8 Wine Trends to Watch for in 2017

Everyone loves a good fortune teller and there’s no better predictor of what’s to come than two excellent researchers who have sifted through the data. We wanted to know: how are our behaviors as wine drinkers shaping the future of wine? To answer this question, we asked two individuals whose data-driven insights suggest that 2017 is going to introduce some exciting new trends to the world of wine.

Wine Trend Predictions for 2017

Wine Trends 2017

Cannonau will boom.

“Health-miracle” Cannonau di Sardegna [aka Grenache] will renew its growth in demand and availability (Wine-Searcher data shows consistent, stable 50% growth over the past couple of years). Health fashion isn’t going away anytime soon, and wine sure as hell isn’t going to get any less interesting. Cannonau hits the sweet spot at the intersection between the two. It’s like guilt-free wine. Perfect!

Riesling will tank.

Like a surfer in the doldrums, the darling grape has missed its wave. W-S data shows that Riesling has had its chances; several waves of interest between 2011 – 2015. But this has now plateaued, and you only get so many chances. It’s not you Riesling, it’s us.

Donald drives diversity.

Trump politics will stimulate diversification in U.S. wine production. Wine-loving Americans will remain keen to learn and taste new styles in 2017… Savvy U.S. wine producers won’t miss the opportunity to step in and satisfy this thirst with their own homegrown versions.

Box wine done right.

Someone will really nail box wine in 2017, and not before. The box has proven its worth as a wine container, and innovation is healthy(ish) in the wine trade. We’ll be drinking boxed Cannonau before we know it.

 

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Jonathan Reeve, Wine-Searcher.com

Special thanks to Jonathan who surfed hard data on wine-searcher to find some delightful trends to look forward too in 2017. If you follow specific producers, wine-searcher.com is a great tool to find the best prices.


A strong dollar makes imported wine cheaper.

In the past the biggest impact was felt in bulk wine imports, but with the premiumization trend continuing, more and more foreign wine producers are taking aim at the $10-$15 and $15-$25 wine segments and the dollar’s strength will give them an advantage at these price points and create unwanted competition for U.S. producers.

More French wine!

Sales of French wines have been rising in the U.S. in recent months and the strong dollar will help this trend persist by offsetting somewhat the effects of the poor 2016 harvest in many regions. Portugal and Italy [wine imports] are also well positioned to take advantage of the dollar’s strength.

More Chile, South Africa and NZ wines in the US (aka Brexit fallout!).

The year 2017 is when Britain will formally begin its exit (a.k.a. Brexit) from the European Union, a process that is likely to reduce U.K. wine sales and encourage international producers to shift their export emphasis toward the growing U.S. market. Look for Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand to give U.S. sales increased attention as the year progresses.

The year 2017 will be a good year to be a wine consumer in the U.S.

Imports will provide even more diversity while competition keeps a cap on price increases. What does that mean? Drink up!

 

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Mike Veseth, WineEconomist.com

Special thanks to Mike Veseth, world-renown wine economist extraordinaire, for donating his predictions! If you love the business behind wine, you’ll enjoy his site WineEconomist.com and his book Wine Wars.

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2017 Wine Buying Guide

This year’s wine guide will come in handy whether you’re just getting into wine or are a seasoned enthusiast looking for tips on what to seek out in 2017. It’s organized by style of wine (from bold reds to light whites) with a focus on which regions, varieties, and vintages to seek out all year long.

Vintage Overview: We compiled vintage ratings and vintage assessments from Berry Bros & Rudd, Wine Advocate, Jancis Robinson, Wine Institute, and other regional sites into one simple, user-friendly chart:

Wine Vintage Chart 2010–2016

The 2017 Wine Buying Guide For Red & White Wines

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Full-Bodied Red Wines Cabernet, Malbec, Syrah, Etc.

Lovers of full-bodied red wines love wines from regions with tons of sunshine and relative dryness. It’s in these unique conditions that warm climate grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, and Zinfandel achieve their ideal ripeness (and develop sweeter tannins).

Italy
Central and Southern Italy had a string of highly consistent vintages from 2012–2016 so now is a great time to look for Italian Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot-based wines. You can also do really well with the bolder indigenous reds including Aglianico, Primitivo, Nero d’Avola, Negroamaro, and Montepulciano. Looking for producer recommendations? The annual Tres Bicchieri (Three Glasses) Guide is a great place to start!
California
The continuing drought in California has reduced yields, but the reduction in grape size increased the extraction potential (making for deeper, blacker wines). From north to south, you really can’t go wrong with the full-bodied styles of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Petite Sirah. Vintages from 2012–2016 are all good.
Washington
Washington has shown its true potential over the last couple of years and we’ll continue to find great wines from here from the 2012–2016 vintages. Cabernet-Merlot blends, Syrah, Malbec, and Petit Verdot is what you should be seeking out from the region’s high desert climate.
Spain
The central plateau of Spain has been turning out excellent values in the full-bodied wine category year after year including wines of Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre), Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Argentina
There have been several off-vintages in Argentina, so you’ll want to pick your Mendoza Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon with care. Basically, 2013 was an outstanding vintage and we recommend you stock up on it while you can. Of course, decent producers took extra care being selective with grapes, so if you’re buying fine wines, they will be great regardless.
Australia
The increasing value of the US dollar is likely to give us greater access to some of the best finds in bold reds from Australia. The trend in the last 5 years has been towards more elegance in wine but you’ll still see inky depths from the 2012–2016 vintages in Shiraz, GSM blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot from both South Australia and Western Australia.
Portugal
Access to South African beauties including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage will continue to become more widely available in the US in 2017. Keep your eyes peeled for the 2015, 2014, 2012, and 2010 vintages and regions like Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Swartland.
Holy moly. Why we’re not all drinking Touriga Nacional, Castelão and Alicante Bouschet from Portugal is still beyond me. This region has nothing but outstanding potential (and incredible value) to offer. The 2011–2014 vintages all produced great wines. Keep your eyes peeled for reds (usually around $10 a bottle!) from Douro, Alentejo, and Lisboa… and learn more about Portuguese wine.
Southern France
Brexit and a weakening Euro is going to make the bold reds from Southern France delightfully cheaper. We expect to see more wines from the South-West regions including Tannat and Malbec, but also from Languedoc-Roussillon where there are Syrah-heavy wines (including Faugeres and Saint-Chinian). The 2010 and 2015 vintages were the best in recent French wine history (and the ones to covet) but 2014 and 2012 were also quite good.
Greece
Greek reds are showing great potential and the top producers will become more available in the US. The regions to seek are Nemea (Agiorgitiko), Naoussa wine (Xinomavro–super high tannin red), and you’ll also be surprised to find some outstanding Syrah from Greece.

