The world of wine is full of ups and downs, and throughout its millennia-long history, trends and fashions have come and gone.
These trends have been influenced by all manner of things - war and political upheaval saw Austrian and Hungarian wines become highly sought-after while the UK was not on speaking terms with France and Spain.
The preferences of the aristocracy throughout European history had enormous influence for hundreds of years before their power began to wane in the twentieth century.
Happy accidents and unexpected discoveries led to the invention of Port and Sherry, and Madeira wine became wildly popular purely due to the advantageous position of the island for international trade routes.
Nowadays, trends seem to change year to year and are driven primarily by the younger generation, the movers and shakers on social media and those opening hip new bars and restaurants.
It can be bewildering to keep up with all the latest developments in the wine world - which is already confusing and occasionally somewhat elitist - but it is well worth remembering that good wine, made with love and reverence for the craft of winemaking, will never fall out of fashion.
Get to know what you like, and take the time to understand why you like it, and you’ll never go far wrong.
That being said, here are four up-to-date, fresh off the chart wine trends for this year, should you want to be in the know.
1. Wine with a story
This particular trend fits in with the current fascination for food and drink stories in general. The rise in interest in regionality and small-batch food and drink production has seen a fascinating shift in the way we buy and consume food and drink in general.
More so than ever before in living memory, people are visiting their farmer’s markets, checking out the source of their produce, and actually giving a damn about where their stuff comes from and who’s making it, rather than just scouring the shelves of their big, faceless supermarkets and choosing whatever takes their fancy.
In much the same way as independent bakeries, coffee roasters and butchers have seen their business take off in recent years, wineries have also seen this trend take hold.
Millennials particularly have taken a serious interest in sourcing their wines from places which have an interesting story to tell - small, independent, alternative companies which are struggling to survive in an industry dominated by big names.
It isn’t difficult to see why - we’re bored of the homogenisation of wine, the easy-to-sell wines with expensive marketing campaigns are always going to produce wine which is designed to appeal to the widest possible audience.
It’s dull, it’s predictable, and it’s not going to inspire any real excitement or conversation. Go for the local, the regional, the underdog. They’ve got to work harder to make their name, and their wines are more likely to grab your attention.
2. Shiraz is having its day
Every decade or so has its big hitters when it comes to grape varietals, and some grapes have dominated the wine world since the beginning of recorded history.
Thanks to some excellent growing years in our part of the world (Australia and New Zealand), and a renewed zeal for natural production techniques, low-yielding crops and careful, passionate viticulture, Shiraz is definitely the grape of the moment.
Shiraz wines are big on flavour, big on body, and packed full of both bold and subtle characteristics which make them a winner with those looking for a bit of excitement from their wines. Thanks to their savoury flavours and strong tannins, they also pair brilliantly with the foods and dishes of the moment.
While pulled and slow-cooked meats are dominating the world of food trends, and barbeque and ‘dirty’ food is on the menu, Shiraz is going to be a hit for some time to come.
3. Wine apps and technology
Many of us see wine as something very much associated with the analogue age. It’s a slow drink - slow to produce, slow to age, and best drunk slowly over dinner, shared with friends, and inspiring long, rambling conversations.
However, this year has seen a dramatic rise in wine apps and various bits of digital technology, which is helping wine fans to identify new and exciting bottles to try.
Now, you can download apps onto your smartphone or digital device which will scan wine labels, and give you a full lowdown on the grape, the vineyard, food pairings and thousands of user reviews to help you decide whether to take the plunge and buy it, or stay well away.
This is all part of the ongoing democratisation of wine - taking viticulture and wine tasting away from the ivory towers it once inhabited, and making it more accessible for a new generation keen to get into it and enjoy it as it should be enjoyed.
Interestingly, technology in the world of wine production is taking more of a back seat than ever before. Hand picking is back in, as is the use of more traditional and rustic methods, allowing for a little more randomness and chance in the creation of small-batch, single estate wines.
As the consumers get more savvy, it seems the winemakers are harking back to a simpler time. Where these two worlds collide, interesting things are taking place.
4. The Big Names Are Out
Champagne, Bordeaux, Napa Valley… wine regions such as these have absolutely dominated the market for a very long time now. Bearing these names on a label, wine makers have demanded inflated prices for produce which is not necessarily worthy of the cost.
A renewed passion and sense of savvy in the new generation of wine drinkers has led to a seismic shift when it comes to the lofty reputations of these giants of the wine world, as the young wine drinkers these days just ain’t easily impressed by lengthy histories, back stories and legend.
This has been particularly noticeable when it comes to sparkling wine. While everybody likes fizzy wine, there’s no doubt about the fact that Champagne is, at times, a bit of joke when it comes to pricing.
Millennials aren’t interested in paying a premium for something just because it bears a famous name, and as such, we’re seeing a massive increase in other, cheaper, more interesting and characterful sparkling wines.
One of the more interesting developments in this area has been the meteoric rise of English sparkling wine, as well as regional varieties on the methode champenoise found in various new world countries, too.
They tend to have more variation in flavour, more personality, and come from smaller, independent wineries with a point to prove. So next time you’re looking for a celebratory bottle, check out something a little different instead of reaching for something more familiar.
Okay, so now that you are up to date with fresh wine trends for this year, it's time to kick your wine game up a notch. Explore new wines that you'll love by taking our wine palate quiz below. The short quiz will match you with your top 3 bottles according to your personal tastes!