Winemaking trends

Winemaking trends


The changing face of Cote D'Or

During a recent survey of producers from the Cote d'Or wine region, Jancis Robinson said, "I think our general impression of the Cote d'Or, the heartland of Burgundy, is that it is one of the world's most traditional wine regions and hardly changes at all." What she found during her tour surprised her; multiple foreign producers are buying plots of land in the region, and drastically changing the face of French wines. These changes come at a time when this region's vineyards are the most expensive per hectare in the world. Collectors will likely see a great deal of market-wide transformations stemming directly from changes in this French terroir, and they will need to reevaluate their wine selection process to keep up with these trends. Learn more.

How Petite Syrah is transforming Napa Valley

Petite Sirah is a grape that does much of the heavy lifting when it's used in blends, but rarely gets credit for its hard work. This varietal intensifies both the color and flavor of the wine and while it has been planted in California for more than 100 years, it is only now gaining mainstream popularity. With popularity also comes an increase in market value. As high-end producers making the best California wine blends grow more of this varietal, you'll likely see an uptick in price for blends containing Petite Sirah, especially if drought conditions continue in the state. Learn more.

The rise of California Grenache

Today, California Grenache is among the most sought-after varietals in the region, but this was not always the case. California winegrowers turned away from this traditional Rhône crop in the mid-1900s, believing that Grenache would never attract premium collectors who wanted the rarest wines. As Napa Valley developed its premium reputation, commercialized Grenache lost favor; now, cult wineries are bringing this varietal back to its former glory. Learn more.

The evolution of Chardonnay clones

Have you ever wondered how Chardonnay grapes grow across a variety of terroirs? Whether in Chablis or the south of France, Chardonnay can be grown to perfection despite the drastic difference in climate. The answer lies with clones; France is home to 34 distinct subspecies of Chardonnay grapes that are specifically bred for the climates in which they grow. As climate change raises temperatures globally, collectors will see stronger, bolder Chardonnay vintages made from the hardiest clones, instead of wines made with more delicate subspecies. Learn more.

The Oregon wine boom

A renewed culture of fine wine coupled with a boom in vineyard sales has resulted in more premium OregonPinot Noir on the market than ever before. The state's finest wineries are begging for a new classification system based on the quality of their bottles, which would sort out which estates can be considered grand cru, and which can be considered premier cru or village-style. As we have seen in Napa Valley, when an area improves this quickly and dramatically, classifications need to change to meet modern needs. Learn more.

The rise of dry Riesling

By far the most significant wine trend of the past 15 years has been a demand for tradition to play a greater role in our modern winemaking techniques across varietals. As our food production moves toward organic farming, and as more people strive to put natural, unprocessed foods in their bodies, wine culture is following the same path. Gone are the days of overly-sweet Riesling made in huge batches by machines, and Riesling's home country, in particular, is leading the way. Learn more.

The rise of Cabernet France

Cabernet Franc lost some momentum on the market with the release of the film ‘Sideways'. In the film, the main character claims to hate all Merlot and Cabernet Franc vintages, lamenting their popularity in the wine world. This was clearly a running joke in the film, since the main character also claims that his favorite wine is a 1961 Cheval Blanc (made from 50 percent Merlot and 50 percent Cabernet Franc). Still, wine buyers who didn't catch the joke and who weren't educated in fine wine became less likely to buy Merlot or Cabernet Franc, thinking that these varietals were somehow inherently flawed. Learn more.

Looking for lightness in Pinot Noir

If any region is to blame for the dominance of robust, fruit-forward Pinot Noir on the market today, it is California's Napa Valley. Wine critics like Robert Parker lauded rich, dense wines that flourished under California's long, warm summers. As we have seen with the 2006 Kosta Brown Pinot Noir, many still savor the concentrated versions of this varietal; Kosta Brown's wines are meant to be enjoyed on their own, which is why they focus on density and explosive flavors. International Wine Cellar's Josh Raynolds wrote that the 2006 vintage had a high degree of saturation in its color and palate, which he saw as a sign of high quality. Learn more.

The future of Australian Shiraz

I was on a cruise passing near the Arctic circle when I first tried Australian Shiraz, and I have to say it has remained one of my favorite reds; it made a perfect pairing with the midnight sun. I particularly enjoy blends of Shiraz with a touch of Viognier, something Australians do as well as the French. The 2009 Hillbille Signature James Brittain Shiraz-Viognier from Blackwood Valley is my absolute favorite. Australian Shiraz is a full-bodied wine with a strong tannic element that requires some aging before it can be fully enjoyed, but when it finally comes into its own, it is a truly amazing wine. Learn more.

The rise of collectible Spanish wines

A recent surge in demand for Spanish wines in the UK and the US has been attributed to the increasing popularity of tapas. In fact, Spanish Rioja is a wine that has shown steadily increasing sales, even in times of general market decline. Today, one in every 20 bottles of wine sold in the UK comes from Spain's Rioja wine region. In tune with the trend, a Danish connoisseur recently said, referring to Denmark's imported wines market: "Spain is the new Italy." Learn more.

The Austrian wine comeback

In 1985, to make their wines taste sweeter, some winemakers secretly used diethylene glycol, a toxic substance that is the primary ingredient in antifreeze. The substance made the wine look and taste like it was made from noble rot grapes, allowing Austrian winemakers to sell cheaper versions of the region's famous sweet wines. Although the culprits were caught and no one was seriously injured, the antifreeze scandal severely impacted Austria's reputation. Many countries, including Germany, outright banned the sale of Austrian wine, and it took Austria's exports 15 years to fully recover. Learn more.