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Medium-Bodied Red Wines Sangiovese, Garnacha, Cabernet Franc, Etc.

Medium-bodied red wines feature distinct flavors and heightened acidity, both of which are traits ideal for matching with a wide range of foods. Many of the old world wine regions are famous for this style of wine due to winemaking traditions that limit the use of new oak aging, producing wines with more elegance.

Italy
Northern and Central Italy produce some of the most food-friendly wines and now is the time to get into Italian wine. The last 5 years (2012–2016), as well as 2010, have produced very good to excellent quality. Specifically, aim for the Piemontese wines of Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo. Then, you’ll find great red fruit and cocoa flavors from the red wines of Valpolicella, and the Merlot-based blends from Veneto (including Colli Euganei). Finally, Tuscany and Umbria offer the ultimate expressions of Sangiovese which have become noticeably cleaner and more red-fruit driven in the past 5 years. I always like to recommend the annual Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) Guide for a great place to start looking for high-quality producers.
France
The French wine varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc had an outstanding vintage in 2015 and this is exactly what to look for. Seek out Loire Valley reds such as Cabernet Franc and the other lessor-known Bordeaux appellations for the best values on Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blends.
Spain
The 2015, 2012, and 2010 vintages are making out to be Northern Spain’s best vintages in the last 5 years. Tempranillo, Mencía, and Garnacha are the grape varieties that you need to try in this category.
Germany
The 2015 vintage for Dornfelder and Blaufrankisch produced some outstanding mid-weight wines from Germany. These wines have deeper black and blue fruit flavors with heightened acidity.
Chile
The 2011 and 2013 vintages were exceptional vintages in Chile and the region produces some outstanding food-friendly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, and Carignan.
New York
Producers in New York are enthusiastic about the quality of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the 2015 and 2013 vintages in New York.

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Light-Bodied Red Wines Pinot Noir, Gamay, Etc.

Lovers of light-bodied red wines tend to love wine regions with cooler growing temperatures. It’s in these cooler conditions that grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay, Schiava, and Cabernet Franc ripen to deliver brilliant red fruit flavors, floral notes, and lower tannin. Here are the highlight wines and regions to seek out for light-bodied red wines:

Oregon
The quality of Pinot Noir continues to improve in Oregon and the vintages seem to be getting better and better every year too, even in the value category. The 2016, 2015, and 2014 vintages were all fantastic years for Oregon Pinot Noir.
California
As California is heating up, we are starting to see the best Pinot Noir regions in California become more reliant than ever thanks to the moderating temperatures of the Pacific Ocean. It makes this an exciting time if you’re a Pinot Noir addict because it means you’re about to find several treasure troves in the Coastal AVAs including Sonoma Coast (including Fort Ross/Seaview), Mendocino (which used to be too cool), Santa Cruz Mountains, and on down the coast to Santa Barbara.
New Zealand
Central Otago produces the richest and most lush style of NZ Pinot Noir whereas, Marlborough makes brighter and lighter Pinot Noir. This is going to be a great place to look for great values in Pinot Noir in the coming year, particularly from the 2015 and 2013 vintages.
Chile
The regions of Casablanca, San Antonio, and Leyda Valleys are becoming renowned for their exceptionally fruit-forward styles of Pinot Noir (imagine an explosion of blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries in your mouth). The 2013 vintage produced the best wines, but we’re hoping to hear great things about 2015 as well.
France
The 2015 and 2010 vintages were 2 of the most outstanding vintages in recent history. Bourgogne Rouge (Pinot Noir) and the 10 Beaujolais Crus (Gamay) offer incredible wines.
Northern Italy
The Oltrepo Pavese region in Lombardy focuses on Pinot Noir as its primary variety and the highly aromatic Schiava from Trentino has been considered a great value alternative to Pinot Noir. The last 5 vintages (2012–2016) have been great, which means now is the time to get into Italian wine!
Austria
The regional specialty, Zweigelt, is a fantastic light-bodied red that flies somewhat under the radar. Seek out 2015 Zweigelt and drink it as soon as possible.
Germany
We’re hoping to see some price drops for German Pinot Noir in the US as the dollar continues to rise. When we do, be sure to pick up some Pfalz, Baden, or Ahr Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder) from 2015 and 2012. German Pinot Noir has the earthy qualities of Bourgogne but the spice factor (and ABV) of Santa Barbara Pinot… awesome sauce.

