Wine in the UK is finally heading where us geeks and aficionados could only have dreamed of ten years ago. Across the country’s restaurants, bars and pubs it’s out with the cheap-as-chips, tasteless bottles and in with the complex and flavoursome glasses.
A million miles away from the common media portrayal of tactless Brits binge drinking, growth in premium wines is outstripping every other category and heck; even riesling is pulling in at a very respectable third in the top white varities. We want flavour and we want to pay for it.
Yes, the future of wine is looking pretty rosy. But how on earth did we get here?
Apparently by a little-known vehicle called craft.
As any pub-goer will tell you, the craft movement swept through beer with unbelievable swiftness. No longer could you order a pint of the usual and look like a respectable beer lover. Craft became a task of finding unique and smaller brews, it was a community which swelled and swelled. But it still hasn't burst.
Next to fall was spirits, with small-batch bourbon flooding out of America and new artesian gins piling up by the case load.
Finally it’s trickled into the wine industry. At least according to a trio of experts at the recent Jascots Wine Merchants trend briefing where Mark Newton from CGA Strategy, business editor Richard Siddle and Adam Porter from Jascots all told the same story; that of increasingly adventurous drinkers looking for provenance over grape variety and quality over quantity.
At the top end of the industry these findings are hard to argue against. Just take a look at the popularity of wine bars like Sager + Wilde, 10 Cases and Noble Rot who specialise in wine by the glass. If it’s value over volume that we’re all clambering for (and so we should be) then perhaps everything should be offered by the glass? It’s doable, and we have the technology now with systems like Coravin. Better yet, restaurants and bars could slash their wine lists in half and let turnover do the work.
While it might not be the most glamorous solution wines on tap is also an excellent way to offer more by the glass. It’s even more sustainable, saving in wastage and transportable weight to get trucks off the road.
"More availability of wine by the glass can only be a good thing. But only if people have the customer base to move through the stock quickly and can preserve the wines well once opened. I would rather have less and great quality than more and poor quality," says Dawn Davies MW, buyer for The Whisky Exchange.
Furthering this trend, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are closing the gap on traditional wines such as Merlot and Chardonnay. There are still those people who want to pay £10 for a bottle of wine in a bar but anyone who expects to pay more for quality is now happy to pay £25 plus – the middle ground is getting squeezed out as engaged drinkers are trading up.
What are we all reaching for? Interestingly we’re heading back to the old world as Spain, Italy and France see a resurgence, taking up three quarters of all listings.
Top five red wines include:
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Grenache is moving up as well – and is being pegged as the next pinot noir? It’s currently underpriced and has beautiful complexity.
Top five white wines include:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Chenin Blanc
- Pinot Grigio
Coming up below these are Grünerveltliner, picpoul and verdejo which are all known for being wonderfully fragrent, refreshing and floral.
The moral of the story? Drink less, but drink better.