I took a look at last year’s wine forecast to see how accurate I was — and if I skew things a bit, I could say very on target.
As predicted, natural wines have continued to be popular and the idea to employ organic viticulture has become more mainstream.
I would not say there has been a proliferation of second-label wines, but as I thought a year ago, they are certainly a presence on wine shelves and lists.
Slovenia and Eastern Europe has not gone away and while the wines are not knocking California wines off the shelves, they are more commonplace.
As for California, I suggested looking east, and I do see a lot of wines coming from Lodi, Livermore and Contra Costa County.
What will 2012 bring us, assuming we survive?
First, let’s talk price. People are still holding onto their money. Duh, right? The sweet spot seems to be somewhere in the $15 to $25 range. Knowing this, winemakers and distributors are by and large focusing on wines in this price category.
As a rule, I would look to these regions and wines if you want to spend less than $25:
White wines: Sancerre, Bourgogne Blancs from good producers, dry German rieslings, some New Zealand sauvignon blancs, Oregon pinot gris.
Rose: Most are under $25, but Spain has great deals.
Reds: Cotes du Rhones from noted producers, the Languedoc, Puglia, Rioja and Lodi.
Money aside, there is a drift toward crisp white wines. This, you may think, is hardly a trend, but what people think as being dry white wines — like many a California chardonnay — really are not. Crisp wines made from sauvignon blanc, Spain’s Albarino, Italy’s falanghina and grechetto and others of a similar ilk are in vogue.
As for reds, there is one noticeable trend. People are getting sick and tired of massive, high-alcohol wines. Bigger is no longer better. Local winemakers are telling me that they are going back to making wines that are less than 14 percent alcohol — that is, those who made the jump in the first place. Wines that have subtleties and balance evince more character and terroir, and casual wine drinkers are starting to pick up on this, too.
Folks are scaling back on wood as well. All over, unoaked red wines are hitting the shelves, providing fruit-forward, leaner wines. While this may be in part an economic decision — after all, oak barrels don’t grow on trees — wait, they do ... and expensive ones at that — it is also a much-welcomed stylistic change. Oak helps wine age, but most wines are made for early consumption.
It seems like the orange wine thing has hit a plateau. There will always be a certain amount that are made by the original and good producers such as Radikon and Vinoterra, but making white wine in open top fermenters with their skins can be a pain. For all the orange wines that have made me glow, more than double have reminded me of a torturous day of Giants baseball.
The start of 2012 will bring diets and detoxes and if you plan on taking a break, good luck. A lot of wine will be waiting and I am as excited as anyone to see what the wine gods have in store for 2012.
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.