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Full-Bodied White Wines Chardonnay, Viognier, Etc.

Regions with a tradition of oak aging are the ones who produce white wines with creamy and buttery flavors. The star variety in this style of wine is definitely Chardonnay although there are several others to know. While the fashion of oak-aging has seen a downward trend in recent years, there are still several places to look to find outstanding full-bodied whites.

Here’s a run-down on what regions (and vintages) to watch for:

California
Chardonnay is California’s top grape and if you know where to look, you can find some of the best examples in the world. The important thing about finding quality Chardonnay in California is sourcing it from areas close to the Pacific Ocean (or the SF bay) that collect fog. The fog protects white grapes like Chardonnay from too much California sun! Regions like Sonoma Coast, Mendocino, Carneros, Santa Barbara, and Monterey are a few examples that get morning fog and are a great place to look. Besides Chardonnay, look for oaked Sauvignon Blanc wines (from Sonoma/Napa), Viognier, and Grenache Blanc wines (from Paso Robles/Santa Barbara area). The 2012–2016 vintages were all top quality vintages.
Chile
Just like California, Chile’s coastal regions are the places to look for great quality Chardonnay. Casablanca Valley, Leyda Valleys, and San Antonio Valley are the country’s Chardonnay hot spots. The 2016, 2014, and 2013 vintages were actually pretty awesome vintages specifically for whites in Chile, so stock up!
Australia
The Victoria region in Australia has been turning out some exceptionally balanced Chardonnay these days and this is a great place to look. That said, you’ll also find some doozies (massive Chardonnay wines) from Hunter Valley and South Australia (Adelaide Hills) as well. I’d put money on the 2015 vintage (minus Adelaide Hills) based on what Jancis R. has been saying about the last 5 vintages.
New Zealand
A new spot to look for exceptional Chardonnay wines (like, omg I can’t believe this isn’t Beaune!). You’re going to pay a premium for these wines in the US but if you’re a Chard-o-maniac, it still beats the crap out of Côte d’Or prices. We’ve been incredibly impressed by those producers practicing wild yeast fermentations and so far people are saying good things about 2016, 2015, and 2013 vintages.
Spain
The northern parts of Spain have a fair amount of Chardonnay planted that’s usually reserved for Cava. That said, sometimes you’ll see some great values for still, oak-aged Chardonnay that are surprisingly rich, while still conveying classic Spanish “dusty” terroir (making them much more savory in style). Check into the Navarra and Penedes regions for these values. Besides Chardonnay, the grapes of Rueda, including Verdejo and Viura (aka Macabeo), have shown surprising complexity with lemon balm and brûlée-like flavors when aged in oak. For example, the bottle pictured above called “Naia” is a well-distributed example of the baseline quality that Rueda is doing (and it’s great!).
Portugal
One of the biggest potential areas for a new US importers and distributors in the coming years will be to go into Portugal and cherry-pick top producers of Arinto, Encruzado, Chardonnay and Viognier wines. After tasting a 10-year-old Arinto that was replete with brûlée, beeswax, lemon rind, and chalk, it was hard not to fall in love with Portuguese whites, especially those with a touch of oak. We’re super excited about the 2015, 2014, and 2011 vintages and can’t wait to drink more Portugal. #whoswithme
Oregon
After Domaine Serene’s Dundee Hills Chardonnay got #2 wine of the year from Wine Spectator Mag (2016), we need to fully accept that Oregon Chard is no longer our little secret! Oregon’s dank climate and summer sun produce some of the most outstanding Chardonnays in the world that deserve a touch of high-quality French oak to round them out. The 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2012 vintages were all stupendous vintages so go seek them out!
Washington
Forget Chardonnay for a minute and let’s hone in on Washington’s highest potential full-bodied whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier. The problem with Chardonnay in Washington is that it’s usually a touch too flabby to get top ratings. That said, there are a few producers who do it well (Ashan, Tenor, etc), but my money is on Washington’s warmer climate white grapes–they have so much potential…

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Light-bodied White Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Etc

Light-bodied white wines are dry and highlight heightened acidity and minerally flavors. They are perfect food pairing white wines. There are several favorite varieties in this category including Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Albariño but there’s more to know beyond these! You can literally spin a globe and land on a region making great minerally white wines (especially if your finger lands in Europe and the Mediterranean).

