Only weeks ago, we were deluged with all manner of forecasts for the coming year. Now, as many of our resolutions sit discarded like Powerball tickets, here are some hopes and expectations for the local wine world:
Pink won’t shrink. After truly, madly, deeply (and finally!) breaking out in the Twin Towns last year, rosé’s popularity surge will show no signs of slowing down. In one of those “try-it-you’ll-like-it” deals, boatloads of consumers have shaken off the shackles of preconceived notions about these wines (that they’re too sweet or too wimpy) and are primed for further explorations.
More lightening up. Following in rosé’s wake, lighter, brighter reds will start becoming a thing. Domestic and imported reds with lower alcohol, higher acid levels and more refreshing flavors surely should gain favor, especially served a bit chilled in the warmer months. I’m talking gamay, barbera, Austria’s zweigelt and St. Laurent and even sweetish wines such as lambrusco and brachetto.
A change in inventory and storefronts. Total Wines & More already has shaken up the local retail scene mightily, especially at the chains and munis. As Total continues to open more stores and as HyVee and Target bring more booze marts into this market, established outlets will continue to scramble to find ways to maintain.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see more store closings than usual in the coming year. I tend to think the wine-centric places will be OK, but chains will have to be innovative, and smaller full-service stores with less focus on wine will remain vulnerable.
This is based on some history: HyVee’s booze outlets will start carrying a broader range of wines. In other states, they have tended to open with all-too-familiar inventories from a small number of distributors, but then given their wine buyers some autonomy to check out the full local landscape.
Action at the Capitol. Another, smaller threat to the little guys in retail will come to fruition. Sunday liquor sales have gained momentum every year in the Minnesota Legislature and would seem to be inevitable. When it comes down, expect at least a few wine-focused stores to remain closed on Sundays.
On the other hand, I can’t foresee anything happening with grocery-store sales — and don’t want to. The current standards — separate exterior entrance — has provided more shelf space for wine (and other beverages) than would ever exist in grocery aisles. That has spawned some of our best wine outlets, from Kowalski’s in Eagan to Lunds & Byerlys in Minnetonka.
In the hoped-for-change realm. Almost a decade ago, it was seriously cool to see Heartland (then in St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland) tout wines on its list that could be purchased at nearby Wine Thief. I thought this kind of setup would steadily gain traction. Not so much. Now, with more cool wines arriving here in smaller allocations, it would be especially swell to see restaurateurs and retailers forge these kinds of alliances. Who among us has not fallen in love with a wine at dinner and asked the waitstaff, “Where can I find this?”
Bubbles will rise, and flutes will fall. Every year, more consumers discover that sparkling wines are for all occasions, not just “special” ones. As these amazing versatile food-pairing wines garner more widespread acceptance, so will the practice of drinking them out of “regular” wine glasses rather than flutes, which might work aesthetically but mute bubblies’ aromas, expressiveness and complexity.
A bit of Bordeaux: As the wine world has expanded, it has been easy to ignore Bordeaux, especially since so many producers (and their juice) were stale. But now more local importers are seeking out and finding memorable stuff from the world’s most respected wine region. As a result, we have access, with careful shopping, to red wines that actually can provide more value than most varietals made with the same grapes (cabernet and merlot) from California.
Down Under heads north. Finally, it’s time for shoppers and wine-mongers to move past their “Australia is dead to me” phase. Weirdly enough, those cheap (and cheap-tasting), monolithic shirazes that almost killed the Aussie industry are all you now see in some outlets. But crikey, there’s some wonderful stuff starting to arrive from the land Down Under: pleasantly piquant granaches, refreshing viogniers and chardonnays, red blends with depth and stuffing and, yes, some really tasty, complex shirazes.
With all kinds of cool unfamiliar wines reaching our store shelves and restaurant lists, it’s nice to know that what’s old can be new again.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.