2018 has been a charming year for us wine lovers, where notions, refined palate preferences, and the pleasure to ‘drink less, but better’ surpassed a much more polarising 2017 vintage.
“It’s a long way from Natural and Organic Wine they were reared” – the echo of wine commentary we may begin to hear more of from conservative wine connoisseurs in the upcoming year.
Natural wine, (for those who maybe haven’t got the memo) is a wine that has been made with minimal chemical and technological intervention both in the vineyard and in the winery. It’s somewhat like playing a game of Russian roulette when buying a bottle of natural wine. Some smell like the floral beauty of the Botanical Gardens on a warm spring day; others smell like liquidised cow dung with a hazy colour tint. Your move.
Us Irish wine aficionados have however bought into this in 2018 – and with boundless confidence indeed. Natural wine now represents 2% of the global wine production. Dublin’s ‘creative quarter’ circling Drury Street has even inaugurated a few wine bars over the last few months, concentrating mostly on natural wine. Will this style of wine advance further in 2019? Perhaps so.
Organic and Biodynamic wine, (a lot more transparent in more ways than one comparing to Natural wine), has touched new heights in 2018. More and more wineries have begun to practice organic, biodynamic, and sustainable viticulture – the results are seriously impressive. A real credit to the ‘masters of their craft’ winemakers very ably crafting top-class wines that are a little bit healthier to both yourself and the environment. Chateau Latour, one of the most recognisable and luxurious wines not just in Bordeaux, but in the world, has too become ‘certified organic’ as of November 2018.
Rosé too, the once belittled wine style, reigned supreme on the wine throne in the summer months across Ireland. It’s become more than just an accessory for one hand, while the other took a selfie of you and your Whispering Angel. Not something that could have been predicted years ago when stodgy sweet Rosé was widespread on wine lists and shop shelves, an upsurge in sales of more than 20% in Ireland for 2018 compared to 2017 suggests much more than just 5 minutes of fame for the pale-dry style of Rosé we’ve grown to really cherish here.
Throughout 2018 also, the temperatures across Europe and other parts of the world has seen record highs – and so too has the prices of our most beloved Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Californian starlet wines. In October of this year, a new record was set when a single bottle of 1945 Romanée Conti was sold for a staggering $558,000 in Sotheby’s auction, New York. Let’s hope nobody drops this one.
2019 looks promising for wine. Millennials and even the ‘old timers’ in the Generation Z population are looking more affectionately towards wine like they have to craft gin & beer in recent years. Wine has never been more adored across the world, and in 2019, we may expect the following trends to grow.
The ever-increasing taxes on wine and stricter labelling regulation will only bring the price of bottles up. As solemn as that seems, there may be a silver lining. ‘Drinking less, drinking better’ is something we can all get on board with. Half bottles let us do just that. By moving to a half bottle and spending the same you would pay for a different 75cl wine, you should be getting a lot more finesse, and perhaps no hangover. This seems like a big win-win.
Sherry & Wine Cocktails
Inconceivable to think that Sherry and Port not so long ago were considered the most uncool wines on any wine list. Sherry, nevertheless, has woken up from its siesta in the shadows and is anchored to become one of the big vino stars in 2019. Particularly in paler dry styles (look out for Fino or Manzanilla on the label), Sherry for me, is one of the most exceptional and precise wines you can pair with savoury food. Darker, more intense, and nutty flavoured Amontillado style Sherry is also an outstanding addition in cocktails. Alan McGillivray – previously of The Dead Rabbit in New York, is now directing the cocktail & bar programme at Balfes in Dublin and is ingeniously championing the use of complex sherry styles including Amontillado across our country’s capital. While Champagne cocktails once recently reigned supreme, Sherry cocktails look now to take the aperitif throne.
Smaller, ever-changing wine lists in restaurants
Kudos to the array of fantastic wine importers we have in Ireland now, big and small. We’ve never been more spoilt for choice. A plethora of wine styles and diversity of wine importer portfolios means restaurants should have no problem in filling their cellars, and frankly no excuses, for exciting, well-curated wine menus. The thing is, there’s only so much limited cellar space in our gorgeous, intimate wine bars and dining spots now dotted around Ireland, and with an increasing number of oenophiles looking after them. Ever changing wine lists on a weekly and monthly basis will soon become the norm, which is a big plus for our wine culture here in Ireland.
Assyrtiko and Xinomavro
If there were ever an award for ‘Best Newcomer’ grape variety onto wine lists across Ireland in 2018, Greece’s white grape ‘Assyrtiko’ would assuredly take the crown. Cultivated mostly in Santorini, Assyrtiko is one of those white grapes, similarly to Riesling or Chenin Blanc, that can permit the production of wine of various styles from young and fresh, to sweet, sparkling and some can even mature splendidly for 20-25 years.
Xinomavro also – Greece’s impressive red grape variety likened to Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir is found in the northern region of Naousa, where wines have incredible ageing potential and tons of quality for incredible value. Assyrtiko and Xinomavro are varieties that produce some of the best value on the wine market today. As Cali Chardonnay and Burgundy Pinot prices continue to increase in 2019, Assyrtiko and Xinomavro are the perfect pair to compete on price, but not compromising on top quality against the big hitters in the wine arena.
Sparkling wine popularises outside of Champagne and Prosecco
When I think of Prosecco and Champagne, one reminds me of cheap filter coffee that you could drink in a budget hotel during breakfast, the other, drinks to me like a quality single origin high-grade coffee that one would get no change out of 5euro for a cup. But what about those who neither want a cup of stale, flavourless coffee, or if a fiver is too excessive – or those who even would rather be happier paying €2 or €2.50 for a coffee that they will seriously enjoy for the price, and may also prefer to the expensive 5euro cup.
Crémant – sparkling wine from France outside of Champagne made in the traditional method, and Cava from Spain also made in the same way, are those high quality, affordable options of sparkling wine that will rise quicker in popularity than the bubbles in their bottles throughout 2019. Try out Crémant de Bourgogne, made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (just like in Champagne), or top Cava producers such as the incredible Recaredo (Cava’s answer to the Krug Champagne House) for smart, bubbly buys in the coming year.
Croatian wine, Cabernet Franc, and a new creative generation of Bordeaux winemakers ready to shake up old traditions are also on the radar for an exhilarating 2019 year for us wine aficionados.
Originally from Celbridge, Kildare, Philip Dunne has worked in the Irish hospitality industry since he was 15. After experiences in fine and casual dining, he started to work at Ashford Castle in 2015 and after working his way up, he became Ashford Castle’s Head Sommelier at the age of 25. Following this, Philip became the Restaurant & Wine Director at Old Street Restaurant in Malahide. He is now Head Sommelier at Dublin’s Westbury Hotel.
Philip’s passion for wine goes beyond the service at the luxurious five star as he also writes about the topic and he’s an enthusiastic and active presence in the Irish wine scene.