A lot can change in a year, and that’s certainly true for the world of wine. Before we see everything that 2019 brings, let’s take a look at essential trends that shaped the industry this past year.
1. An increase in attention on women in the industry and female consumers
Following an explosive national conversation and movements like #MeToo, discussions of industry women’s challenges in the wine space became prevalent this year, as did more inclusive reporting on female producers, executives and wine personalities. Major wine, spirits and beer companies took note, implementing on-site gender equality and harassment training, women’s mentoring groups and ramping up research on female consumers. Not surprisingly, products benefitting women’s initiatives and charities (such as emBRAZEN, Nasty Woman Wines) were also on the rise.
2. Oregon is an investment focus for California heavy hitters
Climate change, wildfires, zoning ordinances, sky-high land prices and overcrowding—all these factors and more may be contributing to a new land rush, as California wine companies continue to focus growth on Oregon. Big plays included The Family Coppola’s acquisition of Vista Hills Vineyard, a prime site in the Dundee Hills AVA; Erath’s Prince Hill Vineyard sale to the Duncan family, co-founders of Silver Oak Cellars; the Benton-Lane sale to Napa’s Huneeus Vintners LLC and Jackson Family’s addition of hundreds of acres of vineyard and a winemaking facility in the Willamette Valley.
3. Rosé becomes a global powerhouse
Showing no signs of slowing, the ever-expanding category encompassed pink wines from all corners of the globe, with producers jostling to release rosé bottlings in portfolios and numbers soaring with 48% growth in the last year to $466 million in sales, according to Nielsen. Frozen rosé, rosé wine gummy bears and lollipops, and rosé beauty products also captured the fancy of consumers of both genders eager to enjoy the playful side of this classic category.
4. California wildfires continue to rage on
With hardly a moment to recuperate from the devastating 2017 fires in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Solano, the state experienced a new rash of fires that ravaged 1,367,225 acres cutting swaths of land between San Diego and Redding. Besides the $2.973 billion in damages and nine civilian casualties, increased discussions of potential smoke taint in 2017 and 2018 vintages were on the minds of consumers and industry alike.
5. Wine is social (media)
Social platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter led the wine conversation this year, allowing consumers to engage in lively consumer-to-industry and peer-to-peer conversations and shine light on the wineries, bottlings, bars and restaurants they love in real-time. The shift also fueled consumer-driven wine education in countless cities both large and small, supported by an increasing number of grassroots tasting groups. Wine Enthusiast’s social influence grew too, reaching a combined audience of over 10 million technologically savvy wine lovers in 2018.
6. The off-beat takes center stage
Following the cue of the increasingly adventurous American wine-drinking public, major importers, retailers and restaurateurs made brave moves to carry wines from far flung wine-producing regions like Georgia, Turkey, Hungary and Bulgaria. They also looked closer to home, discovering surprising varieties like Teroldego and Albariño from domestic markets like Virginia, Texas, California and Washington.
7. Wine goes green (in a good way)
Responsible practices in wine were increasingly a focus in 2018. This has meant more eco-conscious winemaking, with programs like the Willamette Valley Oak Accord and South Africa’s Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, along with increasing use of low-impact vineyard practices by growers worldwide. The movement has also spread to no-waste initiatives in spirits and cocktails, with projects like The Oceanic Standard initiative aiming to reduce use of single-use plastics in the hospitality industry.
8. Canned wine grows up
The canned wine phenomenon went from novelty to normal this year, as quality producers and brands committed to cans and emphasized its portable ease, freshness advantage and touted the more casual experience of drinking good wine. Consumers went all in, with canned wine sales from June 2017 to June 2018 rising 43% according to the market research firm BW 166. Nielsen reports that the canned wine segment is now a $45 million business.
9. Wine and weed unite
With recreational cannabis legalized in nine states as of press time, plus the District of Columbia, and medical use legal in 31, a tipping point has been reached. Despite wine industry concerns that cannabis might bite into sales, some companies see growth opportunities in compatible industries. The marriage of wine and weed is coming in pot-infused beverages that are just now beginning to be regulated. The North Coast Wine & Weed Symposium continues to be a forum for both industries to share insight into cannabis tourism, consumer demographics and collaborative opportunities.
10. Tasting rooms go immersive
Simply pouring wines across a bar for visitors made a noticeable exit in major winery tasting-room markets, with progressive producers offering more imaginative and immersive experiences including stylish lounge environments, on-site winemaker Q&A’s, diverse cooking classes, art showings and farm tours. The result? Wine drinkers are visiting fewer wineries but spending more quality time at the ones they commit to visiting.