The last few years have been interesting for wine lovers as the pandemic and the subsequent shockwaves shifted what we’re drinking. This year was less chaotic than the two previous, but the vibe shift continued.
Sometimes, these changes were physical — I sat with my best friend, a Champagne importer, as she watched her fall allocations sit stagnant in the middle of the ocean for six, seven, then eight months. Global shipping delays had Champagne arriving long after the holidays and rosés hitting shelves in the dead of winter. We got more into alternative regions and less into Burgundy, as the region saw prices jump by leaps and bounds. Some of us drank fine wine for trying times, others just wanted wines with good vibes — minimalist natural wines or low-brow, high-fun pet nats.
“I love to see how open folks are to trying new wines after the upheaval of the past few years. Wine is produced all over the world, and there is so much to discover!” says Catherine Fallis, Master Sommelier at Bright Cellars.
What new frontiers will wine trends forge next year? I asked a host of sommeliers what they expect to drink in 2023.
We’re finding our bottles online, via Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube — scrolling, saving, and double-tapping our way to a new glass. “We’ve found huge success on TikTok by talking to consumers about where they are and in ways they find entertaining and informative,” says Joe Wagner, the owner and winemaker behind Copper Cane Wines & Provisions. At the time of publishing, Wagner has amassed over 265,0000 followers and 241 million views on his TikTok videos, pulling in a wave of new drinkers into the wine sphere.
“We believe that our focus and investment in social media, both paid and earned, are driving trial and awareness with Millennials and Gen Z consumers,” Wagner continues. “Engaging this consumer cohort will be critical to the category’s and Copper Cane’s long-term success.”
More Not-Wine Wine
“A whopping one-third of adults in America don’t drink,” says Lauren Gonzalez, Founder & Owner of Lolo Pass in Portland. “The non-alcoholic [NA] trend isn’t new, but expect better quality non-alcoholic wines to come to market. While wine enthusiasts will (rightly) tell you that wine that goes through reverse osmosis or distillation may lose some of its positive characteristics, hopefully these processes and results will improve with time and money invested. With such a massive potential market, look for more and more brands vying for shelf space.”
A few years ago, my partner quit drinking. For no particular reason — he just skipped a week once and never really started again. Lots of others have followed this path — in 2022, sales of no- and low-alcoholic beverages passed $11 billion in market value. Subsequently, we now have a lot of non-alcoholic wine around our home. I’m a wine writer and by definition that means I drink, but I’ve had plenty of non-alcoholic wines that make a firm case for skipping wine. Try anything by Null Wines, French Bloom’s Champagne-style sparkling wine, Lili’s rosy, crunchy, Lambrusco-ish bubbles, and Miguel de Leon’s textured skin-contact collab with Proxies.
“Lower alcohol wines came on strong in 2022, with over a dozen from New Zealand alone entering the US market. The low- and no-alcoolic category is something to watch – 9% ABV max and low in sugar,” says Catherine Fallis, Master Sommelier at Bright Cellars. “These wines are slightly lighter in weight but deliver full flavor.”
Millennial and Generation Z consumers, who are quickly becoming the most valuable purchasing demographics in wine, prioritize inclusivity and sustainability. At the center of this, climate change is increasingly Climate change is pushing winemakers to rethink vineyard locations and replant more climate-resistance varieties. (I ended up in Chile, Priorat and Oregon this year, and almost every winemaker I talked with echoed the urgency of the changing climate. It affected everyone — some winemakers were considering completely new varieties, others were purchasing up higher plots, while some were just trying to clean up the damage that hail, out-of-season weather, and other climate disasters were causing.)
“As temperatures rise and weather patterns become more unpredictable, many vignerons are taking into consideration longer-term implications of climate change,” says Gonzalez. “A delicate grape like Pinot Noir has a small, ideal temperature band at which it can grow and we’re going to be pushing toward the high end of that band in another 20 to 30 years. Here in Oregon, producers are experimenting with varieties better suited to warmer temperatures like Tempranillo and Syrah. We’ll see more people planting and replanting with warmer climate suitable varieties as temperatures continue to rise.”
“Due to climate change and a continued focus on wellness, consumers are leaning toward wineries that uphold practices to preserve the environment and pay mind to overall health through biodynamic farming,” says Regan DeBenedetto, Spuntino Wine Bar’s Director of Operations. “Lesser-known wineries will come to the forefront based on sustainable farming practices and younger generations stepping into leadership roles.”
“We’ll be seeing changes,” says Ervin Machado, the Beverage Manager and Sommelier for Elisabetta’s and Louie Bossi’s in South Florida. “Global warming has changed how we view and drink wine. I see emerging regions coming to play: England, the Netherlands, even Poland.”
MS Thomas M. Price of 1856 expects alternative packaging like cans to grow in the next year, and the numbers agree. Marketing firm Grand View Research reported the canned wine market was valued at $235.7 million in sales in 2021 and is forecasted to grow to over $570 million by 2028. Look to brands like Companion Wine Co., Nomadica, Artómaña, Broc Cellars, and Leitz.
Out With Clean Wine
Gonzalez is excited about the next wave of natural wines. Namely, that means naturally-made wines without any of the marketing hullabaloo, no addition of ‘clean’ or ‘better-for-you’ mantras.
“Natural wine has received a lot of pushback in recent years, and consumers are wising up to the fact that they want natural wine — the word ‘clean’ has very little meaning and that at the end of the day the wine should still taste great.” In the new year, she hopes that winemakers who have been using truly natural winemaking techniques for “years, decades, even centuries” will be at the forefront of this movement.” These are bottles beyond branding, offering no scare tactics of additives, gluten, or sugar, just nice wine made thoughtfully.