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Top 5 Trends in the World of Wine

Here in New York City we often see what’s going on in the wine world before the rest of the country. This is where a lot of the celeb-somms are, where a lot of collectors locate, where you find the big trade tastings…and where wine stuff just happens. And here is what I’m seeing right now:


1. Burgundy, Just Starting To Lose It’s Cool.

The big story since the 2005 vintage has been Burgundy’s ascendance. For years now, the general agreement in the wine community was that Burgundy was best. This was a bit like the view of Bordeaux before 2005. But then Bordeaux raised prices to take advantage of demand in emerging markets, especially in the Far East. Americans didn’t like the new prices and reacted by dumping Bordeaux.

But it was not just a matter pricing. Americans also simultaneously experienced a shift in palate preferences. They took an interest in more “natural” wines — less oak, less manipulation. They developed a fondness for “terroir”. For lighter styled wines, for acidity and for wines of greater balance. All things that are associated far more with Burgundy than Bordeaux.

But now pricing in Burgundy is, frankly, out of control. We are doing our best at Flatiron to rescue the region's reputation by focusing on the many great, less famous producers, including from the often-overlooked margins like Savigny-les-Beaune and the Cote Chalonnaise. But the fact is, despite our persistent messaging, the market is increasingly perceiving Burgundy as a good source for hedge fund masters and that’s about it.

2. Piedmont, the New Burgundy?

Piedmont offers so much of what Burgundy offers. The wines are delicious. They are terroir-centric, with plenty of single-vineyard bottlings, etc. They are high-acid and incredibly food-friendly — as good with sushi (try it!) as it is with beef braised in Barolo! The wines have clear complexity and stature. They are aristocratic, like Grand Cru Burgundy. If you like Burgundy, you can probably be persuaded to like Barolo.

Maybe — and here I’m getting very speculative — something more subtle is going on. Burgundy used to be way more structured. Now everybody is dialing back the tannins. The fashion there is for less tannin extraction. This is great for purity of fruit, but the price is less energy and vigor for the palate to absorb. And frankly, less excitement. I know, I miss it. And I’m probably not the only one. Piedmont, of course, does not fail to deliver in this regard.

3. Northern Rhone, Not Quite There?

For a while it seemed obvious that all those folks priced out of Burgundy were heading to the Rhone. Not the southern Rhone of course — Chateauneuf is a hard wine for today’s preferences — but the land of Syrah to the North.

And for Burgundy-lovers, this makes sense. The wines are similar in terms of weight. They also emphasize aromatics. They are also ideal with roast chicken. I know very few lovers of Burgundy who would be unhappy with a good vintage of, say, Clape Cornas.

And indeed the wines are very popular. Older wines from mostly-retired traditionalists like Noel Verset and Raymond Trollat now sell for extraordinary prices. But apart from that I’m not quite seeing the region wake up like I thought it would. Outside of the geekiest, there just aren’t that many people asking for Cote Rotie and Cornas. Yes, the very sexy 2010 vintage got people’s blood boiling for a minute or two, but we saw very little follow-up on the also great 2011s.

Not a lot of wine is made, and we’ll sell through our allocations no problem, but this seems to be a region that people should focus just a little more on.

4. California: Hot, Hot, Hot!!!

But not Scarecrow, Screaming Eagle and Harlan. Honestly, we turn down our allocations. But Ridge, Dunn, Montelena, Heitz? Great wines all, and wow do people want them!

And this is a phenomenon not just isolated to wine lovers in the States. We field requests from Europe, Asia and South America all the time, it is truly international! This is logical. The wines are great. They have been under-appreciated for a long time. Check them out people!

5. Germany, Finally Catching On.

People have been saying that Germany is the next big thing since the 2001 vintage grabbed everyone’s attention. Then came the 2002 vintage, which was just so-so, and things never really took off. A few years on and other great vintages like 2007 and 2008 came and went (both releasing during tough financial times). Sure, there were fans buying on the fringe, but it was remarkable how many bottles were simply left to languish on shop shelves.

Then along came 2012 - another excellent vintage - which sold very well and rivaled '01 in both hype and interest. But what strikes me is this: we are now offering 2013s, and demand is much stronger than I would have imagined for an "off" vintage. It’s when people start buying in so-called “off” vintages that you can tell there is lots of interest out there. And that’s exactly what we’re experiencing now.

Meanwhile, the auction market for German wines seems to be heating up. We’re seeing older wines getting bid up like never before, and a double magnum of Keller’s 2012 G-Max just auctioned for $6500!

German wine is among the best in the world. This view is finally going mainstream.