Wine Trends in 2016

We called in some of our favorite wine experts to share their predictions for the big wine trends in 2016. Take a look:

American Sparkling Wines: “The evolution of [Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and cool-climate winegrowing sites] may be resulting in the beginning of a golden age for sparkling wine in the United States. While many take inspiration from the great Grower Champagnes, in addition to classic méthode Champenoise wines, I am also seeing exciting Charmat tank-process wines, Pétillant Naturel and Crémant bottlings coming from California. I also think you will see more wine lovers embracing sparklers beyond their traditional role as special-occasion wines.”  - James Hall, Patz & Hall Co-founder and Winemaker 

Pétillant Naturel and Orange Wines: “This style originated in the Loire Valley and is a naturally sparkling wine that has been around two centuries before Champagne. It happens when the wine ferments in the bottle and the CO2 can't blow off in a fermentation vessel. These are normally crown capped and can be cloudy with residual sugar. Also Georgian orange, or amber, wines” - Brent Kroll, Wine Director of The Neighborhood Restaurant Group

A Wine’s Story: “Folks in our country will be more interested than ever in the background and story of the wine they drink, who made it and what their story is. Is the wine organic, biodynamic, etc. [Likewise], consumers continue to seek genuine wine products and experiences. With so many 2 Buck Chuck type products on the market today, local and regional wineries offer a unique alternative with homegrown products as consumers are starting to become wise to the difference in local grape-to-glass wines.” - Doug Paul, owner of Three Sisters Vineyards on The Dahlonega Wine Trail

Ingredient-based Labeling: “Consumers are more and more educated and choosy about what goes into the wine they drink. Wines labeled organic, bio-dynamic, low sulfur, and no sulfur are already a big trend. Look for forward-thinking winemakers to put detailed ingredient lists on their bottles to highlight the un-manipulated pure wine inside. There are more than 60 additives approved and many manipulative processes allowed in winemaking, that while fully voluntary, we will begin to see producers highlight the pure un-fooled-with nature of their wines more often on the label.” - Clarke Anderson, beverage manager for Ford Fry Restaurants

Quality affordable wines: “With it being an election year, and oil prices being what they are, people will be looking for the best wines they can find that will not break the bank. While not great for the bottom line, more people will be open to trying new things, which is always fun for sommes.” - Matthew Pridgen, sommelier and general manager at Underbelly

New World Wines: “I think next year will bring the rest of the New World to the forefront. Specifically, I think it's South Africa's time to shine. Maybe that's just me, hoping that it finally comes true. But I think South Africa is going to take off, as well New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.” - Master Sommelier Christopher Bates, chef-owner of F.L.X Wienery

Higher Alcohol and Sicily: “I think the movement to promote lower alcohol wines from California will slow. Though many of these wines are Sommelier darlings, the consumer likes new world wines to show high levels of maturity/ripeness. We will likely see the wines of Sicily continue to gain popularity, in particular the reds from the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucio grapes. These wines are incredibly high quality, and often an excellent value.” - Juan F. Cortés, chef and sommelier at Restaurant Eugene

Eastern European Wines: "This year there was a lot of momentum in wines from Jura, Sicily, Corsica and other regions, but with prices continuing to rise, we will see more old world wines from lesser known areas appearing. There is a great deal of wine making history in Eastern European countries such as Croatia, who have been producing wines long before the Roman's introduction of wine to Western Europe. I'm a big fan of Croatian Coastal whites, they are crisp and fresh with tropical notes and the perfect hint of saltiness." - Julie Berger, sommelier at Nick & Toni's

Sommelier Restaurants: “Rather than chef-inspired restaurants, 2016 will see the onset of sommelier-inspired restaurants, and as such, the sommelier position will transform into the top position with many restaurants hiring classically trained chefs to move into the front of house to discuss food and wine as a total concept with their guests.” - Andy Chabot, sommelier at Blackberry Farm

Smaller Wine Lists: “I think the wine trend of smaller, more focused wine programs that are structured and presented in an approachable fashion for the consumer to extract the most pertinent information necessary will continue in 2016. It is essential to offer an array and balance of classic and adventurous selections to the modern day savvy wine consumer in today's marketplace.” - Justin Amick, Advanced Sommelier at The Painted Pin

Site Specificity: “Speaking for California, I think that the exploration of site specificity will continue to grow. Rather than seeking big flavor, more and more passionate young winemakers are leasing vineyards and sourcing fruit from places in remote, marginal climate areas. Also, various grape varieties such as Verdelho Semillon and Tempranillo seem to be of interest to this new wave of winemakers.” - Victoria Kulinich, sommelier at The Restaurant at Meadowood

Open Arms Culture: Younger generations are discovering wine in a culture that is no longer stuffy or intimidating, and with so much knowledge at their fingertips, they are embracing diversity at a time when delicious wine can be found far from the famous regions. They are just as likely to seek a quality, meaningful experience from a Chenin Blanc or a little known variety from a local producer as they are from a blue chip or status symbol bottle.” - Ben Jordan, Early Mountain Vineyard’s winemaker

Terroir-Driven Wines: I see some serious movement of wineries in America going from “over extracted bombs,” and showing more of their terroir. Less manipulated, less extraction, less cold soaked, less oak, less alcohol where you can begin to taste the characteristics of the grape, and its surroundings. I only wish that some of those judges that are giving some of those huge scores for those over manipulated wines, that don’t age well, and all seem to taste the same would begin supporting this trend, because then you’ll see emphasis placed on making world-class wine, rather than trying to make a quick buck.” - Paul Mekis, head sommelier at Rosewood Sand Hill

Unusual Wines: “Consumers will keep experimenting and enjoying new wine varieties with unusual names, from Vermentino and Picpoul to Aglianico, Tannat and Mourvedre. This is especially true in Texas where these warm climate varieties perform better here than the more well-known Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir grapes.” - Denise Clark, Director of Texas Fine Wines

Rose, Merlot and Spain:  “In 2016, we'll continue to see rose sales rise, and the rose season (or what people think is rose season) go longer. The popularity of good quality merlot, at all price points, will continue to rebound. With the number of tremendous values and quality of Spanish wine it will be more popular than ever.” - Ski Peterson, owner of Wahoo Wine and Provisions

Pinot Noir: “Pinot Noir continues to be Queen of red varietals and only gains strength each year. More and more interest and investment will head north to the land of endless rainbows as we see the Pinot passion grow. Sideways may have brought Pinot noir to the forefront but the beauty and versatility of Pinot has far outpaced any momentum that Sideways may have generated. Tourism will continue to migrate north as more and more wine lovers recognize there is more to learn and appreciate about wine.” - Lynn Penner-Ash, Winemaker/Owner of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars