2017 is going to be interesting, to say the least.
New politics are shaping up and causing a huge ruccous across the country. The economy will need to be watched and the world is changing daily right in front of us. But in the drinks industry, it is important to take a moment and see and think about what this all means to us and where we are headed and how to best deal with some of it. I was asked to compile a "Predictions List" for 2017, so here it is...
Beaujolais will continue to make a strong comeback on wine lists. The strength of the wines from smaller domaine producers who own and farm older vines and make serious wine will continue to resonate with buyers and consumers alike. Plus the food pairing ability of Gamay will reach more people as they experience these fabulous wines. Not your mother’s bubble-gum ripped Nouveau, anymore; this is serious wine.
Academic Wine Writing will continue to displace ratings as the preferred manner to buy and sell wine. What the wine tastes like to you is all that matters, and scores are simply a snapshot in time of one person’s opinion. While these things tend to sell luxury magazines, they are frivolous to anyone looking for more than a cursory “shelf-talker” about the wine. People want to know about where the wine comes from, who made and how, and what is the best thing to serve it with – that is hard to communicate in a number.
Local breweries will continue to open at an alarming rate (we are now topping 5000 in the US), but some will begin to close. The bubble is getting bigger, and while the American beer drinker is keeping these businesses afloat, and there is still plenty of market share to steal from the big producers, at a certain level there will be a weeding out of the less quality oriented and marginal styles. We can only handle so many IPA’s, and as the local markets get flooded and these breweries look to expand to other markets, their “local” niche becomes less impactful to the consumers.
More people will realize that gin is OK and it is really just flavored vodka (in a good way). More interesting cocktails come from gin as the base than vodka, but many consumers are pre-disposed to not liking a cocktail if it lists gin, just for the gin, and ask for vodka instead. I often encourage people to try the cocktail first and then decide if they like gin or not, and often the case that they come back and say “I don’t like gin, but this is good” – duhh!
The term “craft” will continue to be overused on more and more bar programs, despite the fact that many of them are not really crafting anything. Having a well-educated bar team where information is passed down in a credible manner, having the right tools and knowing how to use them, having products that your staff is trained to understand and knows how to use (as well as not use) for certain applications, knowing good hospitality and manners, and making things like fresh juices, syrups and infusions from scratch – are all signs of a crafted bar program. Not a list of cocktails that sound like they came from an old book.
Wine lists will focus on regional styles and be tailored to work with the cuisine of the restaurant rather than trying to be formulaic and have something for everyone. In other words – a focused approach to building lists and themes for restaurants is key to success and being able to stand out in an ever increasing field of competition. This means education for staff, and learning to taste wine effectively with food is needed.
Let's look back in a year and see if was on target with any of this nonsense...Cheers and Happy New Year!
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