Innovation set to lift wine’s profile with new drinkers

A number of emerging trends could vanquish the wine industry’s reputation for a lack of innovation, according to a panel of experts at the London Wine Fair.

Wine expert and writer Robert Joseph said one emerging trend to take note of is bourbon- aged wine, which, he added, is “phenomenal in the States and it is coming here”.

James Hick, marketing manager for Concha y Toro UK, added: “We have seen the bourbon category explode in the US, and this we have seen beer with tequila and beer with rum. We have also seen people getting to know the stories behind segments such as craft beer.

“Our 1,000 Stories brand is made as a proper wine, first in French oak barrels then finished for two months in bourbon barrels. It doesn’t have a harsh bourbon taste but it is about subverting expectations. It gives flavours of caramel, dried herbs and vanilla.”

Hick said that 1,000 Stories is the number one bourbon barrel-aged Zinfandel in the US and it also had a good start in the UK.

Chuck Cramer, US wine consultant, pointed to another example, The Federalist, which is aged for six months in American oak and six in bourbon barrels.

“We are talking to male drinkers here,” he said. “He doesn’t really know what he wants but he thinks this looks really cool. There is plenty of ageing with beer so why not with wine?”

Richard Halstead, chief operating officer at Wine Intelligence, also highlighted another brand aimed at men, 19 Crimes, which he described as “a good social media-driven brand”.

He said: “The lovely thing about younger people is they are generally in experimental mode in terms of what they like and what they drink but they lack knowledge, so they are looking for cues.

“The generation coming of age this century has far more access to information so they have to be better editors of that information. Younger people are always going to be the ones who like trying new things. Connectivity between them is much better and they can start talking about brands such as 19 Crimes immediately.”

Another fast-growing sector in the US highlighted by the panel is “red blends”, where the wine label often doesn’t highlight a grape variety or region, beyond “California” or “Napa”.

Halstead said: “The consumer of today and the next few years is very different from a few years ago and the difference is in what their understanding of our category is. They don’t know as much about the countries of origin or regions. Those under 35 are not bothering to learn the difference in wines from France versus Spain, or Bordeaux versus Napa, unlike their predecessors. Those rules are being swept away and I for one welcome this. It’s not about wine being some higher power.”

Halstead highlighted a number of potential growth segments in wine.

He said: “I would be excited about stuff that is pink in colour and possibly sparkling as well. I think we will see more packaging that does not conform to the bog standard and products that deliberately divorce themselves from their regional origin.”

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