Wine Trends for Twenty Twelve

This article featured in the recent March issue of Australian Bartender

By Edward Washington

The most valuable thing I learned while teaching was if you’re not getting the right answers, then you’re probably asking the wrong questions. So if you’re asking guests what wine they’d like to drink and the frustratingly reoccurring answer is still Savvy B – then it’s time you rephrased.


Sure customer choice will ultimately guide the decision but there’s no harm in showcasing something that educates and adds to their experience in your venue. Some research recently published in Wine Australia: Directions to 2025 highlighted a few good points that could be handy if you’re trying to work out what to sell in 2012 and how to sell it.

Marketers noted 1) Consumers are increasingly interested in experimentation and experiences when buying alcohol. 2) These same consumers are also making noticeable moves toward trying new and interesting varietals and there’s growth in the wine market coming from aromatic styles of light wines. 3) Women are noted for being more involved in the decision making process, as well as making more ultimate decisions when it comes to what’s served.

So what does this tell us? First up it suggests that customers are probably more receptive to staff suggestions than you might think. It also hints that consumers’ palates are appreciating food-friendly wine styles and that they’re putting thought into their selections based on their experiences.

Finally, it suggests you should give the wine list to women, or at least pose your question about ‘what would you like to drink’ to them. Men are pretty dull, predictable creatures on the whole and will often choose the obvious. Women are often more open to something new and exciting.

“I believe Grüner Veltliner has a terrific future in Australia,” Marc Dobson – winemaker Hahndorf Hill.

Of course you’ll need to preface any sale by introducing this great new wine you have on hand tonight – say a Grüner Veltliner – and explain that its dry, yes dry, and not at all sweet (unless it is), and that its well balanced and it’s from a this family winery…etc. etc., but if you give a guest confidence in a wine0 through your confidence you’ll sell it and they’ll walk away with that venue experience we all hope they will.

What the hell should people drink in 2012?

First up. Riesling. Just push it (be Machiavellian if need be). A nation of Riesling drinkers will be happier, more productive, better in bed, more economically astute and down right more satisfied with life. Riesling is the ‘trade-wine’ that sommeliers love to sell to people who would never choose it, although consumer awareness is peaking because of international movements like the Summer of Riesling (just wrapped up in February). Good examples abound our shores but the single vineyard Rieslings from Frankland Estate in Western Australia piqued my interest recently while drinking at Love Tilly Devine in Sydney – they’re also making a lot of other people sit up and take notice too so keep them in mind. Take the challenge this year and sell more Riesling.

2011 Frankland Estate ‘Netley Road Vineyard’ Riesling
Frankland River, Western Australia 12% abv

Second. Grüner Veltliner. An Austrian stalwart, but making inroads in Australia, this wine thrives where Riesling flourishes. One name to watch is Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills and Hahndorf’s winemaker, Marc Dobson, is confident the variety has what it takes to progress. “I believe Grüner Veltliner has a terrific future in Australia,” Dobson stated. “The Adelaide Hills’ unique combination of cool climate and high diurnal variation provides perfect growing conditions for this grape.”

2011 Hahndorf Hill ‘GRU’ Grüner Veltliner
Adelaide Hills, South Australia 12% abv

The variety has a particular reputation as a food-friendly wine and Dobson insists that it’s a great option by the glass. “It’s particularly good with Asian-inspired cuisine and adding Grüner to a wine list will allow the [venue] to introduce their customers to a new, cutting-edge variety.” There are certainly some top-notch Austrian examples doing the rounds, but try to hunt down a local one. You’ll get that warm fuzzy feeling from selling something Australian Made.

2010 Philip Shaw ‘The Dreamer’ Viognier
Orange, New South Wales 10.2% abv

Lastly. Viognier. Most wine drinkers would have had it (blended into Shiraz in varying proportions) however not many people would reach for it by the bottle. But why not? It’s a cracker wine, lovely with foods and has some terrific flavour characteristics like, apricot, ginger, lychees, pear and it should be fresh, clean and floral. Depending on what the winemaker wants, you’ll find it’s either fermented completely in stainless steel and the bottled, or it might see some oak and lees treatment to give it more complexity.

Different Aussie regions and vintages will showcase variation in style so it’d be best to grab a few and match them off against each other. If you’re looking off-shore and want something top notch hunt down some Viognier from Condrieu. It’s a tiny Viognier appellation in the Rhone Valley, France. Chateau-Grillet is an even smaller Viognier AOC within Condrieu and all 9.4 acres is owned by the one winery.

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