Earlier this month, I asked a dozen-or-so sommeliers what regions they were particularly excited about this year. They cited Lodi’s new-school Cali cool, Sicily’s mineral reds, and white wines from the cradle of civilization.
This time, let’s gaze back into the crystal ball and predict what trends will surface over the course of the year.
Will dessert wines appear at other times in the meal? Will our red wines retain a chill? Will organic and sustainable practices remain crucial to younger drinkers? Here, sommeliers weigh in on 2024’s top trends.
“Over the last few months, we have seen an uptick in folks requesting and drinking after dinner wines,” says Gram Howle of The Ordinary in Charleston. This includes sherry, Sauternes, Port, and Tokaji. “I am a huge proponent of not only dessert wines, but wines with sweetness,” Howle continues. “Most wine drinkers aren’t ready to have a little balanced sweetness in their early dinner wines, but certainly they have been into slightly sweet wines after dinner. One recent wine that has been a big seller for us is the Niepoort White Port, a traditional port but made with white grapes instead of red. It’s almost like a fortified orange wine with a little sweetness. Another one is the Heidi Schrock Beerenauslese. It’s a late harvest, aromatic wine from Austria that is a great alternative to something like Sauternes (which we also love to sell).”
Stephen Sherry, Wine Director at Melanie Wine Bar, agrees with Howle’s prediction. “I’m expecting more dry styles of sweet wines such as Riesling and Furmint,” he says. “Americans are used to Riesling being sweet, so when they receive a dry Riesling, we often get customers saying ‘there’s been a mistake, I ordered a Riesling.’ We recently did a side by side tasting of dry versus sweet Riesling, and the dry style won by a wide margin.”
Sam Bogue, Beverage Director, Flour + Water Hospitality Group, predicts that the growth of orange wine has opened up the floodgates for less traditional styles of natural wine. “I’m voting for a broader movement for chillable reds,” says Bogue. “These are usually lower ABV bottles of red wine that lack harsh tannins, allowing them to be chilled right above white wine temperatures. Presented like this, the wines find a more angular and snappy edge that is incredibly complementary to lighter dinner fare.”
Bogue also notes that they’re the perfect beach drink; with more texture than a rosé and the chillability of a white. “These wines may not be the new kids on the block, but they definitely deserve some more attention,” he says.
“I think lower-ABV red wines will rise in popularity as younger, health-conscious consumers impact the market,” finds Colin Hofer, Michelin Chicago’s 2022 Sommelier of The Year and the general manager of Adorn Bar & Restaurant “It just makes sense to me. Light red wines served with a slight chill allow you to enjoy wine without feeling too bad the next day (your teeth also turn less red!).”
He’s excited about Jura’s Trousseau, Austria’s Zweigelt, and Spain’s Garnacha — red grapes that make a strong case for chilling your wines. “It’s a much different experience drinking a chilled, high-acid red wine all afternoon at a picnic than a dark high-tannin Napa Cabernet with a steak,” says Hofer.
The shift to organic and conscious winemaking has been slowly burning, grassroots movement over the last twenty years but in the last few years, the category has exploded. “Statistics recognize an exponential increase in demand for organic wine, with a projected growth of 8.7% per year until 2027,” points out Bertil Jean-Chronberg, Owner of Bonde Fine Wine Shop. “It is clear the market is demanding more eco-responsible wines. This practice encompasses the different philosophical viticulture approaches and promotes organic diversity, efficiency, and profitability in an eco- and socially- responsible approach. At Bonde Fine Wine, its demand has quadrupled since 2021.”
Ian Lokey, Beverage Director of Sushi Note + Sushi Note Omakase, is seeing a stronger focus on environmentally friendly wines with a classical flavor profile. “Now that the natural wine trend has been around for some time, guests at the restaurant are not looking for funky wines with volatile acidity or mousiness. I am finding the conversation is now centered around the sustainable vineyard and winery practices instead.”
No- and low-ABV wine
“We’ve seen health, wellness, and balance take center stage over the past few years,” says Angela Slade, Vice President Communications at Opici Wines and Spirits. “Most distinctly over these past months alongside the growing awareness of Sober October and Dry January.” She notes its a huge opportunity for wine brands to meet consumers with their needs, just as spirits and beer brands have with zero-proof options. “Beer and spirits are way ahead of the wine industry in this area” she says.