That said, here are a few highlight regions to check out:

France
People will tell you about how great French red wines are, but keep in mind, France produces some of the best light-bodied white wines in the world–plus, they’re more affordable than the reds! This year, I’d start looking for the 2015 vintage (which was, incredible across Europe) in places like the Loire (Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, and Chenin Blanc), South-West France (home of grapes like Gros Manseng and Colombard) and Savoie for incredible values. Then, if you want to bump it up a notch, hit the greats (Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Alsace, and Rhône) for all they have to offer. Whatever you do, do it soon, and get the 2015 vintage.
Italy
The 2015 and 2014 vintages were both awesome for white wines in Italy. Italian whites have a delightful chalky bitterness which works amazingly alongside food. Especially seafood. Here are a few varieties/regions to start drinking your way through Italy: Soave (Garganega), Vermentino from Tuscany or Sardinia (think Sauvignon Blanc inspired), Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi (think floral Pinot Grigio), Pinot Grigio from Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige… If you need help, check out this great article about the major grape varieties of each region: Italian Wine Exploration Map
Spain
If you haven’t already discovered the Spanish whites of Viura, Verdejo, Albariño, and Godello, this is the year to do so! The 2013–2016 vintages were all great years to explore these wines, so pick one and start tasting. We’ve been quite impressed with Viura from Rioja and Godello from Valdeorras.
Greece
Greece should be on the map for white wines already. The country delivers this fascinating chalky, sappy spice to their white wines that’s really unlike any other. In the North (Thrace and Macedonia) you’ll find the indigenous grapes of Malagousia and Assyrtiko as well as international favorites like Sauvignon Blanc (all delicious!). And of course, Greece’s most famous wine and region (pay attention collectors!) Assyrtiko from Santorini.
Portugal
The summer months will bring Portuguese Vinho Verde and we will all rejoice in this amazing wine that is usually a blend of the indigenous varieties of Albariño (called Alvarinho here) and up-and-coming grape, Loureiro. If you haven’t had Vinho Verde yet, this is a must try.
South Africa
Seek out Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc from South Africa. While in the past, Chenin Blanc was made in a sweet style, today, it’s much drier. These wines are fantastic with Asian food and give off hints of South Africa’s dusty terroir.
New Zealand
We can thank a strong dollar for decreasing prices of New Zealand’s most important wine, Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is famous for its unafraid flavors of bell pepper and passion fruit. The 2013–2016 vintages were all good vintages to seek great values.

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Aromatic White Wines Riesling, Moscato, Gewürztraminer, Etc.

Aromatic white wines have higher levels of a compound group called monoterpenes which produce aromas of flowers and sweet stone fruits (apricots, peaches, honey and rose). These wines can be made in both a sweet or dry style, but are often described as sweet due to their intense aromatics. If you’re into this style of wine, you’re in for a treat this year:

Germany
Germany is queen bee in the aromatic wine category since Riesling is the country’s star grape variety. 2015 was a crazy, exceptional year and believe me when I tell you that you want these wines (some for now and others for cellaring). Be sure to learn the classification system, including Pradikat and VDP. We have an article all about it here.
Austria
Austria creates a style of Riesling that’s similar to Germany often with a slightly more linear profile. For this reason, Austrian Rieslings age in a really fascinating and somewhat savory way. Unfortunately, not much of this stuff is imported so you’ll need to dig.
France
Alsace is the most aromatic wine region of France and it happens to be right upstream of the Pfalz region of Germany. The Riesling here is dry, but there are other delicious finds to be had as well, including Muscat (on the Grand Cru level) and Gewürztraminer. Definitely read up on Alsace and seek out something from 2015 and 2014.
Washington
Riesling from Washington is truly starting to hit its stride. There are some especially good AVAs for it within the Columbia Valley including the newly anointed Ancient Lakes and Naches Heights AVA. This is a great place to go for awesome, everyday drinking wines (Thai food anyone?).
New York
With flagship producers including Dr. Konstantin Frank and Ravines in Finger Lakes, we’re starting to see Riesling wines that are proving that New York Riesling is quite serious indeed. The 2013-2015 vintages are all worth investigating.
Hungary
Furmint, the grape traditionally reserved for Tokaji is also being produced in a dry style from the region. The wine is like a fine Riesling with similar levels of acidity, but a bit more structure and body. Additionally, a rare find we just discovered is a variety called Cserszegi Füszeres (chair-seggi fooh-sar-esh) that smells like roses, elderflowers and mint. For Hungarian wine, 2015 is a winner.
California
Long before Cabernet was the most important variety in Napa there was a bastion of sweet varieties growing in the North Coast (Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino) of California including Muscat and Gewürztraminer. The vines are now close to a century old (if they weren’t ripped out) and make some of the most luscious sweets coming out of Napa and Sonoma. For example, we were shocked and delighted by 2 well-known wineries in Sonoma making Gewürztraminer: Alexander Valley Vineyards and Gundlach Bundschu. Be sure to buy these as fresh (youthful) as possible.
Northern Italy
2015 will be another vintage you need to stockpile for Moscato d’Asti. Additionally, we found some producers of Gewürztraminer in Trentino-Alto Adige that make a style strikingly similar to those of Alsace, France (and usually a lot cheaper too).

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How One Red Grape Can Make Red, Rosé, and White Wine

Pinot Noir is often hailed for being utterly delicious, but it also happens to be one of the most versatile wine grapes in the world. This single red grape variety can be transformed to create not just red wine, but white, rosé, and sparkling wine as well. How on earth is this possible? It all comes down to the winemaking methods and the production processes that determine this little grape’s fate.

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White Pinot Noir

If you were to cut open a Pinot Noir grape, you’d see that the flesh (the pulpy part) is actually a pale greenish yellow color. It’s actually the skins of the grapes that dye the juice a beautiful red hue, so if you want to produce a white wine with red grapes – the skins have got to be removed ASAP. This is the secret to white Pinot Noir (aka “Vin Gris”)

Of course, the red skins of grapes start dying the juice really quickly so winemakers work extra fast, usually opting to harvest on a cool morning and get the grapes to the cellar and pressed as fast as possible. The wine press used to make white Pinot Noir is a special pneumatic press (this style of press is used for white wine making) which crushes the grapes but filters off the skins and seeds. The remaining juice typically has a lovely, deep golden color.
 

