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Seven Ways Wine Will Change in 2019

Jan 10, 2019

The wine world can change faster than you’d think. Upended by turbulent politics, 2018 was beset with trade wars, on-going Brexit instability, and more climate-change-driven chaotic weather events. All this made some wine regions winners, others losers, while investors scored big time: fine vino outperformed stocks and bonds, according to Liv-Ex.

This year promises similar contrasts, surprises, and the continuation of some of last year’s trends. If you think everything pink to drink has already happened, for example, you would be wrong. Rosé sour beer is about to be a thing, while rosé love is even hitting sports figures such as basketball all-star guard Dwyane Wade. His wine project with Napa winemaker Jayson Pahlmeyer released its first rosé at a very pricy $75.

Expect the link between technology and wine to expand, with new fine wine trading apps, AI, robots in vineyards, and more. Ditto more good bubbly, from just about every wine region in the world.

What’s Old Is New

The rediscovery of old, abandoned vineyards and embrace of forgotten varieties will continue to feed our voracious thirst for tastes beyond the classics—and may reveal useful ways to adapt to climate change.

Chile, for example, is working to rescue ancient vineyards planted by Spanish explorers centuries ago, as well as resurrect old winemaking techniques. Agricultural engineer Max Morales, at the forefront of efforts, is also helping to create wines from them.

Unfamiliar native and hybrid grapes, such as Pais, Marquette, Petite Arvine and Zibibbo are in your future.

Don’t understand the appeal? Dip into one of 2018’s most entertaining wine books, Godforsaken Grapes.

Cannabis Infusions Are on Their Way

The first time I tasted marijuana-laced wine was a decade ago in Mendocino, where a handful of winemakers (my lips are sealed) surreptitiously infused pot cuvees for themselves and their friends.

With legalization of pot in California, Canada, and elsewhere last year, wine and weed mixes are coming. Canadian investment bank Canaccord Genuity suggested to Business Insider that marijuana-infused beverages could become a $600 million market in the U.S. in the next four years. Constellation Brands has already invested in cannabis companies.

Sake Is Taking the Stage

When the chef de cave of Dom Perignon says his next project is making sake in Japan, you know big change is coming. Richard Geoffroy, who spent 28 years as the winemaker of DP, retired at end of 2018 and is working on a joint venture with sake brewery Masuizumi that will launch in September 2019.

Sophisticated, premium examples of sake are just beginning to be the darlings of sommeliers in non-Japanese restaurants, where they turn up on tasting menus and wine lists as alternatives to wine. And as if to underscore the drink’s coming importance, glassmaker Riedel introduced a new Junmai glass last spring, designed for this category of very complex sakes.

Bottle Buying Goes Luxury, High-Tech,Instant

Buying wine will be much more than grabbing a bottle at your local shop. The latest from Vivino is a way to scan a bottle you’re enjoying in a restaurant, purchase it, and arrange to have it delivered to your home, all in under a minute.

Self-serve booze vending machines will surely be part of your future, especially for wines in cans and, as at the Mama Lion supper club in Los Angeles, for 187-mL splits of Champagne.

Bricks-and-mortar stores will woo your actual presence with fun in-shop experiences like those at London’s Harrods, whose luxurious new Fine Wines and Spirits Rooms offer sniffing at an aroma table and interactive info play.

And anticipate more ways than ever to get your hands on rare bottles. Renowned London retailer Berry Bros & Rudd just launched its services in the U.S., giving American customers the chance to buy other clients’ wines through its BBX trading platform, while New York’s new looks like one-stop shopping for the serious imbiber. Besides the chance to buy difficult-to-obtain exclusive wines, it offers educational tasting gatherings and bespoke wine trips.

And Beyond ...

Naturally, I still have plenty of questions: Will synthetic wines—chemically identical versions of great names—really catch on? Will gimmicks such as the new wine condoms that slip over the neck of opened bottles really “protect your Pinot” as the product promises?

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