Zero-alcohol wine brands like French Bloom, TOST, and Proxies are leading the category with full-flavor, alcohol-free alternatives to wine. To keep up, brands like Jackson Triggs and Kim Crawford have released intentionally light and low-alcohol options.
Emily Gordon, General Manager at Jet Wine Bar, predicts that low-alcohol wines like piquette will continue to grow in popularity. “Their light, zippy and funky flavor profiles and low (5 to 8% alcohol) makes them a great option for both wine drinkers who are looking for something a little lighter, and beer or hard seltzer drinkers who are venturing into the world of wine.”
“I also think lower-ABV red wines will rise in popularity as a younger, more health-conscious consumer impacts that market,” says Colin Hofer, Michelin Chicago’s 2022 Sommelier of The Year and General Manager of Adorn Bar & Restaurant. “It just makes sense to me.”
Growth in small bottles
Alongside a surge in more health-conscious wine alternatives, Rhonda Motil, the vice president of Marketing at J. Lohr, expects to see more small-format options become available. “Recent consumer trends reveal a growing interest in accessible and moderate wine consumption options, evident in the shift of purchasing behaviors,” says Motil.
J. Lohr has seen robust growth in the small bottle segments. “The 375ml market—equivalent to half a bottle—is experiencing robust growth across various J. Lohr SKUs, particularly in specific settings,” says Motil. “Even before the pandemic, the 375ml J. Lohr business was thriving, with a notable 25% uptick in 2019 compared to 2018. From 2021 to 2022, J. Lohr 375mls depletions witnessed a 30% increase at entertainment and dining destinations, reflecting a broader trend in this category. Consumers are demonstrating a preference for what might be considered modest indulgences, signaling a comfort with modified portions and an ongoing desire for enjoyable wine experiences.”
Restaurants are following suit. Langdon Hall, a Relais & Chateaux property in Ontario, Canada, offers a wide selection of smart 375mL bottlings. Twelve in Portland, Maine, stocks an array of half bottles including Laurent Perrier Champagne, Grgich Chardonnay and Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.
Reds from White Regions
“This year, I expect red wines from traditionally white wine areas to become more popular,” says Howle. “We have been showcasing more and more reds from unexpected places like Germany, Austria, and Slovenia. Some are from well-established grapes like Pinot Noir and Meunier, but I am always drawn to more regional varieties of grapes like Blaufrankisch, Dornfelder, and Saint Laurent.”
Another place to look for unexpected red wines: Champagne (also known as Coteaux Champenois, as Howle points out. “ It’s very expensive to make wine in Champagne, so to produce still wines using your Pinot Noir and Meunier crops is risky. With many of these wines being grown on rockier soils and exposed to cooler air, they can develop such pretty acidity, lift, and minerality. Smelling and tasting them can really transport you to where they were made, and those are the kinds of wines we love.”
While orange (skin-contact) wines aren’t a particularly new concept — the earliest examples date back thousands of years — the category has become the enfant terrible of the wine world over the last ten years. Sommeliers are predicting its reign will continue, though in different forms.
“Georgian Amber wines (and overall amphorae-aged orange wines from other regions, as such as Portugal and Slovenia) are definitely beginning to have a moment,” says Emily Gordon, General Manager at Jet Wine Bar in Philadelphia. “As more savory flavors rise in popularity across all beverage categories, these layered and complex wines offer a great non-red alternative to those who prefer fuller-bodied and tannic wines.”
Lokey is eying Slovenia. “I have a hunch we’ll see more Slovenian skin contact wines,” he says. “The trend to ‘orange wines’ is gaining more traction and the desire for complex expressions is growing along with it. People who used to gravitate towards rosé are now looking for something with a bit more texture and unique flavor profiles. There is always a place for rosé, but we are in a cycle where flavors outside our comfort zone are more desirable than ever.”
As natural wine grows, Jasmine Cordova, Director of Wine & Service at Little Shucker, predicts a subcategory of ‘natty’ wines will form. “They often encompass edgy and funky characteristics, are super unique, and often have eye-catching playful labels that catch the consumer to purchase. However, it’s important to note that all natural wines do not necessarily embody these overly characteristics — I think people are starting to realize that not all-natural wine is going to have these “funky” qualities, but rather resemble a classic, old-world style.”