Trendspotting // Our 2016 Wine Predictions

Category: Drink

by Nikki Michaels

Au revoir, 2015! We’ll always remember you as the year of the rosé explosion, the wine-in-a-can revolution, and the resurgence of everyone’s favorite college drink: boxed wine. We’re looking ahead to 2016 now, and we’ve got our finger on the pulse of the new year’s biggest wine trends. Read on for our take on what you can expect, as well as input from our experts and tastemakers.

To start things off with a bang, we’re dubbing 2016 the “official end of wine snobbery.” An increasing number of vino drinkers (millennials in particular) are paying absolutely zero attention to wine norms, opting instead to drink whatever they want, whenever they want. 2015 saw the once-scoffed-at rosé rise from the ashes to become the must-have drink of the year, and it also marked the demise of the idea that you can only drink sparkling wine on special occasions.

Based on what we’ve observed over the past year and what we’re hearing from our Winemaker Partners, tastemakers, and friends in various parts of the industry, we think 2016 will be the year the wine biz bucks tradition and gets a little weird. Read: a cider craze, making pét-nats from lesser-known grapes, a growing interest in alternative and unpronounceable varieties, and a fierce push for more natural winemaking. Here’s what to get psyched about:

The Hard Cider House Rules

Back in 2014, TIME profiled the growth of hard cider — but it hasn’t reached its peak yet. In 2016, we’ll see craft ciders in styles and flavors that’ll have you raving ‘bout them apples all year round. Take it from wine writer and YouTube sommelier Whitney Adams: “Cider will emerge as a legit beverage category, as more and more cidermakers (and even winemakers) are producing ciders with terroir, structure, and acidity — much like wine.” We’re even releasing our first-ever cider in March!

Pét-Nat Steps Up to Bat

In the past few months, pétillant naturel has been featured in high-profile publications from Bon Appétit to Bloomberg to Vogue. This ancient sparkling wine production method is basically a perfect confluence of the trends we’re predicting for 2016: it’s natural, it’s bubbly, and it can be made from any grape a winemaker chooses, including off-the-radar varieties.

Winemaker and author Birk O’Halloran notes crazy pét-nats among the things he thinks we’ll see next year, and our Director of Winemaking Ryan Zotovich told us pét-nat is “definitely popping up on people’s radars.” What’s more: winemaker and sommelier André Hueston Mack thinks vintners will start to “experiment more with some of the viniculture happening in the vineyard” — and experimentation is the name of the game when it comes to pét-nat.

As for us, it looks like we’re ahead of the game. We just released a Malvasia Bianca pét-nat, and we’re bringing you our second pét-nat Valdiguié in January.

The Harder to Pronounce, the Better

This one speaks to a larger movement. As growing numbers of consumers break away from traditional wines (bye, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc!), they’re gravitating toward wines they (and the rest of the world) have never heard of before. We’re talking Xinomavro, Falanghina, Négrette, Valdiguié, Assyrtiko — the list goes on and on! If it’s a tongue-twister with a few accent marks, people want to drink it. Ryan sums it up: “I think we’re going to see a slight move away from more traditional wine styles — that is to say, a wider interest in alternative varietals and regions.”

Low ABV’s in Session

Unlike many of the other trends we’re predicting for 2016, subtlety shines in “sessionable” wines. It’s not always about high alcohol, folks! Whitney tells it straight: “the term ‘sessionable’ has applied to beer for a long time, defining those with lower alcohol and a fresh, crisp drinkability. I think more people will seek out wines with moderate levels of alcohol (10% and under) so they can drink more for a longer period of time. It’s the ultimate wine hang.”

Jason Eisner — LA’s 2015 Bartender of the Year — concurred, saying he sees “low-ABV beer and wine cocktails” as a big thing in 2016.

Natural or Bust

Every single one of our tastemakers, Winemaker Partners, and industry insiders named natural winemaking as a trend to look out for in 2016. Sustainability and eco-consciousness are gaining traction in nearly every aspect of business worldwide, and wine’s no exception.

Ryan said we’ll see a “push for more rustic styles” and a “more holistic approach to get in tune with the vineyard, while Matthew Kaner — Wine Director and co-owner of both Bar Covell and Augustine Wine Bar — cited his travel experience: “I am seeing and hearing more and more about people understanding clarity and purity in their farming and winemaking. Less winemaker’s hand, and more nature comes through the bottle.”

Birk said we’ll notice “more places embracing ‘natural’ wine (and more people declaring their hate for it),” and André included natural winemaking in his discussion on experimentation in the vineyard.

Star-Spangled Sparkling

“As the American appetite for bubbly booze increases,” says André, “we will start to see the rise of more domestic sparkling wine.” American bubbly enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in 2015, and it’s not stopping anytime soon! As more U.S. producers step up their fizzy game, more consumers will turn to domestic bottles rather than reaching for Prosecco or Cava. Birk spoke to this trend as well, predicting “a lot more” American winemakers coming out with sparkling wines.

And the other aspect of this trend? Drinking bubbles whenever you feel like it. We saw the beginning of this shift last year, and it’ll continue in the New Year. For now, board the bubbly train with our two latest: Paper Crane and the WKND Blend.

So there you have it: our top six predictions for where wine’s headed in 2016.