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How White Wine is Made

See how white wine is made differently than red wine.

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Red Pinot Noir

Red Pinot Noir uses the red winemaking process.

Grapes are collected and put into grape crushers which drop the entire contents of the crusher into a tank (skins, seeds, pulp, and all!). Because Pinot Noir is such a thin-skinned variety, it often gets extended time with its skins (before and after wine making), in order to soak up as much of the red pigment as possible. In case you were wondering, these two processes are cold-soaking (before fermentation) and extended maceration (after fermentation). Some winemakers will even add the Pinot Noir stems into the fermentation to increase color extraction (it adds some bitterness but you get a whole lot more color and age-worthiness too!). After this whole process is done, you have a wine with a pale to medium ruby red color.
 

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How Red Wine is Made

See how red wine is made differently than white wine.

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Rosé Pinot Noir

Making Rosé is all about timing. The longer the skins are in the juice, the darker they dye the wine.

For Pinot Noir, this process looks a little like a combination of red and white winemaking. The grapes get crushed into a tank with the skins and seeds. Then the juice is monitored by the winemaker who takes samples every hour or so to check the color extraction. The moment she thinks the color is perfect, the winemaker strains the juice from the skins into clean tanks where the wine completes its fermentation. I’ve spoken with winemakers in both California and Oregon who say they’ve made rosé wines with less than 7 hours of “skin contact” time!

 

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How Rosé Wine is Made

Learn about the different methods used to create rosé wine.

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Sparkling Pinot Noir aka Blanc de Noirs

Start with white Pinot Noir and then ferment it again to make blanc de noirs.

This is the specialty of Champagne, including Jay-Z’s brand, Armand de Brignac, whose “tete de cuvée” is a special edition bottling of 100% Pinot Noir in a Blanc de Noirs style. To make sparkling wine, you essentially take a specially formulated wine (using perfectly underripe grapes that produce more acidity) and ferment it again in bottles so that the carbon dioxide can’t escape and it pressurizes the bottle, carbonating the wine. You can find Blanc de Noirs made all over the world, and almost always, Pinot Noir is the grape used for this wine (the other is a Pinot variant called Pinot Meunier).

 

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How Sparkling Wine is Made

Learn about the different methods used to create sparkling wine.

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Other Versatile Red Grapes

You might be wondering what other wines can be made in all 4 styles and you might have noticed how I mentioned that Pinot Noir has thin skins. As it happens, some of the best red grapes for producing white, rosé, red, and sparkling styles have thinner skins too. This is because the skins generally have less pigment and thus, take longer to dye the wine. Here are a few other grapes with thin skins that show great potential to be made in all four styles:

  • Gamay
  • Grenache
  • Zinfandel
  • Nebbiolo
  • Mencía
  • Sangiovese

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What It’s Really Like to Work in Wine: 5 Stories

Ever wondered what it’s like to work in the wine industry? Find yourself dreaming of a grape-stained career, but not sure how to get from here to there? Wine Folly wanted to find the answers to those questions, so we tracked down 5 professionals currently working in the wine trade and interviewed them one by one. Though each person has a different background and job description, we think you’ll be surprised by the inspiring themes that connect each one of their stories.

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This year, make your dreams a reality.

 

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Athena Bochanis studied law at NYU before starting a wine importing business.


Did you know what you were going to do when you started?


“Not at all. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I assumed that getting a full-time writing gig was a pipe dream I’d never be able to realize.”

–Esther Mobley, SF Chronicle, San Francisco, CA

 

“Definitely not! When I graduated with a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence degree) from NYU in the spring of 2011, all I really knew was that I didn’t want to practice law. Of course, I had focused on international trade in law school, and I was already obsessed with Hungary and its wines since I worked there in the summer of 2009. But there’s a huge difference between loving something and realizing you can make it into your job.

It took me over a year (and working in everything from legal writing, teaching the LSAT, and assisting at a neuropsychology lab) to come to the conclusion that I could start my own wine import business. And it was over two years from that point to when my first shipment arrived on US shores.”

–Athena Bochanis, Palinkerie Fine Hungarian Imports, Brooklyn, NY

 

“I never, ever, in 1 million years knew wine would take me to all these places; I just trusted that if I was ever good at something that I would never ever quit it.”

–André Hueston Mack, Mouton Noir Wines, McMinnville, OR

 

“I knew I wanted to get into wine when I decided to begin the restaurant service school in Montreal (ITHQ). I was inspired by the sommelier of the restaurant I worked for at the time.”

–Carl Villeneuve Lepage, Sommelier at Restaurant Toqué!, Montréal, Canada

 

luke wohlers and isabella-pelizzatti perego in the Grumello portion of Valtellina above the Ar.Pe.Pe cellars
Luke Wohlers (on right) was turned down by all the employers hiring his position.


What got you to commit?


“What got me to commit was a feeling that I could take on a new challenge and rise to the occasion. My partner and I had discussed starting a business in 2014. Neither of us had spent any time in wine distribution/import but I was interested in learning more about it. I’d interviewed for a number of supplier/distribution positions but was unsuccessful getting hired on account of my lack of experience ‘on the street.’”

