Last year, virtually every restaurant in the United States had to change its approach to selling wine as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns and closures. New wine trends emerging in 2021 will impact the industry even further.
Below are my predictions for current wine trends that restaurants should not only be aware of, but also be able to adjust to. Customers’ habits are changing fast, so it’s vital to keep up with the trends. Businesses that can do that will have a higher chance of surviving the crisis and even thriving during it.
There are a lot of new wine trends and fads approaching in 2021. For restaurants and other hospitality businesses, it is important to know not only what these trends are, but also how to take advantage of them. This is why I will describe each trend and give a few ideas on how restauranteurs can capitalize on it.
Natural, sustainable, clean, organic, and biodynamic wines have become increasingly popular in recent years. This trend is bound to grow even bigger as more and more people are cautious of what goes into their food – and drinks.
Natural, organic, and biodynamic wines have started to be treated more seriously in the wine world and, as a result, in the restaurant industry as well. Lately, I have been to numerous restaurants around New York City, as well as in San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle, that serve natural wines even when they don’t advertise it. Some customers even actively seek out spots that offer natural wines.
You don’t have to be labeled as “natural wines-focused” in order to take advantage of this trend. Moreover, you don’t have to suddenly change your whole wine list. It’s better to start small and see how your customers react to this change. For instance, you can add a few organic or biodynamic wines to the wine list.
Your current distributors may sell organic or natural wines already. If they don’t – google natural wine distributors in your area and give them a call!
There are certain styles of wine that have stayed dormant for the general public but are now gaining popularity. I will discuss two that, in my opinion, have the biggest potential.
First, there is orange aka skin-contact wine. It’s a wine made from white grapes that have been macerated with the skins and seeds for a period of time, usually between a few days and a few months. The maceration, also known as skin contact, gives the wine more complexity, tannins, and adds new flavors. Orange wines are fun, new, and a little adventurous.
Another style that’s becoming much more popular as we speak is light-bodied reds. There are more and more examples of Alsatian and German Pinot Noir available, Austrian reds, or the Loire Valley Gamay and Cabernet Franc. In general, these wines have a lighter body, high acidity, and little oak influence. They are more fun, casual, and easy-going than fuller-bodied reds.
I would strongly recommend adding these two styles to your wine list if you haven’t yet. They offer a huge versatility for any restaurant; both go very well with food and can be paired with different dishes and cuisines, but can also be drunk on their own.
Recently, new wine regions have captured consumers’ attention. A few of them that are likely to boom in 2021 include:
Jura is the most obscure winemaking region in France. Due to its seclusion, it produces wines that are different from anywhere else. Its climate is similar to Burgundy’s but cooler with longer winters. Jura is known for white, light red, and sparkling wines. There has been a little bit of a buzz around this region lately, which you can take advantage of if you offer wines from Jura at your restaurant.
Portugal as a wine country has been on the radar for quite a long time, however, it hasn’t had its big break yet. This year might be the year when wines from the Douro Valley, Bairrada, and Alentejo are treated as seriously as those from Rioja or Piedmont. Portugal offers amazing value for money when it comes to high-quality wines, so it’s definitely worth your time.
Georgia is by no means a new wine region – it is actually one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. However, it is quite new for American consumers. Now, its red and amber (orange) wines are becoming more and more popular. They are very unique and taste different than European or New World wines. Nonetheless, they are delicious are worth trying!
Last, Mexico has been making waves in the wine world lately. This is an exciting time to buy Mexican wines because the grape varieties and wine styles depend solely on the creativity and taste of the producer. In other words, you can find a myriad of styles coming from one region in Mexico such as Baja California. Some Mexican wines can be found in restaurants and stores around the US; however, they are still a rare novelty.
Due to the pandemic, most industries were forced to shift their operations to the online world. The same thing happened in the wine industry.
Online tastings organized by wineries have become more common since traveling to them got very difficult. Wine stores have moved at least a part of their operations online. Even local governments have loosened restrictions on wine sales for restaurants, which allowed restaurants in New York and other states to sell wine online.
