Trend spotting in the aisles

Think 1,465 exhibitors representing 30 winemaking countries. That is a whole lot of wine. Add to this 18,000 visitors, 50 expert-driven masterclasses, seminars, tastings and endless parties, and you have three days of breathless wine-oriented activity. This was all at the recently-concluded Vinexpo Hong Kong. But the fun part of any wine business fair is the trend spotting. So, if you are wondering what 2019 holds for wine drinkers, here are a few to consider.

Rosé wine:in demand

The last few years have seen rosé portmanteau words popping up in social media as the pink wine’s popularity soars — from brosé (men drinking rosé) to frosé (frozen rosé slushies and popsicles). These might sound faddish, but they indicate how, in the last five years, rosé wine has shown it has what it takes to be counted among the reds and whites. It might have all started with Château Miraval becoming the first rosé to hit the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines list in 2013 — possibly being co-owned by Brangelina played a part — but it has been flying off the shelves, to the extent that summer 2018 has seen a ‘pinkout’ of wine store shelves in Europe. In the UK alone, rosé sales in May outstripped 2017 by a whopping 84%. Refreshing, low alcohol and a happy match with a variety of cuisines, including tough-to-pair Asian, rosé is a fad no more.

Buy it:While Indian producers Sula, Grover Zampa and Fratelli are among those making rosé, the ones from South Africa, the US, Spain and France are available in the metros. Try Torres Da Casta (Rs. 1,990), Wolftrap (Rs. 2,180), and E Guigal Tavel (Rs. 3,980).

Prosecco:wallet-friendly bubbles rule

It’sfun, easy and bubbly. This is not Miley Cyrus we are discussing, but Prosecco, the world’s favourite Italian fizz from the Veneto region that has been taking over all things celebratory worldwide. Cheaper than Champagne, fresh and fruity on the palate, and affordable for young drinkers, it is projected to sell 412 million bottles by 2020, according to Vinexpo and research firm IWSR (International Wine and Spirits Record), while Nielsen puts sales at 20% of the sparkling wine category. While Asia is gradually adopting this trend, the US and Europe, especially the UK, just love their fizz.

Buy it:Prosecco is growing in popularity in India, and is available at leading wine retailers. Try Bisol Belstar Cult Prosecco (Rs. 2,472) or the Bepin De Eto DOCG (Rs. 2,190).

Tech in thevineyards

Forward-thinking wine producers are introducing technology in their winemaking practices — from drones that suss out diseases to rainfall predictors to save on water wastage, and robot pruners to increase vineyard efficiency. A case in point is from old-world Bordeaux, where wine tycoon Bernard Magrez has significantly upped the quality of his wines by introducing technology in his Grand Cru estates.

If robots are harvesting grapes, then it is no surprise that selling wine has turned hi-tech, too. China’s Alibaba Group’s retail arm, TMall, arguably the largest wine e-commerce platform, has embraced this. At its state-of-the-art booth at the fair, you could wave a bottle of Penfolds Bin 389 and a projection of winemaker Peter Gago would pop up on a screen to explain its qualities. Facial recognition can help you locate your favourite bottles in automated kiosks, and you can even pay by selfie.

Organic wineis just fine

Vinexpo introduced WOW! The World of Organic Wines at Bordeaux in 2017. In Honk Kong, the number of participants has grown. With millennials everywhere becoming more health and environment conscious, a growing keenness for ‘eating clean’, plus the industry claim that organic (and biodynamic) wines taste superior, it is an inexorable development of our times.

Buy it:Pick up Querciabella Chianti Classico (Rs. 5,937) and St Urbans-Hof Riesling QbA ‘Old Vines’ (Rs. 3,541) in India.

Old wine,new love

If you have read about the world’s fascination with Georgia’s orange wines, made by its ancient qvevri method, you might also know that it is centuries old. Georgia has been making wine since 6000 BC, the oldest winemaking country in the world. Other ancient winemaking civilisations are also newly popular. These include Lebanon, shrugging aside its strife-torn history (its iconic ‘natural’ wine Château Musar is much sought after by oenophiles). Croatian wines are said to have existed from pre-Roman times, but have recently found appreciation for its rich whites and big reds, especially those from Dalmatia and Istria. Hungary, too, has an ancient winemaking culture, with connoisseurs snapping up its famous rich, sweet botrytised Tokaji wines and its regional red wine, Bull’s Blood of Eger (Egri Bikavér). Specialist wine stores, restaurants and bars are increasingly curating wine lists that include labels from these regions.

Ancient grapes,

modern wine

Move over, Chardonnay. Many producers are returning to their roots to make wine from ancient, native grape varieties that once flourished in their countries of origin. Big name producers like Spain’s Torres have led the charge in reviving interest in ancestral grapes (Garró, Gonfaus). In Austria, expect to be handed a glass of Zweigelt or Blaufränkisch; in Croatia, Pošip, Plavac Mali, Grasevina; in Hungary, Hárslevelu; in Georgia, Saperavi or Rkatsiteli. These grapes with their tongue-twisting names might sound strange, but are really quite commonplace in their birthplaces. Expect to taste more of these exotic-sounding beauties over time.

*Prices indicated at time of going to press.

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