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Wednesday 15 April 2015

Wine fashions: all change in 2015

It is impossible to predict wine fashions but I've looked deep into my crystal ball to see what styles will be pushing our buttons over the next 12 months. 

Sustainable” wines

Sustainability is the latest wine buzzword with savvy producers making sure their vineyards are treated with the utmost respect so they will continue to produce great fruit for future generations.
Steve and Monique Lubiana in their vineyards
While the virtues of wines produced using biodynamic or organic methods are becoming more and more recognised, even more mainstream winemakers are aiming to make their vineyard practices sustainable.

Geographical and weather patterns in certain regions make it unrealistic for some wine producers to commit to organic or biodynamic certification, but a growing number are following those principles whenever possible.
In the cool-climate regions of Tasmania, for instance, many vineyards need to be sprayed with chemicals to avoid infestations of diseases such as downy and powdery mildew but even here there are a brave handful pushing the boundaries.
Despite advice to the contrary, Stefano Lubiana in the Derwent Valley has full biodynamic certification, saying he is convinced careful vineyard management will negate any need for chemical spraying.
In McLaren Vale, South Australia, home to some of Australia’s best reds and the region with some of the highest vineyard prices in Australia, almost one-third of all vineyards are now committed to voluntary sustainable agriculture in line with the McLaren Vale Sustainable Winegrowing Australia Program.
The program looks at soil health, biodiversity, pest and disease management, water management, waste management and social relations and is seen as a signpost to environmentally friendly wine production.
And, of course, leading biodynamic producers like Henschke, Cullen, Krinklewood, Castagna, Kalleske and others offer wines that are both sustainable and easy to find.

Picking grapes at Henschke 
Rare grape varieties

What once were fringe varieties like pinot gris/grigio, merlot and vermentino have become accepted as mainstream and any time we walk into a bottle shop nowadays there is a whole new wave of alternative varieties vying for our attention.

Overall, Australian winemakers are using well over 150 different grape varieties, constantly looking for the “next big thing” as well as grapes that are resistant to heat as global warming becomes an increasing threat in our warmer viticultural regions.

Perhaps the Spanish red grape mencia will be all the rage, or the little-known bonvedro, rare even in Portugal, Spain and northern Italy and which until recently was mis-identified as carignan from France?

Or perhaps the German variety schönburger, or maybe Saint-Macaire, a French grape that thrives in the warm climes of the Riverina?

Other contenders include Greek varieties assyrtiko and mavrodaphne, both of which are on the radar of wineries like Jim Barry and Brown Brothers, the Spanish red grape graciano, which is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, or maybe the Austrian grapes zweigelt and blaufrankisch.

Orange” or natural wines
There has been a huge rise in the popularity of “natural” wines – skin contact-produced wines that often have an orange or amber hue – and these styles are extremely popular with sommeliers.
While there is no official definition, "natural" wine is generally understood to contain no added acid or yeast and less sulphur dioxide than more conventionally made wine, and it is often unclarified. The wines are often whites made using the techniques more often used for red wine making.

Followers of this approach are also described as minimal intervention winemakers and include Anton Von Klopper (Lucy Margaux), James Erskine (Jauma) and Tom Shobbrook (Shobbrook), among others, including many practitioners in Friuli, Italy, and the Swartland region of South Africa.
Natural wines, usually made in tiny quantities by committed artisan producers, can by their very nature sometimes be volatile, or taste oxidised when they are older, but their fans say they have greater texture and their pronounced tannin and phenolic profiles make them extremely food friendly.

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