If the law in your state allows you to sell wine online, you should do it. You can sell it directly through your website, as well as through a delivery service. And don’t forget to promote it on your marketing channels from email to social media. From a marketing standpoint, selling wine and other products on your website has a great advantage that you can easily track your results. On the other hand, you never know exactly how your online marketing affects visits at your restaurant.
Besides wine sales, you can offer more wine-related services for your customers. For instance, you could organize an online tasting of wines that you sell; you could even invite the importer or distributor to talk about the wines in detail.
Wine education has been growing in recent years and will only grow more in 2021. That’s because consumers want to know what’s in their wine, as well as who’s behind it.
How can you use this trend in your restaurant’s marketing? Be a storyteller and show your customers who made the wine that they’re drinking.
You can include profiles and interviews with various wine producers on your website. You can also teach your servers to talk about your wines and who’s behind them.
Furthermore, you should move your wine education online. Virtual wine classes or tastings could be a great way to stay in touch with your guests even if they can’t come to your restaurant now.
Wine subscriptions have become more popular in the last couple of years, but the pandemic really helped them thrive. Now, you can find subscriptions that focus on specific regions, natural wines, orange wines, and more.
Wine subscriptions are offered by subscription-only businesses, wine stores, and, of course, restaurants. Frankie’s Spuntino’s The Frank’s Wine Cellar Share is a great example of a wine subscription sold by a restaurant.
Imagine selling 6 bottles of wine per month to every customer who buys your subscription. That’s 72 bottles per year. And if you have 30 customers, that makes 2,160 bottles! That’s why wine subscriptions are becoming such a big trend – they offer a high return on your investment.
Before starting a wine subscription, you need to make sure that you are allowed to do so by your state law. You should also have an idea of what makes your subscription unique – are the wines rare, do you offer any wine education with it (e.g. wine tastings), or maybe you discover a different region every month?
For the longest time, wine was synonymous with a 750ml glass bottle. Today, however, this notion is being threatened by alternative packaging. Alternative wine packaging is any packaging other than the 750ml glass bottle.
The most common types of alternative wine packaging include:
Canned wines have particularly increased on popularity in the last two years. Even though wine in cans started off as a lower-quality product, there has been an increasing pressure put on its quality. Nowadays, you can find organic, single-vintage, or single-vineyard wines sold in cans.
As a restaurant owner or manager, you should consider whether wines sold in cans are something that would make your customers happy. Canned wine is becoming much more socially acceptable and it might be a great addition to your menu.
Furthermore, I would strongly recommend looking into half-bottles of wine. Buying a half-bottle of wine puts way less pressure on restaurant customers than buying a regular bottle. That’s because it’s less costly and easier to finish. Still, getting a bottle of wine can create a sense of a special occasion.
White Claw and other hard seltzers were the drink of 2020. In 2021, wine seltzers will follow their lead.
Wine seltzers are refreshing, easy to drink, and less serious than wine. Thus, they are a great choice for an afternoon drink, a picnic, or a casual hangout with friends. They are like rosé but with a lower ABV and at a lower price point.
Whether you love or hate the idea of wine seltzers, you should take advantage of this trend.
For a casual bar or restaurant, selling a popular brand of a wine seltzer might be a great idea. However, if you run a higher-end place, I would recommend you two alternatives that are similar to wine seltzers but have more character and flavor.
The first one is Piquette, which is a sparkling, low-alcohol style of wine made from leftover grapes. The other one includes wine and beer hybrids that are lower in alcohol, novel, and exciting.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of people around the country to lose their jobs and savings. As a result, consumers have been trying to limit unnecessary spending, and for a lot of them, that includes premium wine.
Therefore, in 2021, we will still see a lot of mass-produced wines at low prices. As a restauranteur, you should decide whether you will follow this trend or not. This decision should depend on the type of restaurant that you run – your target audience, brand, and the existing wine list.
If you run a casual spot, it might be a good idea to incorporate some lower-end wines into your menu. You can combine this trend with the canned wine trend and offer cheap wine cans. Furthermore, wine seltzers are also a great idea for budget-conscious customers.
To sum up, your restaurant should prepare to adjust its marketing strategy in face of new wine trends coming in 2021.
These wine trends include:
As a restaurant leader, you should adjust your wine list, your sales process, and your messaging in order to take advantage of these wine trends.