This past year brought us more time at home than ever before, and in an effort to stay as safe as possible, that also meant avoiding crowded bars and parties. It’s safe to say at-home consumption of wine and other alcohols skyrocketed in 2020, and the proof is in the data—the shift in the wine consumption market was the largest to date, according to Brian Smith, the founder of Winc and Wonderful Wine Co.
2021 is sure to bring the best in emerging wine trends, from sustainably-sourced ingredients to online delivery services. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the new year to come, here are the expert's forecasted wine trends to expect in 2021.
Lightened-up Wine Options
According to Smith, a steady trend among millennial wine drinkers is to swap rich, sugary wines for lighter, fresher, and lower-sugar options. “This interest in low-sugar and low-sulfite wines has escalated exponentially during 2020, because as people consume more, they want to feel good about what is—and isn’t—in the wine that they’re drinking,” he says.
Low-sulfite is another trend quietly brewing, as Smith has seen booming success with the addition of new sulfur-free wine, Cherries & Rainbows. This wine is a natural, organic French blend with notes of black cherry, fig, and fresh herbs.
It is easier to purchase wine than ever before with the help of subscription services, online ordering, and delivery from your favorite local winery. With work from home and social distancing in full swing, at-home consumption and online ordering skyrocketed in 2020. “It’s certainly the largest shift in the $75 billion U.S. wine market that we’ve seen to date,” Smith notes. His companies, Winc and Wonderful Wine Co., saw a 289% increase in customers in the past year from 2019.
Despite booming online sales, Smith is saddened for those in the service and hospitality industries, as they have been devastated by the pandemic and the recent shift to buying wine online. “It’s been devastating to see our friends and customers in the hospitality industry have to shut their doors at this time,” he says. “Supporting small businesses and your local restaurants this holiday season is so incredibly important, and every little bit counts.”
Return of Orange Wine
Orange wine, or skin contact wine, has made a triumphant return to the wine scene after being dismissed as a fringe trend found primarily in natural wine shops. Smith has noticed a huge surge in sales of his blend, the Malvasia Bianca, in the last six months. “Our Malvasia Bianca has become a Wonderful Wine Co. bestseller and proved to be a favorite amongst our Winc community as well,” he says.
The wine is a white made in the style of red, which causes the light orange color, and is flavored with bright ingredients like citrus, white peach, and honeysuckle.
By the Bottle
Wine distribution is constantly innovating, with methods like canning rising in popularity. Though there are many ways to innovate through packaging, whether it be magnums, mini bottles, or cans, 2020 was actually a year about going back to the basics and appreciating your favorite bottle, according to Smith.
“Uncorking and enjoying a bottle together—either in-person or virtually—has become a much needed respite as we try to stay connected to one another during what’s been a difficult year,” he says.
As customers purchase wine rather than order glasses at bars and restaurants, they want to know more than ever what exactly is in the wine they drink. “I expect that customers will continue to ask for transparency when it comes to ingredients, especially since the wine industry is not required to disclose what actually goes into your product,” Smith notes.
Vegan-friendly wines are also continuing to grow as an established category, as consumers continue to seek out products that fit into their lifestyles and align with their individual values.
Better for You and the Planet
Smith says that he established the Wonderful Wine Co. as a response to customer trends and feedback. “Customers wanted wines that were sustainably-farmed, made with organic grapes, and were low sugar, low carb, and low sulfite,” he says.
Clean wine is another category gaining popularity and will continue to throughout 2021. Companies like Wonderful Wine Co. are leading the way in ensuring companies are reducing their carbon footprints while delivering a product with amazing taste.
“We’ve been able to better cater to this community, enabling them to enjoy more of what they love, without overthinking it,” Smith says.