IMBIBE: Trendy Sips

By on February 21, 2017

How to impress your somm and friends with these popular new grapes.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – If 2016 was any indication, 2017 promises to be a tumultuous year. I, for one, will be drinking more than usual. But what and how I drink will be partly determined by trends in the food and wine industry.

I’m certain, for example, that the popularity of biodynamic, organic and natural wines will continue to blossom. As they are with their food purchases, people are becoming much more savvy about what goes into (or doesn’t go into) their wines, and that will lead them more and more to natural products. This is particularly true when you factor in that an increasing sector of the market is impacted by millennials, who tend to be smart, informed consumers, and accounted for a whopping 36 percent of all wine purchases last year. “Biodynamic is the future for Champagne,” said Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, Louis Roederer cellar master.

Sparkling wines other than Champagne will continue to be popular. The last couple of years showed an astonishing growth—estimated to be as much as 40 percent—of non-Champagne sparkling wine sales, with Italy’s prosecco leading the charge. Prosecco, which is typically a great value and quite food friendly, will continue its climb in popularity. But so will Spanish cavas and sparkling reds.

Look for lesser-known white wine varietals from Europe in stores and restaurants this year. Wine buyers are getting smart about the relative bargains to be had with wines such as Portuguese whites (like Vinho Verde) and chardonnay-like varietals (such as Encruzado, Antão Vaz and Arinto). Likewise, I expect to see more Austrian Grüner Veltliner being poured, along with Albariño/Alvarino from Spain and Portugal, and Spain’s verdejo-based Rueda wines. Look also for white rioja/rioja blanco, which is becoming a darling of some sommeliers around the world.

I find myself experimenting with more obscure wines and I think others will, too. It’s not that I don’t love pinot noir, chardonnay, Bordeaux, and all the other rock stars of the wine world. But in addition to “orange” and pétillant wines, I’m enjoying tasting obscure wines like Picpouls, Mondeuse, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, Viura, Silvaner, Mourvedre and Moschofilero—just to name a few.

Likewise, sommeliers and wine buyers are unearthing quality wines from little-known wine regions. So, look for interesting wines from countries like Croatia, Greece, Lebanon, Romania, Canada, Uruguay, Slovenia, Turkey (which has the fourth-largest vineyard acreage in the world) and Morocco. In the U.S., there’s increasing interest in vino from the lesser-known regions of California—like Mendocino and Lake Counties, Santa Barbara County, the Sierra Foothills, and others. Anyone can order a bottle of French burgundy, but you’ll really impress your somm by knowing to order a California pinot noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Unpredictable food and wine pairings will become more common this year. There’s a whole world of potential wine and food pairings that have yet to be discovered. Austrian white wines, for example, tend to be very clean and are a beautiful match for fish and seafood dishes. And my brain nearly breaks when I think of the beauty of an unorthodox pairing like that of Leroy Bourgogne Rouge with black sea bass and hot-and-sour soup—the creation of the genius Le Bernardin sommelier, Aldo Sohm.PJH

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