Those of us who are supposed to know these things have been insisting that wine drinkers are throwing off their Winestream Media-inspired shackles, and drinking what they want — rose, even. In this, they’re being more adventurous than ever. We now have anecdotal evidence, as the 2014 holiday wine season is underway, that this is true.
Wine drinkers are buying tannat.
“If someone had told me I’d be selling tannat, I’d have told them they were crazy,” says Tina Messina of the Wine ConneXtion in suburban Boston, who can’t keep the Uruguayan red wine on the shelf after a tasting last month. “We were shocked. So, yes, wine drinkers are willing to be more adventurous. Someone needs to explain what the wine is about, and then they’re willing to try something they normally wouldn’t buy.”
This doesn’t mean, said the retailers interviewed for this post, that they won’t sell a lot of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot noir this holiday season. After all, this is still the United States. But as Mike Osborn, the founder and vice president of merchandising for on-line retailer Wine.com, told me: “It’s all about selection, so they can try something they may not have hard of before. They want to be able to show a new bottle to a friend and ask, ‘Did you know about this?’ “
What else will we see during the 2014 holiday wine season?
• More expensive wine, at least for “those who have the resources to buy it,” says Messina. She says consumers who feel more confident about the economy are spending more on a bottle than over the past decade. She has seen more purchases in the $15 to $25 range this season; earlier in the year, $15 was the cutoff on the high end.
• Varietals and regions from all over the world, and not just California or France. Because, as near as anyone can tell, the trend is that no one thing is especially trendy this year. Which fits into the adventurous theme.
• But adventure only goes so for, says Wally Plahutnik of John’s Grocery in Iowa City. “People will be adventurous for themselves, but they want a safe bet for gifts,” he says. “And that means name recognition, the cachet that the big names bring.” In other words, this could be the most profitable holiday season in 10 years for the best-known Napa Valley producers.
• Accessories, but as gifts from non-wine drinkers to their wine drinking friends. That’s because they’re scared to buy their wine-drinking friends a bottle that the friends may not like, says Plahutnik. In fact, no one I talked to said they thought accessory sales would be any bigger this season than in any other, despite the push I’m seeing from accessory manufacturers. I’ve been overwhelmed with releases about everything from wine chillers to wine stoppers from manufacturers who see the reviving economy as their best opportunity in a decade.