2018's top trends
Do you know what wine you are most likely to be drinking this year? It's Chilean. That's not a prediction; Chile accounts for the largest share of wine sales in the country, over 25pc, followed by Australia, France, Spain and New Zealand. So while that's not likely to change to a huge degree - given that these wines fit into what I describe as the 'daily drinker' category, not that I'm recommending a daily tipple as something you should aspire to - there are a few wine styles that have been growing in popularity over the past few years that are worth trying.
"People are really interested in cool climate, juicy wines, like Pinot Noir and Gamay, and more medium-bodied, fragrant styles of wine," says Sarah Crowe, the winemaker at Yarra Yering in Australia, who was visiting Ireland a few months ago. Winemakers like Stephanie Toole of Mount Horrocks have been leading this trend towards fresh, elegant, terroir-driven wines in Australia, and it can also be seen in California, a region which has tragically been hit by fires over the last year, but where some really innovative winemaking is happening, particularly in the southern region, which I will be writing about over the next few months.
Lynne Coyle, who is a Master of Wine and the wine buyer at O'Brien's, says that the lighter wines of Germany, Austria and the Loire in France will be popular with people looking for wine that is slightly lower in alcohol, while Portugal will continue to capture the imagination and Chardonnay will continue to regain some of its lost ground.
A trend that shows no sign of changing is our obsession with Prosecco - but it has been so successful globally that we are likely to see price increases. Rosé is also set to become even more on trend this year.
Our love affair with craft beer is set to continue with the number of craft breweries in Ireland growing by more than 500pc in the last five years. And if you're not a fan of sour beer, you may find the small-batch, barrel-aged beers being brewed by O'Hara's at their new Urban Brewing at the CHQ building in Dublin more to your liking. Low-alcohol beers are increasingly important, and in London the newly launched Small Beer Company will be brewing beers between 0.5pc and 2.8pc ABV that still deliver on flavour.
Irish whiskey continues to be the fastest growing spirit in the world, and after years in the wilderness, authentic Irish cream liqueurs are back on trend and set to break the 100m bottle barrier. We may have reached peak gin and be moving onto other spirits, according to Tony Conigliaro, London's king of cocktails, who was in Dublin recently to launch a new premium range of tonics from Schweppes. "In London, people are drinking Mezcal at the moment, and they're drinking more vodka again, it's almost like there's been a gin overdose," he says. "What people are looking for now are flavoured vodkas. There are lots of different styles, made with potatoes, corn and rye; and rather than strip them of their personality, there seems to be a move to showing these flavours in the vodka. Before it was more about the tonic with alcohol in it, now it's vodka you can taste."
And there's just one more stylish drink you might like to try. It's Vermouth. Nigella Lawson fans will have seen her sipping it on her most recent television series, and according to Conigliaro, it's huge in London. It's at every cool bar in the city.
A 'sommelier in your pocket' is the idea behind SIYPS, a Dublin-based, online wine shop which stocks carefully selected wines, many of them organic or biodynamic, and it also includes an impressive number of good quality bottles under €20. In order to avail of the rare wines which have a very limited availability, it is necessary to join the SIYPS Wine Club. This will cost you €120, but for that you get wine to that value, as well as invitations to tastings, master classes, events, and pop-ups for members and their guests. siyps.com