As we are about to pop the cork to 2019, I find myself thinking about the current state of the wine trade in the on-trade and indie sector in the UK, particularly London. I am not going to address Brexit.
We have never seen so much diversity in terms of wine as today; the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This means a competitive and somewhat flooded market, but there is always space for interesting new quality-driven wines and the increase in small, grower-focussed importers is testament to that (you know who you are - Flint Wines, Keeling Andrew & Co, Newcomer, Uncharted, Kiffe my Wines, Under the Bonnet, Modal, Nekter, Otros Vinos, the list goes on…) You guys rock, and London’s wine scene would shine far less brightly without you. I can’t write this without mentioning veterans Les Caves and Vine Trail, and the original Richards Walford, who were some of the first to light the flame - you have inspired others to do the same and you keep fighting the good fight.
2018 has seen Mass Twitter Debate about the never-ending topic of innovation. I could write an essay on this, but my own stance can be summarised in one sentence:
Let’s welcome innovation when it focusses on quality, terroir, and purity of expression (e.g. eggs!), but please, let us not put our wine in whiskey barrels - this is not the future of wine.
So, hopefully we won’t see whiskey barrel (et al.) wine making an appearance in 2019, but what will we see?
Last year I wrote this, where I scribbled my predictions for 2018: (more) Gamay, The Return of the Rich White, the darker rosé, Greece, English still wine, the Savoie, Armagnac, Canada, Grower Champagne and New Wave wines. I think it’s safe to say now that we’ve had a boom of all of these categories in the on-trade and independent sector, save except for Armagnac. I think this was more of a personal dream, although I still think there is space for more artisan-led spirits in the market. I’d drink them.
I believe we’ll see continued growth for all of these wines, joined by:
Still more Gamay. Yep, couldn’t resist. It’s global domination time.
More Alpine wine! Bugey, Isère, Coteaux du Grésivaudan, Geneva, etc. As we have such an increased interest in the Savoie, I believe we will see more and more interest in the surrounding viticultural areas. This will be mainly for Mondeuse, but very much also for the whites and for lesser-known reds. I clearly remember discussing Persan at the Ampelographic Conference in 2016, and it was still very much a dream that Persan would become a grape variety on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Yet here we are, with Persan listed in many of the top restaurants of New York, and some in London. What’s next? Etriare de la Dhuy anyone?!
SIDE NOTE: we need to study these regions carefully. How bloody confusing is it that Mondeuse is named PersanNE in a Bugey dialect? WTF?
More Chenin! Yes, we’ve been #CheninCheninChenin - ing all year now (I returned twice to Racines to learn from our Chenin Queen, Pascaline), but this is in no fear of slowing down. Aside from the obvious French and South African examples, where we see an astounding number of small, terroir-driven growers that are thankfully taking more and more space on our lists, California is starting to knock at the door too. Australia and New Zealand - show us your grower Chenin (please!) The likes of Jauma, Shobbrook and Millton exist, but there is definitely space for more.
Side note: as I write this, Imogen Taylor of Nekter Wines has mentioned that she and Jon are considering Geyer Wine Co’s minimal intervention, no SO2 Chenin. Snaps for Nekter!
More pepper. We’re all Northern Rhône nuts, there’s nothing new there, but I think we’ll see even more pepper wine popping up next year. Let’s get #Rotundone trending, and more Pineau d’Aunis, thank you.
Side note: will we start to see a differentiation of Serine vs Syrah on lists? I’d like that.
Sake! We’re a bit behind New York here (cough, harumph you say, but it’s often true). My introduction to sake there made me ponder whether we’ll start to see more in London. As if by magic, I stumbled upon the Kanpai sake brewery in my ‘hood, Peckham. Small batch, natural and bloody good. Hats off to them, hopefully this is the start of London’s #sakerevolution
New York State: Disclaimer: I’m biased as I’m working on a campaign for them for Westbury, but regardless of this bias I was beyond impressed with what I saw on a trip in August. Small, terroir-focussed growers doing beyond epic things with both vinifera and hybrids. FLX Riesling, Blaufränkisch and hybrid petnats, please!
Side note: I am certain that carefully made, terroir-conscious hybrids not just from NYS but from across many regions will start to appear on lists more within the next five years.
Indigenous grapes, from everywhere but especially from Alto Adige (niche but I hope so). Alois Lagader has given us a head start with their Comet series: Moscato Giallo, Blatterle, Fraueler, and Versoalen please?
US wine: further afield…? Will we start seeing “other” states make more of an appearance? Idaho, Virginia, Maryland? Pennsylvania? There is much to explore on US soil.
Mexico! Tresomm’s Aligoté proved to me that truly anything is possible in our world of wine. The Mexican wines in the UK petition starts here.
New World Gewürztraminer. “You what now?!” I hear you cry. I’m still to taste many I like, but the Gewürz from Bloomer Creek completely and utterly blew my socks off. Scrap that; it blew my socks off so hard that they combusted into milions of tiny pieces of cotton. It’s a world class Fine Wine. I fell in love with a Gewürz! Who would have thought. If they’re doing it, is someone else too? Show yourself, please.
And for me? Write even more, as Hugh Johnson says, “Always scribble, scribble, scribble.” Not every post has to be 2,000 words and perfect. Keep learning, keep writing, keep studying, keep tasting.