–Luke Wohlers, Walden Selections, Seattle, WA

 

“‘Commitment’ probably isn’t the right term for how I became a wine writer; it’s more like I gradually drifted into it.”

–Esther Mobley, SF Chronicle, San Francisco, CA

 

“After three years in one of the most competitive law programs in the country, in a field that I had no interest in, I felt disillusioned and lost. When I graduated, I applied to hundreds of jobs in different fields and got none of them. But ironically, these experiences set me on my greatest path yet. Once you’re willing to accept that things aren’t as you expected them to be, you’re free to do anything. So that was really the first time in my life when I thoroughly considered what I wanted to pursue.”

–Athena Bochanis, Palinkerie Fine Hungarian Imports, Brooklyn, NY

 

carl Villeneuve Lepage Wine Sommelier in Montreal
Carl Villeneuve Lepage doesn’t think about how his being a sommelier makes him feel because it doesn’t make him a better sommelier.


How did it feel?


“I never desired to ask myself questions about this. It’s just like running a marathon, step after step…”

–Carl Villeneuve Lepage, Restaurant Toqué!, Montréal, Canada

 

“Even though I felt emboldened by my experiences and ultimately confident in my decision, it’s still scary to strike out on your own. There’s no one watching you, telling you if you’re doing it right. But for me, starting an all-Hungarian wine import company was my brainchild. I believed in my mission wholeheartedly. If I can’t sell these wines, I told myself, then I’m at fault – because they’re great. As for the feeling of selling those first few cases – I cannot even express how incredible it felt. I left those stores ecstatically laughing to myself and dancing down the New York streets, unbeknownst to my brand-new clients.”

–Athena Bochanis, Palinkerie Fine Hungarian Imports, Brooklyn, NY

 

“I’m still feeling it out! My professional identity keeps evolving.”

–Esther Mobley, SF Chronicle, San Francisco, CA

 

Andre Mack in Vineyards Photo by http://sashphot
André Hueston Mack says he likes to surround himself with people who are just as passionate as he is and it inspires him to do better.


Have you had any failures so far? How did you deal?


“I’ve had too many failures to even to begin to discuss… but I truly believe that it’s the adversity that we go through in life that makes us stronger.”

–André Hueston Mack, Mouton Noir Wines, McMinnville, OR

 

“The most stressful moment up to now was the first time I sat for the Advanced Sommelier certification in Austin in 2014. I didn’t feel good about the tasting part of the exam, as I felt about the theory part… You never know. Two days later I learned that I failed the tasting portion. What a feeling. I took the experience as advice to prepare differently. Which I did. The year after, I came back with the green pin. It was a great year, I placed third on the Canadian Best Sommelier challenge and I participated in the semi-finals in Americas Best Sommelier. Not finishing first at those competitions was not a failure for me. It is more like one more experience to consider.”

–Carl Villeneuve Lepage, Restaurant Toqué!, Montréal, Canada

 

“There were definitely months that were tough, especially in our first year of business.”

–Athena Bochanis, Palinkerie Fine Hungarian Imports, Brooklyn, NY

 


What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone trying to do what you do?


carl Villeneuve Lepage Wine Sommelier in Montreal
 

Sommelier

“Be serious in what you do without being a pretentious animal.”

See Carl Villeneuve Lepage’s full interview

 

athena-bochanis-palinkerie-hungarian-wine1200
 

Wine Importer

“Find a product that you really, really believe in. Not just because you had a good experience with it abroad, but because you truly believe it adds something to the market. Maybe it’s extremely fun, or extremely delicious, or unique (or ideally, a little of all three!). Then, when you present it, you aren’t begging clients for sales, you are earnestly sharing something you love.”

See Athena Bochanis’ full interview

 

André Hueston Mack in Vineyards Photo by http://sashphot
 

Wine Brand

“How you start out doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how you’ll end up. There’ll be a lot of people who talk shit and hate but it’ll be interesting to see who’s standing at the end. So always work your ass off. If there’s one thing that you have control over, it’s your work ethic–never ever let them out-work you.”

See André Hueston Mack’s full interview

 

esther-mobley-sf-chronicle-writer
 

Wine Writer

“Read great pieces of writing that are not about wine, and learn from those. Our genre is still being defined. We need all the inspiration we can get from other writers.”

See Esther Mobley’s full interview

 

luke wohlers and isabella-pelizzatti perego in the Grumello portion of Valtellina above the Ar.Pe.Pe cellars
 

Wine Distributor/Importer

“Be natural at creating and strengthening relationships.”

See Luke Wohlers’ full interview

 

Find the Perfect Wine Job

Do what you love

Ever thought about working in the wine and spirits trade? The wine industry is powered by passionate individuals and there’s always room for talented people. Here’s an overview of the different wine jobs out there.

Wine Jobs: An Overview of Careers in Wine

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

An Interview with Athena Bochanis, Wine Importer

Ever wondered what it’s like to start a wine importing business? Athena Bochanis started her wine import business in one of the most challenging markets in the US (New York City!). Her story will motivate you.

This interview with Athena Bochanis is part of a collection of interviews with people who’ve dedicated their lives to working in wine:

What It’s Like To Work in Wine

athena-bochanis-palinkerie-hungarian-wine1200
Athena Bochanis is the founder of Palinkerie, an import business focused entirely on fine Hungarian imports.


Did you know this is what you were going to do when you started?


