2017: What’s in Store (Wine Trends)
There is no way to predict the future but the most reliable guide is to use the recent past as an indicator of what’s to come. I noticed a few wine trends towards the end of 2016 that are likely to not only continue over the next year but also change the course of what we drink.
If you look at a map of French wine regions you probably won’t see a demarcation for the Auvergne. Don’t let this fool you; its winemaking history goes back to at least the 4th century.
The Auvergne was devastated by phylloxera in the late 1800’s and a combination of frosts, mildew and rain, and the creation of the Michelin tire plant, which turned the Auvergne into an industrial center, stunted its recovery in the early 20th century. A co-operative was set up prior to WWII and others were formed after the war but the Auvergne was simply thought of as an extension of the Loire or even more diminishing, just as Central France, contributing more to viticulture by way of oak from the Allier forest than its grapes.
In 2011, the Auvergne was anointed an the AOC, with two sub AOC’s, Côtes d’Auvergne and Saint Pourcain. White wines must be composed entirely of Chardonnay while the reds can have not less than 50% Gamay, with Pinot Noir being the only other permitted varietal. However, some of the best stuff coming from the Auvergne is Vin de France meaning the rules don’t apply. You can find Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris in the vineyards, as well as Gamay d’Auvergne, an old clone that is smaller than Gamay a Jus Blanc.
Located south of the Loire and Burgundy, to the east the Rhône and north of the Languedoc, the Auvergne sits prominently in the center of the country. Its climate is more akin to the northern Rhône, with continental influences and a long, dry, warm fall. Home to what was once the largest volcano in Europe it has basalt deposits and layers of volcanic material over clay, limestone and in some places granite.
With Beaujolais and the Loire becoming more saturated with natural winemakers, the Auvergne seems like a logical next frontier. There is a good size handful of them now but just a few are imported. Here are a three you should be able to find in the US: Patrick Bouju – La Bohemme, Vincent Marie – No Control and Marie et Vincent Tricot.
Sans Soufre (without sulfur)
Whatever your feelings about sulfur usage may be, more winemakers are just saying “no.” Two of the three from the Auvergne mentioned above never use it and Tricot adds SO2 on rare occasion. Many other French vignerons have given it up, or never got into the habit, and this trend is spreading elsewhere in Europe. There are just a few in the US that don’t add SO2 to any of their wines but I suspect others will follow suit.
The Southern Hemisphere
I’m tired of hearing people lump half the world into one group when we split Burgundy down into minute parcels. No question about it that if you live in the United States there is a whole lot more natural wine available from the Loire than Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all of South America combined. However, this is bound to change.
Some of the wines from Australia’s Natural Selection Theory, a small faction including Lucy Margaux, Shobrook, Jauma and Dandy in the Clos, are imported and beyond this core, others such as BK Wines from the Adelaide Hills and Jamsheed from the Yarra Valley are available in a number of markets. Surely there are others and it is just a matter of time before these producers hit our shores.
Chile also has a lot going on. We hear mostly about Louis Antoine Luyt’s work but El Viejo Almacén in the Maule Valley, Villalobo in the Colchagua Valley, Cacique Maravilla and Rogue Vine in Biobio are making at a minimum pretty good wines and they are not the only ones.
Occasionally, I’ll see something new from South Africa in New York. Without going to these countries and scouring the scene it’s hard to know but where there is smoke there is fire and I assume that some kid playing with grapes and making wine in her garage on the other side of the equator today is bound to end up in Wine Terroirs tomorrow.
My theory is that Bordeaux, like Napa actually, is so caught up in its laurels that it has fallen behind with Millennials. Some of these “ways” are using a bunch of chemical caca in the vineyards and manipulating the hell (did anyone say centrifuge?) out of its wines. Of course, even some of the storied château now claim to be organic or biodynamic – which is fantastic – but as a whole, Bordeaux is very much about the old guard. However, there is a rebellion quietly brewing.
This doesn’t mean that the first growths are going sans soufre, rather under the radar producers are just going about things their own way. Despagne-Rapin and Haut Ségottes in St. Emilion, Clos du Jaugueyron in Margaux, Jaugaret in St. Julien, as well as Peybonhomme les Tours in the Côtes de Blaye and its sister property, La Grolet in the Côtes de Bourg, and Tire Pé have been in the US for some time and have a following. Others are on their way.