WINE TRENDS FOR 2024

2024 will be a year in which winemakers will be aiming to achieve increased sustainability in every aspect from planting to packaging and it will also be a year in which drought issues will be top priority as water becomes scarce in key wine regions.

Alternative packaging is now a key topic when it comes to sustainability with wine producers experimenting with alternative formats like boxed wine, pouches, PET bottles, paper bottles or cans – and there have been urgent calls on the UK government to introduce tax incentives for carbon-friendly packaging.

However – the vast majority of winemakers know that the glass bottle is deeply imbedded into our wine culture and it will take a huge consumer shift to change this.  Some like environmental activist/winemaker Miguel Torres in Spain or Nigel Greening owner of Felton Road in New Zealand believe that the answer lies in reducing the weight of glass bottles to light-weight alternatives.

In 2024 we will start to see the demise of heavy glass bottles (the worst offenders are usually Argentinian Malbecs and Puglian Primitivo).  A new initiative to reduce bottle weights was launched by Sustainable Wine Roundtable two months ago, with key retailers including Lidl, Waitrose, Laithwaites, Virgin Wines and The Wine Society agreeing to reduce average bottle weight below 420g by 2026 (the current average is 550g).  In the future there will also be less bottling at origin, more bottling near to the market, as a way to reduce the wine industry’s carbon footprint.

Another trend for 2024 will be the rise of lower alcohol wines.  The race is on to find an effective method to reduce alcohol whilst retaining flavour.  Very low or zero alcohol wines that I have tried, like 0% Hola! Sparkling and 5% La Chica Bonita sold £6.99 at Laithwaites, are too sweet for many consumers – and the most successful reduced alcohol dry wine is still The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  2024 may also see sales rise in dry white wines like Vinho Verde with naturally low alcohol content, as it has a lower duty rate under the new system.

After a difficult 2023 with serious drought issues across Europe, USA and Australia, this year will see winemakers experimenting with different canopy methods, conserving water throughout the winemaking process – as well as planting alternative grape varieties that use less water.

This is evident in Australia with the rise of drought-tolerant grapes like Greek Assyrtiko, Cypriot Xynisteri and Sicilian Nero d’Avola – but even traditional regions like Bordeaux in France are allowing the introduction of new grapes like Alvarinho and Touriga Nacional to help the region adapt to climate change.  With the dreaded downy mildew fungus causing such problems in 2023 harvest in Europe, this year will see renewed interest in fungus-resistant ‘PiWi’ grapes like Cabaret Noir, Cabernet Blanc and Sauvignac which require fewer vineyard sprays.

When it comes to fizz sales, the rise of Champagne prices will mean more consumers focusing on alternative sparkling wines.  We may see the rise of Italy’s Franciacorta, Spain’s Cava or South Africa’s Cap Classique – all of which are made by the same method as Champagne and deserve to be better known.

After a bumper 2023 harvest in England, the impact on English sparkling wine growth will not be seen for a couple of years, but there is undoubtedly a rise in interest in English wines as people search for Champagne alternatives.

The rising tide of fizz sales in 2024 will also include the softly sparkling Pet Nat (Petillant Naturel) now emerging from regions across the world from England to Oregon.  Pet Nat is made by the Methode Ancestrale, bottling before fermentation is finished and retaining a soft spritz.  Often bottled with funky bright psychedelic labels, it has attracted younger consumers who enjoy Pet Nat’s fresh fruity flavours and soft delicate mousse.

When it comes to wine trends, the regions and countries worth watching in 2024 will be Italy (in particular Piedmont and Sicily), France (Alsace and Provence), Hungary (Tokaj), Portugal (Vinho Verde and Douro) – as well as Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia and Uruguay.

WINES TO TRY:

Low(ish) alcohol:

Marlborough, New Zealand:  THE DOCTORS’ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022

£9.99 / £11.99 Majestic Wine; £10.99 Waitrose

One of the best lower alcohol wine on the market – still with Marlborough’s typically pungent gooseberry and passionfruit fruits and a gentle herby note – and a moderate alcohol level at 9.5%.

English Pet Nat:

Wales, UK: ANCRE HILL PET NAT PINK NV

£19.50 L’Art du Vin www.aduv.co.uk; Grape Britannia; Juiced Wines

Biodynamic winemaker Richard Morris blends older Pinot Noir with fresh Chardonnay – bottled when 90% fermented creating a deliciously smooth soft mousse, fresh vibrancy, herby fizz with good depth (pictured above)

Canned wine

England: THE UNCOMMON BUBBLY ‘ELEANOR’ ROSE NV

£4.75 for 250ml can Waitrose; Ocado; £4.99 Fortnum & Mason

Single serve of light strawberry fruits, clean crisp zippy blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from hand-picked Hampshire and Kent fruit with just 11.5% alcohol.

Bag-in-box

Beaujolais, France: JULIEN CHANTREAU CHIROUBLES 2021

£36 (equivalent to 3 x £12 bt) Bib Wine www.bibwine.co.uk

Amazing to see a Beaujolais Cru in a box from a tiny artisan grower with just 4 hectares of vines – loved its bright raspberry fruit and soft tannins.

Flat plastic PET bottle

Provence, France: GALOUPET NOMADE ROSE 2022

£22 Clos19; Champagne Company

A recycleable bottle that could fit through your letter box – an attractive light, well-made Provencal Rose with a salty mineral finish (pictured above).

Lighterweight bottle

Burgundy, France: C&B WHITE BURGUNDY 2022

£17.50 Corney & Barrow

This own label is made by Maison Auvigue – and now sports a lighter weight bottle – but the wine is still a deliciously affordable white Burgundy with citric fruit intensity, soft creamy mouthfeel and zippy acidity.

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 13 January 2024

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