Dynamic and ever-changing, the wine industry has always done an exceptional job of shaping itself around the trends that accompany it. Fuelled by an endless variety of factors, the changing fashion that is intrinsically tied to what, why and how consumers choose to drink cannot be understated, as it is these influences that breed innovation, growth and high quality creations. In Australia particularly, the wine industry has been steadily growing for a number of years. Once considered primarily a beer drinking country, wine has slowly but effectively made its mark on our national culture. So when it comes to the fashion that dictates winemaking, who – or what – is calling the shots?
Unsurprisingly, in order to talk about the fashion of wine, we must talk largely about the people who are consuming it. The past few years have seen Millennials well and truly make their mark on the industry, creating demand for wine that not only meets their standards for taste, but also for values, ethics and sustainability. Just as this generation has been known to care more about what goes into their food, they are also conscious of what goes into their wine, and because of this we have seen the market for biodynamic varietals grow exponentially. These creations take more of a ‘hands-off’ approach to winemaking, often described as ‘letting the wine make itself’ and thus appeals to the informed consumer who desires a more natural product. While these creations are usually more expensive than your average bottle, such a trend demonstrates that younger drinkers are in fact willing to pay a higher price if it means they are getting the quality and political satisfaction they desire.
Another influence of the maturing Millennial generation is the ways in which they are choosing to drink their wine. Unlike generations of vino lovers before them, these drinkers are less inclined to order a bottle of their chosen varietal when eating in a restaurant or sitting at a bar. What we’re seeing instead is a demographic of people who much prefer to make their wine an intrinsic part of their lifestyle. They go to supermarkets or specialised wine shops and seek out the bottle they want before taking it home for an evening with their friends, family or even some alone time on the couch. This, however, isn’t to say that the varietals enjoyed by Millennials are always at odds with that of their older counterparts. To the contrary, 2017 is looking to be the year that sparkling wine makes a comeback, as it appeals to both the classic wine drinker and the younger crowd who want something with deep flavours that are easily matched with a good meal and not only consumed at a time of celebration. As you can see, Millennials are certainly not less interested in wine, – in fact, as mentioned previously, they are a primary factor in the increased demand overall – they simply want to drink it in different circumstances.
Moving away from generational influence, Australian wine experts have predicted that 2017 will bring with it an increased demand for wines created in lesser-known regions around the world. The driving force of this change is brought forward by sommeliers, who have seemingly grown more and more fond of ordering high quality creations from places such as Uruguay, Slovenia, Lebanon, Greece and Turkey, to name just a few. This fashion for unknown creations will undoubtedly influence consumers to somewhat sway from their trusted heritage brands every once in awhile in favour of something more unique and interesting. While renowned wine regions such as Barossa Valley and Margaret River certainly aren’t under too much threat by this expected trend, it certainly goes to show the power of the latest fashion in determining the direction both consumers and winemakers move in.
While consumer influence plays an important role in dictating what wine brands choose to create, there is no denying that elements such as region, climate and production techniques also factor into the equation. Because of this, winemakers must find a balance between the current fashion and what varietals they can feasibly create to a high standard in order to truly satisfy drinkers of wine.