Definitely not! When I graduated with a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence degree) from NYU in the spring of 2011, all I really knew was that I didn’t want to practice law. Of course, I had focused on international trade in law school, and I was already obsessed with Hungary and its wines since I worked there in the summer of 2009. But there’s a huge difference between loving something and realizing you can make it into your job. It took me over a year (and working in everything from legal writing, teaching the LSAT, and assisting at a neuropsychology lab) to come to the conclusion that I could start my own wine import business. And it was over two years from that point to when my first shipment arrived on US shores.

Even once you have your goal in mind, the end results often turn out differently than you expect. For instance, I really thought I would import pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy) with the same ease that I imported wine. But there are several additional complications with spirits that I didn’t anticipate, and in the end, I decided to only do wine. I also thought I could do my own warehousing and delivery in New York. At this point that sounds like a joke, but what can I say, I was extremely optimistic!


What got you to commit?


After three years in one of the most competitive law programs in the country, in a field I had no interest in, I felt disillusioned and lost. When I graduated, I applied to hundreds of jobs in different fields and got none of them. But ironically, these experiences set me on my greatest path yet. Once you’re willing to accept that things aren’t as you expected them to be, you’re free to do anything. So that was really the first time in my life when I thoroughly considered what I wanted to pursue. I didn’t want a super structured office job. I wanted something involved, something multi-faceted, and something with a social component. And, importantly, I didn’t really want a boss. When the idea of importing wine came to me, I realized almost immediately that it could be my dream come true.

Two years later, when I started my business, people thought I was really brave to have committed to my dream. But when your decision is thoroughly considered, and completely on your terms, commitment isn’t scary. And I’d already broken with the tightly-wound mold of a prestigious legal career, so I felt like this shift was nothing!


How did it feel?


Even though I felt emboldened by my experiences and ultimately confident in my decision, it’s still scary to strike out on your own. There’s no one watching you, telling you if you’re doing it right. But for me, starting an all-Hungarian wine import company was my brainchild. I believed in my mission wholeheartedly. If I can’t sell these wines, I told myself, then I’m at fault–because they’re great. As for the feeling of selling those first few cases–I cannot even express how incredible it felt. I left those stores ecstatically laughing to myself and dancing down the New York streets, unbeknownst to my brand-new clients.


Did you have any failures so far? How did you deal?


There were definitely months that were tough, especially in our first year of business. And it has also happened that I’ve brought wines in that were simply not successful. The only thing you can do from these experiences is to learn from them. For instance, now I know what factors contribute to slow months. Maybe it’s a seasonal lull or the direct result of me neglecting clients the month before. I also realize how important it is to follow my gut instinct when it comes to selecting wines for the market. If there’s a voice inside of me that’s nervous– it’s never a good sign. My most successful wines are always the ones I am the most confident in from the start.


What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone trying to become an importer?


Downside: the market is super saturated, extremely competitive, and dominated by companies whose sales force can destroy you in a second.

Upside: consumers are infinitely curious for new wines, and there’s nothing better than seeing people enjoy a wine you selected to bring into this country.

To that end: find a product that you really, really believe in. Not just because you had a good experience with it abroad, but because you truly believe it adds something to the market. Maybe it’s extremely fun, or extremely delicious, or unique (or–ideally–a little of all three!). Then when you present it, you aren’t begging clients for sales, trying to elbow your way into a crowd of harried buyers. You are earnestly sharing something that you love. That energy translates to people around you, and everyone – you, the seller, and the consumer – wins in the end. Let an incredible product inspire you, and build your empire around it.

 

when-wine-is-your-job

What it’s like to work in wine

Ever thought about working in the wine trade? The wine industry is powered passionate individuals and there’s always room for talented people. Here 5 stories of people who’ve broken tradition and have pursued a career in wine.

What It’s Like To Work in Wine

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

An Interview with Athena Bochanis, Wine Importer

Ever wondered what it’s like to start a wine importing business? Athena Bochanis started her wine import business in one of the most challenging markets in the US (New York City!). Her story will motivate you.

This interview with Athena Bochanis is part of a collection of interviews with people who’ve dedicated their lives to working in wine:

What It’s Like To Work in Wine

athena-bochanis-palinkerie-hungarian-wine1200
Athena Bochanis is the founder of Palinkerie, an import business focused entirely on fine Hungarian imports.


Did you know this is what you were going to do when you started?


Definitely not! When I graduated with a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence degree) from NYU in the spring of 2011, all I really knew was that I didn’t want to practice law. Of course, I had focused on international trade in law school, and I was already obsessed with Hungary and its wines since I worked there in the summer of 2009. But there’s a huge difference between loving something and realizing you can make it into your job. It took me over a year (and working in everything from legal writing, teaching the LSAT, and assisting at a neuropsychology lab) to come to the conclusion that I could start my own wine import business. And it was over two years from that point to when my first shipment arrived on US shores.

Even once you have your goal in mind, the end results often turn out differently than you expect. For instance, I really thought I would import pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy) with the same ease that I imported wine. But there are several additional complications with spirits that I didn’t anticipate, and in the end, I decided to only do wine. I also thought I could do my own warehousing and delivery in New York. At this point that sounds like a joke, but what can I say, I was extremely optimistic!


What got you to commit?


