Wine trends are always fun to watch: some, like our insatiable hunger for Malbec, seem to come out of nowhere, taking us by storm; others, such as our fascination with Rosé, had been on the horizon for years before finally taking hold. Beer and spirit trends have also been surprising as our appetite for products by craft brewers and artisan distillers continues to grow despite tougher economic times. Many of the trends of the last couple of years are still going strong, but others are starting to wane — here’s a look at what’s going on in the world of wine, booze and beer, and what you can expect to see as we head deeper into 2012.
Albertans are getting more confident in their drinking abilities and relying less on others to tell them what they like. The result? Lighter, more food-friendly wines such as Beaujolais, Rosé, Riesling and Loire Valley wines are hitting our tables. Rarely do these kinds of wines garner much attention from the critics but they happen to be some of the best values around, and we are hunting them down. Albertans are choosing wines that simply taste good and worrying a lot less about the “scores” (i.e. the numerical ratings given by wine reviewers).
People are starting to ask better questions and make a move to sustainable and organic wines. The lure of the brand seems to be falling away as we seek out smaller, artisan producers.
Bubbles are definitely gaining ground as people are branching out from Prosecco to see what the rest of the bubbly world can offer and discovering the wonders of lesser-known areas such as France’s Jura and Italy’s Franciacorta.
It’s no surprise that the shine seems to be wearing off Malbec as the inevitable steady stream of shitty products have started to flood our market. It was bound to happen as greedy producers take advantage of an obvious cash grab.
Canadian wine is still madly popular, but it seems people are making smarter choices and realizing the value is not always there. But, the buy local movement is strong in Alberta and trips to the Okanagan Valley are making fans out of many a Calgarian.
Beer trends are pretty stable this year as microbrews continue to eat away at big beer profits, but you need to watch out for the wolf in sheep’s clothing when buying beer. There are a lot of “microbrews” that are simply big beer in clever packaging. When looking for a new beer it pays to do a little research and make sure the beer you are buying has a legitimate story and isn’t just a marketing ploy. We seem to be discovering a lot of new sources for great beer this year, some far off and others in our own back yard. The onslaught of top microbrews from Quebec has been a welcome addition to our Alberta selection, while top producers of Japanese beers have been an incredible surprise.
Just when I thought we couldn’t drink any more Scotch in Alberta, we did. Top Scotch has had a steady climb in our sales here, but the latest trend is away from the big names and more toward independent bottlers. Once you’ve tried all the big names, it’s nice to branch out and see what the little guys can do. Bottlings of unfiltered, uncoloured whiskies, often finished in unique wine or sherry casks, are all the rage as consumers are finding a new world of products from independent bottlers.
While it seems there’s a new “premium” vodka released nearly every week, we continue to absorb whatever comes our way. The most interesting trend here is the use of organic products to create unique flavours, like kaffir lime and spiced pear. We’re still reaching for better examples of all our favourite spirits including local gins, aged artisan tequilas and a wide array of oak-aged rums.
It seems whether we are looking for wine, beer or spirits, we are clearly looking to trade up and explore the newest and best. So no matter how you like to catch a buzz, I can promise you that we will see no shortage of exciting new products as we continue to enjoy the best selection of booze in Canada.