Trend Awareness

When does a trend emerge - and when is it conjured up? How often have we marveled at the emperor's new clothes in recent years and ultimately discovered that they are just old rags after all? A commentary by Alexandra Wrann, Editor-in-Chief of our sister publication WEINWIRTSCHAFT.

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Trends in the wine industry (Photo: Nuthawut/
Trends in the wine industry (Photo: Nuthawut/

A few examples of ultimately unsuccessful trends from the tech and internet world: the Mini Disc storage medium developed by Sony in the 1990s, which didn't become the second CD after all; the social network Google Plus, which was briefly celebrated and then quickly dropped; and, you may recall, the hype surrounding the new audio talk show tool Clubhouse, which after a brief euphoria disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

In the wine world, however, trends are a difficult thing. Who sets the trends? Certainly, the top gastronomy with its experienced and curious sommeliers plays an important role, since they act as mediators between producers and wine drinkers, are always on the lookout for new discoveries, exchange a lot of information, so that a new product, a new category quickly moves from restaurant to restaurant, wine bar to wine bar, yes, trending one could say.

What does that mean for the wine industry?

From the point of view of the market economy caution is called for in dealing with the term. Yes, the multipliers at glass and bottle are of great importance for the emergence of trends. 

As the trade journal Trend Report describes it, a trend "occurs when a certain mass of companies, individuals, or opinion leaders (relative to their respective total numbers) succumb to a particular behavior or development." The devil is in the details here: "relative to their respective total number." This means that a trend within the scene can certainly be considered as such.

Looking at the wine market as a whole, however, a real, major trend can only be read in the rarest of cases. PetNat or orange wine, for example, made a lot of noise for quite a while, dominating the social media channels of influencing wine connoisseurs - but by no means the wine market.

"Any distributor, importer, sommelier is worth their weight in gold to the industry who is willing to buy off the beaten path."

Another current example: the supposed trend toward light red wine. Again and again, we hear that consumers want a more delicate, summery red that gets by with less alcohol. The supermarket shelf speaks a different language. It is not the Beaujolais and Pinot Noirs of this world that end up in the shopping cart, but rather the heavier drops, above all everything from Appassimento or Appassite production, which naturally produces higher alcohol levels.

Appassimento, Rosé, Prosecco, Pinot Grigio...

In fact, this is and remains the real trend, which has by no means abated, quite the contrary: just recently, the appassimento process was proposed as a Unesco cultural heritage, other countries are emulating the Italian original and designing their own types of wine from dried grapes. Rosé, Prosecco, and Pinot Grigio, some of which are product categories that hardly any sommeliers on the scene put on their menus, can justifiably be called real trends because they are penetrating the market.

The influence of specialized trade and gastronomy may not be underestimated nevertheless. Although not everything that is celebrated in a wine bubble makes it to mega success with sales figures in the millions, every retailer, importer, sommelier is worth their weight in gold for the industry who is prepared to buy off the beaten track.

This is the only way to keep the wine world as colorful as it is, to at least break up the dominance of standardized tastes, and to give origins, producers, and styles a chance that do not serve the mainstream. This does not always have to be proclaimed a trend, but it is an immense contribution to diversity - and ultimately a reason why many, I suspect most of us, pursue the wine theme with so much passion: because we are always learning and discovering new things.

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