Every year in the wine industry is characterized by the unique elements that made it special. Think of the iconic Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon from 2015. Imagine how people will be talking about the past drought in a few years, and the effect it had on the quality and quantity of wines produced over the period. It is exciting to try and predict what these things will be before the year even starts! Below are the wine trends for 2019 as predicted by Cybercellar.com.
1. Declining vineyard – rising production
The drought experienced in the Western Cape over the last three years has resulted in a significant decrease of the total South African vineyard size. While we have been blessed with a disaster-reversing amount of rain in the winter of 2018, it will still be many years before the wine industry (and many others) recover in full.
Declining vineyard size means that producers must make the most of the crops that were yielded during this time. This could mean one of two things: (1) In the pursuit of financial reward, winemakers may sacrifice quality over quantity. Whereas previously, crops that weren’t up to standard would have become subject to green harvest, producers may now feel forced to wait it out until most of the grapes are ripe enough for harvest. Imbalanced ripeness across the harvested crop will greatly affect the quality of the wine that is produced. On a more positive note (2), some producers have made the most of the situation and produced wines of even better quality than before, while choosing to sacrifice quantity. High temperatures result in grapes with a higher concentration of sugar and thicker skins. This means that the wines produced by these grapes can be much more complex and fruit forward. Unfortunately, producers with this approach have admitted to sacrificing significant portions of their overall yield. These are however the producers that have been greatly rewarded by awards panels recently.
The first option isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are many examples of made wines that cater to large markets that aren’t concerned as much about quality as being able to find their favourite household brand in store. It just seems more important than ever for producers to know who their customer is and choose their approach accordingly.
2. Unique varieties are finding their feet
The average consumer is continuing to become more informed. With knowledge comes power, and this is especially true when it comes to really knowing what you like. More wine lovers are becoming more aware of different cultivars and wine styles (thanks to the wine industry’s great efforts to educate their consumer) and this means that even the less experienced wine enthusiast is likely to have come across an unusual variety like Grenache or Marsanne. Considering that a popular cultivar like Shiraz was in the same position as these varieties a mere 20 years back (this seems like a long time ago, but it was at the end of the 90’s!), it is exciting to imagine the future of these “newer” styles or expressions.
3. The lines between wine categories are becoming blurred.
There was a time when Chardonnay was the only variety that populated the “Wooded White Wines” category. Today, winemakers are experimenting with techniques that were traditionally reserved for certain varietals and applying it across the board. Wooded Sauvignon Blanc (Blanc Fume) has become a popular style in recent years and is suitable for ageing. Red wine can now be chilled. Seeing someone religiously punting a rich, peppery red in the middle of summer was strongly frowned upon until recently. One can now enjoy freshly chilled Grenache or Cinsault to cool down at the end of a hot day. As categories continue to become more diverse, so do the chances of every wine lover finding something they truly love.