “Personally, I love orange wines and most customers like them too. The skin contact white wines we serve in the Greenhouse have gone through a short maceration on the skin (1-3 weeks). They have the aromatic characters of orange wines – basil, citrus peel and floral notes, but not necessarily the amber colour nor the assertive tannic textural presence. They are great for pairing with food, especially with fish, pork and chicken, walnut sauces, Indian influences and dishes with lots of basil, lemon thyme, rosemary and citrus or with Comté and cheddar style hard cheeses.”
Colm McCan, Ballymaloe House and Cookery School: “I am a big fan of ‘orange’/ skin contact wines. They are listed on the wine list at Ballymaloe House and we show them during the wine classes of the twelve week course at the Cookery School. Skin contact wines really come into their own dining out where they match very well with the different selection of dishes that people choose. Also, they benefit if they are served cool and not too cold, and even decanted to open up their complex bouquet and flavours.”
FIVE TO TRY
Picpoul de Pinet 2015, Baron de Badassiere, Languedoc
12.5% ABV – €15.99 in Dublin at Fresh; Martin’s, Fairview; Drink Store, Manor Street; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Egan’s, Drogheda; The Wine Well, Dunboyne and wineonline.ie
Fragrant with freshly squeezed lemon and zest. A tongue tingling palate of green apples, grapefruit.
Food friend: loves a platter of shell fish
Rosa dei Masi 2014, Venezie, Italy
12.5% ABV – €18.99 at Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Fine Wines, Limerick; Nolan’s, Clontarf; Redmond’s, Ranelagh; Eldon’s, Clonmel; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4 and O’Brien’s Wines nationwide
Palest pink in colour hinting at the restraint and elegance to follow on the aromas and palate of red fruit lemon zest.
Food friend: pair with pink food – prawn and salmon risotto.
Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass
15% ABV – €15.99 75cl widely available nationwide in Tesco, Dunnes, SuperValu, Centra and O’Briens including independent off licences and online at winesoftheworld.ie
Chalk dry and a delicious and invigorating nutty salted almond palate.
Food friend: serve well-chilled with a Full-Irish for brunch or as a pre-dinner aperitif with salted cashews, olives, capers or anchovies.
Lambrusco Secco Reggiano NV, Medici Ermete & Figli, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
11% ABV – €13.30 at Marks & Spencer nationwide
Definitely different from the sweet fizzy Frizzante screw cap versions. Tarty and crunchy red berry fruits and with a dry finish.
Food friend: one of the few reds that must be chilled. Enjoy with charcuterie or spaghetti Bolognese.
Borgo Molino Passito, Italy
€8 by the glass at Rosa Madre Italian Restaurant, 7 Crow Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
Very intense aromas and a very tasty hazel nut and bitter orange marmalade palate. Remarkably long finish.
Food friend: ideal with a hard cheese to conclude a meal in style.
Skin contact Orange wines from France, Italy, Georgia, Austria, Spain, Portugal and South Africa are available at a range of outlets: The Corkscrew, Chatham Street; 64 Wines, Glasthule; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Fallon & Byrne; Fresh Outlets; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Mitchell & Son CHQ, Glasthule and Avoca Kilmacanogue; Le Caveau, Kilkenny; La Touche, Greystones; Parting Glass; Quintessential Wines, Drogheda and Marks & Spencer nationwide.
Restaurants include: Eastern Seaboard, Drogheda, Ballymaloe House near Midleton and Dublin’s Greenhouse Restaurant; Stanley’s Wine Bar, Andrew Street; Manifesto, Rathmines; Brioche, Ranelagh and Seapoint, Monkstown.
Julie Sheppard, Managing Editor, Imbibe magazine and imbibe.com
RichardHemmingMW.com writer for on-line Jancis Robinson.com
Mathew Clarke, UK Drinks Distributor
International Organisation of Vine and Wine
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.