Jancis Robinson picks out lower alcohol, cooler climate and regional varieties as trends
Quality over quantity, celebrating wholesomeness, cutting down on oak and alcohol content, seeking out cooler climates and reintroducing regional varieties are just some of the trends in wine identified by Jancis Robinson MW.
Speaking at today's LIWF conference Robinson said her views were "subjective impressions", that are not yet showing up in huge numbers in statistics gathered, but she added, "I expect them to become more important".
Robinson added that trends were global in nature and can spread "remarkably quickly" in the world of wine these days.
"There's one big overarching trend: we are forfeiting quantity for quality. It's necessary to make better wine every year," Robinson said.
"We have a much greater respect for nature and the natural - there's a much greater trend towards celebrating the natural," she added.
As for stylistic trends, the market is moving away from bigger, oakier wines - even in the USA, and moving towards lower alcohol wines, which she said was being spearheaded by Australia. "Sometimes it's at the expense of flavour, but you can't fault them [Australian winemakers] for reacting fast."
Producers are also trying to react to climate change by looking for cooler climate areas. "California has been the bastion of wine celebrated for high alcohol", she said, but even there, the "‘bigger is better' as a proposition is weakening".
Chile is the "most dramatic example", with "new cooler regions popping up almost by the minute", she added.
The Pacific Ocean has been the biggest influence in producing more elegant wines in recent times, both in North and South America, said Robinson. Elsewhere producers are seeking out higher altitudes: the Argentinians are moving up into the Andes; South Africans are founding new 800m regions such as Upper Langkloof, Australians are looking towards Tasmania and higher areas of New South Wales while Spain's north-west Atlantic corner is producing "very attractive wines".
"Welcome back Beaujolais," pronounced Robinson, adding that Loire wines "are on the threshold of a comeback".
Producers are being more adventurous with varieties, added Robinson. "Back in the 1990s I was concerned that all vineyards would be overrun with Cabernet Sauvignon and maybe a little bit of Merlot." But she counted 40 varieties at the recent Tesco and Waitrose tastings.
"There's been a big change in heritage varieties - people are putting a lot of effort into identifying, rescuing and promulgating the grape varieties of their region, as well as planting alternative varieties," she said.
In her soon-to-be-published Wine Grapes, she identifies almost 1,400 grape varieties that make wine in commercial production.
Less agrochemical usage, more mechanisation in the vineyard, less routine irrigation, less use of barrels and more natural winemaking were also pinpointed by Robinson. But she said: "Just being natural is not enough - you've got to be natural and good."