Why whiskey is bigger than ever, and 2019 will be the year for Irish coffees
It's the time of year when everyone is wondering, "what is the next big thing?" Which, when it comes to wine and spirits, is probably a bit ridiculous, because, if you think about it, how many of the numerous next big things have you tried so far?
If you're a gin lover, you're still on trend. We downed half a million bottles of pink gin last year, from Gordon's and Beefeater to our home-grown brands, Glendalough rose gin, Ha'penny rhubarb gin and Boyle's raspberry blush gin.
If, like me, you're not a fan of this sweet, fruity style of gin, go for a splash of the Wild Atlantic Way and check out Black's Irish Gin from Kinsale, which is infused with wild heather flowers, or Minke Irish Gin from Clonakilty, which uses rock samphire as a unique botanical flavour.
Whiskey is bigger than ever and Kevin Hurley of The Devlin in Ranelagh says 2019 will be the year of the Irish coffee. There are now 21 distilleries in Ireland and the number of Irish whiskies on the market continues to grow.
And I'm not talking about Conor McGregor's Proper No. 12 which sold out in record time. Far more interesting will be the 100pc in-house distilled whiskies that will emerge over time from our increasing number of new distilleries.
Recent additions include Clonakilty Distillery, Fercullen in The Powerscourt Distillery, Black's Distillery in Kinsale, which also launched Ireland's first spiced rum last year; and Dundrum House in Tipperary, due to open later this year. And what about wine? The wine geeks are putting their money on Xinomavro, a red grape from Greece, as being the darling of 2019 (you'll find it in independents like The Corkscrew on Dublin's Chatham Street), but when it comes to the biggest trend of all, there are no prizes for guessing that ethical wine is the one everyone is talking about.
Organic wine consumption is way up, we're prepared to pay a bit more for it, vegan wine is now a thing, and we're increasingly curious about low intervention, natural and biodynamic wines.
While some natural wines have taken criticism for being more about the story than the contents in the bottle, with off flavours in badly made wines giving it a bad rap, a good idea is to try it in a restaurant or wine bar.
"Our stance is this: if it's a good wine it can go on the list. If there's little or no sulphur or additives, even better. But no wine will go on just because it's 'natural' and no wine will be excluded because it isn't," says Ian Brosnan, wine manager at Ely Wine Bar in Dublin's Ely Place, which is re-opening at the end of the month after a complete refurbishment.
Other places where you'll find new and interesting wines by the glass are Latitude 51 in Cork; Aniar and Loam in Galway; and in Dublin, Green Man Wine in Terenure, Loose Canon in Drury Street, and First Draft Coffee & Wine in Lennox Street.
€9.99, 12pc, from select Eurospar, Spar, Mace and Londis
All of the wines under the Grifone brand are organic, and this Italian white, which is also vegan is made in an easy drinking style, with floral aromas mixing in with flavours of peach.
Luzón Verde Organic 2017
€12.95, 14.5pc, from O'Briens
A hand-harvested, organic red from a high plateau in Murcia, which is 100pc Mourvèdre, or Monastrell as it is known in Spain. Fruity and fleshy, with flavours of blackberry, blueberry and a touch of orange zest.
Merinas Tempranillo 2014
€13, 14pc, First Draft Coffee & Wine, Green Man Wine, Clontarf Wine, Baggot Street Wine, Sweeneys, D-Six, Deveney's, Liston's, Lilac Wines, Drinkstore, Morton's, Nectar Wines, La Touche, Wine House, Bradley's, 1601.
An organic, un-oaked Spanish red wine, this has lively flavours of ripe red fruit, juicy dark cherries and a hint of herbs.
If you've signed up for Dry January or are following the no and low alcohol trend, make your non-alcoholic drinks more interesting with Silk Tree, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit which is produced using gin botanicals. With layered flavours of cinnamon, coriander, orange and juniper berries, add tonic water, ice and a slice of orange or grapefruit.