The Wine Whisperer: Looking at trends for 2010

It feels like we just did a sharp turn and started out on the path of a brand new year! I sometimes wonder where the years go and it seems that the wine business just keeps rolling along.

At this time of year I try to predict what will be in store for the consumer in the next year — as far as what goodies will be available as well as what trends we might feel within the next 12 months. I will also chime in on a few hopes, things I'd like to see from the wine business as well.

Lower prices on Oregon wine — Oregon wines are expensive. It seems remarkable to me that the students at the university (for example) who were born and raised in Oregon find it difficult if not impossible to drink wine from their state on a regular or semi-regular basis! This is remarkable when we find that we are sandwiched between two large wine-producing states that offer affordable, everyday wines that can be purchased just about anywhere in the United States.

Many folks with pretty good incomes balk at some of the prices of Oregon wine and rightly so. To compound the problem, Oregon consumers are not only finding good Washington and California wines available but wines from Chile, Argentina, France, Italy and Spain as virtual bargains compared to what is being released in Oregon. If these wines were marginally well made, this would be one thing, but many of the wines made outside of Oregon are very good indeed and many are half or less of the price of Oregon wines.

This makes the "buy locally" mantra a tough one to contemplate when it comes to wines from Oregon. Yes, we make world-class wines but the beef is (I hear this quite a bit) that the average wage-earning wine buyer is being increasingly nudged from the Oregon market. This is doubly upsetting during such tough economic times. My hope is that Oregon producers come in line with what the average wine buyer can afford.

  • More sparkling wine — The trend has been that many wine buyers are beginning to enjoy sparkling wine with more and varied cuisine. This is an interesting trend and I found this to be particularly true last summer and during the holiday season. Sparkling wines, especially Prosecco from Italy, have really become a favorite with long dinners where a variety of cuisine was being served. This, of course, has been a very real phenomenon in Europe, where sparkling wines have been served at dinner (not just for toasts or dessert) for many, many years. There are a variety of red sparklers out there as well that might account for this new trend.
  • Dry Rieslings and Gewerztraminer — For so many years, the sweeter varieties of Riesling and Gewerrztraminer had dominated the wine scene in the off dry white wine market. The higher-alcohol, less-sweet offerings were not what people historically (in the U.S.) were buying.

I am seeing as well as talking to my wine business friends who are reporting that the drier Rieslings and Gewerztraminers are really taking off. This makes sense as the drier Rieslings and Gewerztraminers are sometimes just the perfect wine to go with lighter cuisine, as apposed to the sweeter styles, which simply have a harder time with most light cuisine as they can feel overpowering or cloying. Oregon offerings of the drier "twins" can be stunning and very well-made wines and can come in as fresh and lovely as can be.

Spanish Tempranillo and southern Italian reds — This market is exploding! It has become very common to find Spanish and Italian red wines for less than $15 that are not only well made but super affordable. I love these wines as they can provide lush flavors, generations of good winemaking and great prices. The power of affordability, reliability and wonderful tastes are being discovered and this ball is bouncing! Some of the venerable houses in both countries are coming out with wines of real character, wines that need no cellar time and wines that can be had at the table almost nightly.

The other thing about these wonderful red wines is that one can find them wherever wine is sold around the planet and at reasonable prices. The other nice theme of these wines is that they are made so user-friendly, where the oak is toned back and the acid levels are in line for a generous full mouth feeling that offers wonderful options for just about any cuisine except for light seafood. These guys are going to take off!

Well, there are a few thoughts. More next week!

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