2017 is rolling in fresh and clean. Like every new year, this one brings with it that powerful urge to be off with the old trends and on with the new. What will this year bring for the wine industry? A look back over some recent trends may give us an idea.
The 1990s brought us the rise of organic wine. As the USDA’s National Organic program went into effect, wine got an organic certification that consumers could look for as they began seeking out environmentally sound wine. As the organic wine movement stabilized, this trend morphed into a new one: the biodynamic wine trend. The wine world went back in time, utilizing the practices of philosopher Rudolf Steiner, father of the first organic movement ever. This movement encouraged seeing the vineyard as an organism, a self-sustaining system. The biodynamic trend took the organic idea, which was beginning to seem complex in laws and regulations, and upped the ante. And then, the wine industry took things one step further.
For almost a decade now, we have watched the natural wine trend rise and then idle. This movement went really old school. Natural wine is made the way wine was made before electricity was invented, providing a nice culmination to the green movement.
The good news is, natural wine, biodynamic wine, and organic wine aren’t going anywhere. They will happily live on among the trends of the past, from the cult Cab and cult Zin craze to the Super Tuscan and Shiraz obsession, to the undeniable “Sideways” effect on Pinot Noir. The thing about all these trends is that along with the excitement comes a hike in price. Then, when the trend dies down and the industry folks move on to a new fad, the prices tend to drop a little, making way for average people to enjoy these wines.
And enjoy them you should! But I’d like to propose an alternative, too. There is good, nay, great wine all over the world. In these days of e-commerce and internet forums, we now have access to these amazing wines from across the globe. But when a focused trend hits the wine world like a fever, it is hard to celebrate everything else; in effect, it narrows our attention, rather than expanding it. I suggest we make this year the year we begin to explore everything else. As we move into the new year, I propose making 2017 the year of the Everything Wine Movement.
Here’s a radical thought: Wouldn’t it be great if the industry got all crazy about wines that are actually available across the U.S.? Now that would be a trend that would really take our American wine culture to the next level! There is an ocean of bottles out there to explore that will open your mind and your palate in the same way the natural wine movement did, but at an easier price point and with more accessibility.
Let’s start talking about the amazing post-apartheid wine culture of South Africa! Let’s talk about the renaissance of its native grape pinotage, as well as the many red and white blends from Paarl to Stellenbosch. Did you know the South Africans call Chenin Blanc “Steen”?
Let’s start learning about Portugal and the many native grapes in the Douro and Alentejo region. These wines have always been overlooked. But from the Touriga Nacional blends to the vibrant summer afternoon quaffer Vinho Verde, they are the best affordable wines you can find in a wine shop. Or how about we start to re-examine the wonderful plethora of wines made in southern Italy? It was a short-lived trend that fizzled out just before the recession, but the variety and affordability of wine is stunning below Umbria. Let’s talk about Austria’s rising star, the lemony round and refreshing Gruner Veltliner! Let’s talk about Austria’s native red, the spicy and chill-worthy Zweigelt. Hell, let’s even wax poetic about the domestic affordable Cabs of Napa!
Sounds fun, right? Wine lists will be more affordable and fun to explore if we can get everyone talking about these wines. And if within this new trend there are some natural wines, all the better.
To me, this is an obvious win-win. So let’s make 2017 the year of the Everything Wine Movement. I’ll start.