After three years in one of the most competitive law programs in the country, in a field I had no interest in, I felt disillusioned and lost. When I graduated, I applied to hundreds of jobs in different fields and got none of them. But ironically, these experiences set me on my greatest path yet. Once you’re willing to accept that things aren’t as you expected them to be, you’re free to do anything. So that was really the first time in my life when I thoroughly considered what I wanted to pursue. I didn’t want a super structured office job. I wanted something involved, something multi-faceted, and something with a social component. And, importantly, I didn’t really want a boss. When the idea of importing wine came to me, I realized almost immediately that it could be my dream come true.

Two years later, when I started my business, people thought I was really brave to have committed to my dream. But when your decision is thoroughly considered, and completely on your terms, commitment isn’t scary. And I’d already broken with the tightly-wound mold of a prestigious legal career, so I felt like this shift was nothing!


How did it feel?


Even though I felt emboldened by my experiences and ultimately confident in my decision, it’s still scary to strike out on your own. There’s no one watching you, telling you if you’re doing it right. But for me, starting an all-Hungarian wine import company was my brainchild. I believed in my mission wholeheartedly. If I can’t sell these wines, I told myself, then I’m at fault–because they’re great. As for the feeling of selling those first few cases–I cannot even express how incredible it felt. I left those stores ecstatically laughing to myself and dancing down the New York streets, unbeknownst to my brand-new clients.


Did you have any failures so far? How did you deal?


There were definitely months that were tough, especially in our first year of business. And it has also happened that I’ve brought wines in that were simply not successful. The only thing you can do from these experiences is to learn from them. For instance, now I know what factors contribute to slow months. Maybe it’s a seasonal lull or the direct result of me neglecting clients the month before. I also realize how important it is to follow my gut instinct when it comes to selecting wines for the market. If there’s a voice inside of me that’s nervous– it’s never a good sign. My most successful wines are always the ones I am the most confident in from the start.


What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone trying to become an importer?


Downside: the market is super saturated, extremely competitive, and dominated by companies whose sales force can destroy you in a second.

Upside: consumers are infinitely curious for new wines, and there’s nothing better than seeing people enjoy a wine you selected to bring into this country.

To that end: find a product that you really, really believe in. Not just because you had a good experience with it abroad, but because you truly believe it adds something to the market. Maybe it’s extremely fun, or extremely delicious, or unique (or–ideally–a little of all three!). Then when you present it, you aren’t begging clients for sales, trying to elbow your way into a crowd of harried buyers. You are earnestly sharing something that you love. That energy translates to people around you, and everyone – you, the seller, and the consumer – wins in the end. Let an incredible product inspire you, and build your empire around it.

 

when-wine-is-your-job

What it’s like to work in wine

Ever thought about working in the wine trade? The wine industry is powered passionate individuals and there’s always room for talented people. Here 5 stories of people who’ve broken tradition and have pursued a career in wine.

What It’s Like To Work in Wine

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

An Interview with Carl Villeneuve Lepage, Sommelier

Ever wondered what it’s like to become a sommelier? Carl Villeneuve Lepage is a young sommelier in Montréal, Canada working at Restaurant Toqué! His story will motivate you.

This interview with Carl Villeneuve Lepage is part of a collection of interviews with people who’ve dedicated their lives to working in wine:

What It’s Like To Work in Wine

carl Villeneuve Lepage Wine Sommelier in Montreal
Carl Villeneuve Lepage became an advanced-level sommelier in 2015 and is currently competing in sommelier competitions internationally. Photo by Martin Chamberland, La Presse.


Did you know this is what you were going to do when you started?


I was inspired by the sommelier of the restaurant I worked for at the time. So, when I decided to begin the restaurant service school in Montreal (ITHQ), I knew I wanted to get to the wine specification. I felt I was able to communicate interesting things about wine to our guests.


What got you to commit?


I have worked for several years with Elyse Lambert MS and she became my mentor. She was a competition beast while studying for the Master Sommelier certification. I kind of followed her path and began to compete at the provincial level, then national, and in the Americas. I also pursued the Court of Master Sommeliers. Studying for the Court gives me the inspiration to dig as deep as possible in different subjects concerning wine.


How did it feel?


I never desired to ask myself questions about this. It’s just like running a marathon, step after step, waking up in the morning, opening books, filling information in on the computer, trying to stay up to date, tasting wine every couple of days. It feels good, no stress…


Did you have any failures so far? How did you deal?


I’ve had a couple failures over the years: the kind of failures that bring people to move forward.

The most stressful moment up to now was the first time I sat for Advance Sommelier certification in Austin in 2014. I didn’t feel as good about the tasting part of the exam as I felt about the theory part… You never know. Two days later I learned that I failed the tasting portion. What a feeling. I took the experience as advice to prepare differently. Which I did. The year after, I came back with the green pin. It was a great year, I did third on the Canadian Best Sommelier challenge and I participated in the semi-finals in Americas Best Sommelier. Not finishing first at those competitions was not a failure for me. It is more like one more experience to consider.


Any regrets?


I am working hard to convince myself to say: no regrets. I could have chosen to move and work in a different restaurant in the world, to work in a vineyard, or just work in an another industry… Well, no… I really like the life I am living. I wouldn’t change anything.


What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone trying to become a wine sommelier?


Be serious in what you do without being a pretentious animal.

 

when-wine-is-your-job

What it’s like to work in wine

Ever thought about working in the wine trade? The wine industry is powered passionate individuals and there’s always room for talented people. Here 5 stories of people who’ve broken tradition and have pursued a career in wine.

What It’s Like To Work in Wine

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment