Nothing stays still for very long, even in something as well-established as the wine industry. Here are five different wine trends that we have on good authority will be influencing the way we quaff, sip and guzzle over the next few years.
Wine has always gone through its cyclical and sometimes cynical process of popularity. And we tend to sneer at bygone wine eras with the distain of a more knowing, more enlightened palate, don’t we.
Raffia basket-clad wines of the 1970s, the sweetness race through the ‘80s of wine coolers and Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, the red revolution of the ‘90s and the start of screwcaps that turned heads at the strike of millennium – they all happened.
Some have stuck around. Others have dodo’d.
Others might well be on their way back round, looming like a grape-fed meteor hidden by the dark side of the moon.
We all wonder what’s going to be the next big hit in bars, bottleshops and housewarming parties, but does anyone really know?
Educator, expert and wine master Russell Cody from McWilliam’s Winery is somewhat of a futurist when it comes to wine trends, so we got his take on what’s moving now and what’s going to be the next big thing.
5 wine trends from a master winemaker
1. Back to old-school
Isn’t it interesting how things often come back around with trends and fashions? Already we’re seeing a move back to the once banished oaked Chardonnay. You could just get away with an unoaked Chardie in the 2000s, but that was pushing it.
The humble Semillon is also seeing a spot of limelight at last. All too often, this varietal was used in blends but drinkers are now appreciating its complex sharpness and body for what it is. The Hunter Valley’s darling is set to make a resurgence.
2. The risé of Rosé
It’s fascinating to see how Rosé has not only made a comeback, but has even begun to overtake its previous success. A lot has to do with how it’s made these days. The sweet pink headache juice of the past has become pale – in some cases almost white – minerally and dry Rosé.
Winemakers have noticed tastes change and have adapted appropriately. According to the IRI Worldwide Wine Database, Rosé is experiencing consistent value growth of 24%. In context, red wine is growing by only 5%.
Even old favourites now seen as overly sweet and poor quality have been remodelled, revamped and rebranded. Mateus Rosé is not so bright pink, much drier and very easy to drink, this light Rosé is the perfect bottle for a barbecue. By the way, it’s pronounced ‘mat-ay-oosh’. It’s from Portugal, you see.
Also in line with modern drinking trends, the wonderful McWilliam’s McW Estate 480 Rosé is perfectly positioned for this growing trend. The Pinot Noir Sangiovese blend brings slightly herbaceous flavours. It’s crisp and savoury, and light on berries. This is a wonderful wine.
If you want to go more experimental, Swinging Bridge Winery in Orange NSW is playing with things like this unfiltered Rosé, known as Amber or simply #003. The rich velvety texture and body of this wine works perfectly with its high-altitude origins making it dry and full of flavour.
3. Big on altitude
Winemakers and aficionados get very excited about high-altitude wines, and so should we all, especially with Australian wine. Hot climates tend to make grapes ripen too quickly and don’t allow important acids to build up that push back against fruit-driven sweetness in wine. The acids make the wine more complex.
Aussie high-altitude wines come from grapes that get the heat during the day, which is good, but at night temperatures drop to encourage that acidic accumulation.
The McWilliams McW Reserve 660 range – so called because vines are at an average of 660m above sea level – is a great example. The white wines are flinty and balanced (the Chardonnay has a little oak to it too, which helps with a silkier texture) and the reds are hearty yet medium-bodied, perfect for food pairing.
There’s also a move away from big monster reds full of fruit and tannins. It seems the Australian palate is growing up and looking for complexity rather than pure muscle.
The McW 480 Rosé is another example of a high-altitude wine – though at the slight lower 480m.
Shop the McW 660 Reserve range here.
4. A sense of adventure
Go to almost any European wine shop or supermarket and you’ll find a wealth of wine varieties you’ve never heard of. Beyond the usual Cab Sauv, Shiraz, Pinot Gris and Sauv Blanc, there’s been little to choose from. But savvy (and Sauvie!) drinkers are discovering the beauty of new varietals on our shores.
And I’m not just talking about imported wine.
Australia is growing all kinds of things that are finally finding traction in the main wine marketplace. For example, the McWilliam’s McW Alternis range has some amazing varietals testing the water. The Alternis Vermentino – a grape originally from Sardinia – has elegant honeydew and lemon aromas, a delicate fruit-driven palate and a bright, minerally finish.
As for the red, the McW Alternis Tempranillo from Spain is a food-pairing favourite with fresh dark cherry, pomegranate and blackcurrant flavours all ready to go with lunch or dinner.
Many of these grape varieties are perfectly suited to the Australian climate and terroir. One thing that’s been holding them back is that we can’t pronounce them! So repeat after me: ‘ver-men-teen-oh’, ‘temp-ran-ee-oh’, ‘ree-ocka’, ‘geh-verts-tram-eena’.
It’s time to practise and bring these wines up a shelf.
5. Fortify your tastebuds
Since the 1960s, fortified wine (Sherry, Port, Muscat and Topaque/Tokay) has disappeared from popularity. Because demand dipped, so did the price and with it the quality – generally speaking. We were left with sweet, gloopy fortified wines that no one really wanted to drink.
Thankfully this all seems to be turning around (especially the Sherry – we whisky drinkers need more ex-Sherry barrels!) and demand and quality are on the up. Perhaps because ‘stickies’ and late-harvest dessert wines regained some popularity a few years back.
Port – like the Lindeman’s Gentleman’s Collection Tawny – with its robust body and distinctive flavour makes for a fun digestif or mixed with a little soda water, an interesting, indulgent cocktail.
The McWilliam’s Show Reserve Rare Muscat, however, is a different creature entirely. Aged in oak for 25 years, this labour of love is absolutely exquisite and should be savoured on its own.
Don’t be put off by the word ‘Muscat’. I know we usually associate it with wine far to sweet to enjoy. This is a wonderfully balanced rich yet slightly acidic wine pairs so well with dessert, it’s a no-brainer at a dinner party. It cuts through the sugars of the dish and lingers on the palate very satisfyingly.
The stage is set for change. But could we be looking back on this time from the 2020s and ‘30s wondering what on earth we were thinking? Why would we be drinking any of this stuff?
Or will these be the trends that stand the test of time?
Indeed, only time will tell us that. And maybe Russell.