Since I run a wine club, I do have an opportunity to see and hear what people are drinking, and what they think about the wines I've presented at tastings. I also have the opportunity to meet with winemakers, and wine growers.
So here it goes, these are my 2012 wine trend predictions:
1. There will be a move to more "food friendly" wines in the New World. The overly extracted, high alcohol wines will continue to be the show case wines for most winemakers (and certain wine critics), but as the American consumer discovers wine pairing (rather than wine drinking), they'll seek out lower alcohol wines, that pair well with their dinner choices. This is a trend I can get behind!
3. The move to more natural wines, will also trend to more natural, or environmentally friendly packaging for your favorite wine. We're already seeing the move to lighter bottles and screwcaps.
4. As the economy slowly improves, the average consumer will move away from "cheap" wines, and start searching out "value" wines. Two-Buck Chuck will still be around, but wine drinkers will move up in price. Check out the new Napa wines at Trader Joe's, and you'll see they are already positioning themselves for this trend.
5. Vineyard managers will start experimenting with new grape varieties in the New World. As global warming threatens the growing season for the grapes, growers will look for varieties that grow best in the warming conditions. Now I won't get into the arguments about global warming, but I will tell you that the growers I talk with believe something is happening.
6. Wine drinkers are becoming more adventurous, and will seek out, and try new wine varieties. It's not just Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay anymore. Italian and Spanish varieties will grow in popularity, and lead the trend to new grape varieties.
8. Dessert wines will make a come back. Port and Sauternes have been around forever, but now consumers are rediscovering Madiera, Tokaji, PX Sherry, and Ice Wine.
9. We will see more North American wines from places other than California, Oregon, Washington, and New York. There is a big push for wines from Arizona and Texas, as well as other states. Watch for wines from Mexico. A number of years ago, my wine club did a tasting of Baja California wines (we must have been ahead of the trend)....those vines are now more mature, and the wines being produced are surprising. On top of that, the growing region, in Mexico, is no further to drive to for Southern Californians, than driving to Paso Robles.
10. China will continue to impact the world wine markets. As the Chinese learn more about wine, and consume more (particularly Bordeaux and Burgundy), demand will increase, keeping overall prices high, and supplies of hard to find wines even harder to find. The European investment in Chinese wine production, will eventually break through to outside markets, and we'll begin to see some Chinese wine on the specialty store shelves...I can't say how good they'll be, as I haven't tried any yet, that I thought were good.