From "natural" wine to frosé, in 2017 plenty of trends debuted and spread, were championed, debated or dismissed. What's does the year ahead hold for wine? Few people have a better finger on the pulse of what's happening than the experts who work the floors and cellars at the world's restaurants that have earned Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards for wine-list excellence.
We made a few predictions of our own, but we also asked these six somms to peer into their Riedel crystal balls and tell us what wine trends they foresee, what they'd like to see … and what they'd like to see go away in 2018.
Wine Spectator: What's the biggest wine trend you predict for 2018? Or what would you most like to see?
Erik Segelbaum, wine director for Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurants, including Best of Award of Excellence winners Le Coucou in New York, Upland in Miami Beach and Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.: The trend I would love to just disappear is the whole idea of winemakers hiding behind flawed wine by calling it "natural." I would love to see natural winemaking to mean quality wine, not just to mean funk and stink. Because there are so many incredible natural wines, but now that it's become such a popular category I find that there are so many that are just flawed and hiding behind the veil of, "Oh well this is natural wine, so this is what it tastes like." We're just in this whole trend of, "Oh, we'll call it natural wine and let it taste like brett and mercaptans and V.A. and all sorts of other terrible flaws." I can name hundreds of natural wines that are fantastic, but I think more and more what's been coming out, that hipster trendiness of "totes nat wines" has just been a lot of flawed winemaking.
Jessica Norris, director of beverage for Del Frisco's Restaurant Group, including nationwide locations of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House, Del Frisco's Grille and Sullivan's Steakhouse: I would love to see Central Otago Pinot Noir gain market share. The wines are absolutely spectacular and have distinctly different personalities, from Bannockburn to Cromwell or Bendigo to Gibbston.
Harley Carbery, wine director for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and Delano Las Vegas, including Grand Award–winning restaurant Aureole Las Vegas; Best of Award of Excellence winners Fleur by Hubert Keller, Rivea Las Vegas and Stripsteak; and Award of Excellence winner Libertine Social in Las Vegas: Bubbles. More bubbles. I think that whether it's Prosecco, sparkling wine from California or wherever around the world or Champagne, that that category is definitely going to continue growing. Definitely through '18. Who knows beyond that, but that's sort of the No. 1 that I think will happen and that I would like to see as well. Not just people drinking sparkling wine for celebratory occasions, but people just drinking it on an average Wednesday evening, or throughout a dinner, or whatever it might be.
Jon McDaniel, wine director of Gage Hospitality Group in Chicago, including Best of Award of Excellence winner Acanto and Award of Excellence winners Beacon Tavern, Coda di Volpe and the Gage: The biggest trend in 2018 will be going back to basics. For the last few years, there have been wines coming from all across the planet—new states, new wine regions, new AVAs, new countries. All of this has overwhelmed the consumer into being even more confused about the wine world. My prediction and hope is that my species of sommelier gets back to the regions that got us to where we are today. Reintroduce Napa Valley and Sonoma to your guest, show a small producer of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc instead of trying to change people’s minds all the time with obscure wines. A tip to my sommelier brethren: Most guests can’t say the word "pyrazine," let alone know what it means. This year will be the year of something old is new again.
Jill Gubesch, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Frontera Grill/Topolobampo in Chicago: I’m thinking we’ll see more, and hopefully better, wine in cans.
WS: What would you most like to see?
JG: Fewer Francophiles (nothing against them; they like wine!) and more people who support domestic—particularly California—wine.
Andy Myers, wine director for José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, including nationwide locations of Jaleo and other José Andrés restaurants: I’m hoping for a return to reason regarding the orange/natural craze. I’m hoping the trend is toward “delicious” rather than “interesting." So, either that or maybe this whole blue wine thing takes off. What do I know? I’m just a cranky old sommelier who still can’t understand why people don’t drink more Sherry and Riesling.