Three small trends in wine I’ve noticed recently.
Grower champagne is essentially farmhouse champagne. The grapes are grown on the same land where the wine is made. That may seem like a given, but for champagne it’s never really been the case. Growers grow, champagne houses make, the twain only meet to trade cash. Champagne houses blend to make a house style. They seek consistency. Today, in contrast, growers make a terroir style that can change significantly from year to year. You see these new grower champagnes popping up—sorry—on menus everywhere.
Low alcohol wine is getting some much-needed attention. These wines have an alcohol level closer to 11% versus the 14% you often see (especially with American wines). What’s the advantage? Lower alcohol wines feel lighter on the tongue and, to my mind, go better with food. The alcohol doesn’t cover the flavor. Plus you can drink more! While the difference between 11% and 14% is only 3% by volume, it’s over 25% more alcohol. For every two glasses of high alcohol wine you could have two and a half glasses of low alcohol wine. That’s bonus magic.
Natural wines seem to be the darling indie band favorites for many wine nerds these days. Natural means a lot of things, there’s no particular definition. But the general idea is that the wines are created with minimal intervention from the winemaker. They’re unfiltered, they’re not chaptalized (when sugar is added to raise the alcohol level, a common practice) and the growers may farm biodynamically. They may be organic but that’s not a given. These wines are quirky animals, prized for how different they are from standard fare, how they contrast to the current “international style” (oaky chardonnays, brassy sauvignon blancs, big cabernets that seem to taste the same whether they're made in South Africa or South Dakota). Some of them are even quite good.