Restaurant wine pros face as much uncertainty as anyone in the wine world this year—who can predict what will happen with trends, much less tariffs?—but their experiences on the floor give them a better sense of which way the winds are blowing. Will 2020 be the year of Eastern European wine, or wine in sports stadiums, or are we in for hard seltzer all over again?
As we did in 2019 and 2018, we asked nine sommeliers from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners a three-part question about the year to come in wine: What trends will happen, what should happen, and what deserves the dumpster?
Wine Spectator: What's the biggest wine trend you predict for 2020? What would you most like to see—and see disappear?
Andrew Pattison, beverage director at Award of Excellence winner Sushi Note in Los Angeles
As prices on EU wines increase, I think that we will begin to see expanded interest in high quality wines from the Southern Hemisphere. 2020 will be a good time to check in with interesting smaller producers in Argentina, South Africa and Australia as their price points become more attractive due to the tariffs.
With the Chase Center [arena] opening in San Francisco late last year with a strong focus on wine, I hope that other large venues around the country take notice and expand their wine offerings.
[What I'm over:] Carbonic maceration on this, that and everything. I'll admit, the wines are fun to try, but it drives me crazy when places carry carbonic Pinot Noir or Sangiovese without a classic counterpart on offer as well.
Angela Gargano, wine and spirits director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Mont.
I predict that we’ll continue to see more and more amazing women winemakers like Cathy Corison and Arianna Occhipinti in the spotlight in 2020. For too long, women winemakers have been relegated to the sidelines and their talents not taken seriously enough. If 2019 was the year of headlines about celebrity sommeliers behaving badly then 2020 is going to be the year of talented women blowing up the glass ceiling in the wine world.
Can we all just agree that it’s time for the frosé trend to die? Let’s pay some respect to rosé and drink it in all its deliciousness all day long without throwing it in a blender.
Chris Raftery, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Gramercy Tavern in New York
Organizing and activism. Regardless of what happens with the potential impending tariffs, the wine community responded together and got a message out loud and clear. I'm hopeful this same energy can be focused toward other serious issues our industry faces—climate change, mental health and equal rights in restaurants, the presidential election—and we can start promoting change, either with our collective dollars or the small platform we have on social media.
[What I'm over:] Bottle shots.
Our guests at Maude and Gwen—especially those visiting from out of town—are particularly interested in California wines, and I think people are going to continue to drink locally, paying attention to sustainability just as they do with ingredients. The same goes for my personal preferences. When I travel, doing research and development for the regional wine menus at Maude, I’m most excited about making new discoveries from local winemakers.
I’ll be happy to see the departure of bad “natural” wine. To me, it’s lazy winemaking, disguising flaws. I’ll try anything and am a fan of geeky finds, but I do want to pour clean, proper and tasty wine made by winemakers who respect the process.
Ted Rink, beverage director at Award of Excellence winner BLVD Chicago in Chicago
The trend with natural wines will continue into 2020 for sure. I would like to see continued interest in Eastern European and Greek options coming into the U.S. as well. The never-ending somm quest to explore, find uniqueness and discover is highly motivating. That said, tariffs will definitely pose a challenge to this.
I would also like to see the push of orange wines take a back seat. I'm not saying that orange wines need to disappear completely, but a lot of guests I've encountered can't seem to wrap their head around them. I know there was a push for them out in the market but I feel like they have been difficult for consumers to grasp.
James Bonner, sommelier at Award of Excellence winner Red Pump Kitchen in Charlottesville, Va.
The biggest trend to look forward to in 2020 will be the forward procession in alternative packaging for wine. [According to some estimates,] 90 percent percent of wine is consumed within 24 hours of being purchased. Of that wine, most was bottled less than a few years before it hit stores shelves, meaning that many wines do not need to be stored in a glass bottle or have a real cork. There is already a large influx of high quality wines being packaged in cans and boxes.
Tariffs are a major issue for the wine industry. The biggest hit will come to the consumer. Merchants and restaurants will pass the surcharge straight down that line. While many [European] countries may choose to still import wines to the U.S., consumers should begin to look toward other high quality wine regions for the time being.
Evan Danielson, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner City Winery Nashville in Nashville, Tenn.
I would love to see the continued championing of small producers and grower-producers in 2020.
[What I'm over:] I've noticed a misconception among diners when ordering a bottle of wine: that the taste of wine poured for the guest is to see whether or not they like the wine. The taste of wine poured is for the guest to let them check that the wine is technically sound and free of flaws. I think this can be remedied through sommeliers checking the wines for the guest, although this might run the risk of coming off as condescending. More tactful education and approach to bottle service would also go a long way.
Ashley Broshious, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Zero Restaurant + Bar in Charleston, S.C.
I think wine education will be a big trend for 2020. We are finding many consumers and enthusiasts are really interested in taking certifiable classes. It's not just about tasting and finding a bottle for dinner anymore, it's about really understanding what's in your bottle of wine.
[What I'm over:] I think wine drinkers go way too deep with wines that are "healthier," such as wines with less sugar, less sulfites, and natural wines. I don't think consumers fully understand that most wines need sulfur to help [prevent] refermentation and bacterial growth, and that natural wines are not healthier than traditionally made wines.
Ryan Bailey, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner NoMad Los Angeles
I would like to see people in 2020 embrace the stories behind the wine more. It's those stories that separate wine from other drinks such as White Claw and Budweiser, everything from the farming practices and winemaking decisions to the families whose lives encompass what goes into each bottle. Passion and knowledge are contagious; they have a way turning the average wine drinker into an enthusiast, and I think sharing that is the most genuine way to get more people excited about wine.
I would love to see anything that creates the image that wine is a luxury good disappear. Wine at its core is a beverage that brings people together, whether to celebrate or just converse over, so the sooner it becomes more approachable to everyone the better. Craft wine is unique in the sense that there is a story behind it, whether it's one of history, family, romance, science or entrepreneurship; this sets it apart. I know the people behind these wines would love to see wine break down any of the barriers that are currently [put] in place by our culture.
Want to stay up on the latest news and incisive features about the world's best restaurants for wine? Sign up now for our free Private Guide to Dining email newsletter, delivered every other week. Plus, follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.