Before summer kicks off and things get really crazy, it's time to make some predictions. What are going to be the biggest drinks trends this summertime in our bars, restaurants, bottle shops (and more)? What is going to be hot during what is being primed as the 'hot vaxxed summer' that didn't quite happen last year?
Journalist and sommelier Samantha Payne dived into the trade's drinks of choice earlier in the year and is now on the case with her wine hat on, talking to winemakers, sommeliers, wine shop owners and beyond, looking for answers on the trending wines of summer 2022/2023.
Be prepared for surprises...
When we talk about drinks trends in the wine world, especially in summer, the obvious answers will always emerge - aromatic whites (like Riesling) plus every form of bubbles under the sun.
But if we want to know how the winds are blowing for summer 2023 and beyond, we need to look back at the year that was, as the pendulum of wine trends swings more slowly due to the nature of agriculture.
What’s fascinating is that, from winemakers like Riley Harrison and buyers/sommeliers like Tai Tate and Louella Matthews, we’re hearing about the re-emergence of beloved 80s styles. That means a comeback of wine styles like oaked Chardonnay and ‘clarets’ now unexpectedly back in fashion (and tweaked for more refined palates).
Harrison (of Harrison Wines in South Australia) offers the perfect example, having crafted a modern take on a claret - a Shiraz Cabernet blend named 'Kookaburra' - on a lark that sold out within a few months of release.
'I had no idea the Kookaburra would have the appeal it ended up having. It was only a very small make as I made it with every intention of not selling it. I was happy with the idea of leaving it in a dark corner of the cellar and seeing how it evolved over time.' he explains.
Harrison believes this success was based on a homage to the past and a style gaining traction again.
'(Kookaburra) was a nod to those in the Australian wine scene who've come before us. The blending of Cabernet with Shiraz is uniquely Australian and a style that many of us grew up drinking.' Harrison continues,
'There's a common saying that kids refuse to drink their parent's wine; the idea that it's daggy to be doing what your parents do/did. This has steered younger wine drinkers away from more traditional wine styles and into the world of weird, wacky and alternative. I think the Kookaburra provides a certain familiarity that the younger generation can relate to but in a staunchly opposing style than what they're used to.'
Tai Tate, CEO and Head Buyer for Built to Spill, is also leading the charge in his online wine store, noting how re-imagined styles of Cab are enjoying a comeback.
'Cabernet Sauvignon! I have been saying it for years, but now hot winemakers like the Belfords from Bobar, Kyatt Dixon from Limus et al. know how to handle the pick and the extraction of this old-man grape with laser focus. It's so good. Juicy fun things, light, elegant rosé too, it's so flexible and unfairly maligned.'
Louella Mathews, Group Sommelier for Trippas White Group (Infinity Sydney Tower, ESQ etc) agrees with this ‘retro revival’ of wine trends, noting how consumer demand for Chardonnay hasn’t slowed down and will likely continue throughout the summer.
'I love that oaked Chardonnay has made a comeback. Popular culture (Bridget Jones/Kath & Kim) nearly cancelled it a while back (sort of what's happening to Sauvignon Blanc right now), but I am so happy it's back because it's Australia's champion variety.' Matthews explains.
And not to forget our friends in the bar world, we’re going to see a continuation of a ‘retro cocktail trend’ that’s emerged post-pandemic.
Ed Loveday, Creative Director of The Point (Shell House, The Dolphin Hotel, Harry's etc), sees merit in the elevation and revival of these retro classics from the 90s.
'Things such as the cosmopolitan, the lychee martini and the appletini hark from a time when great quality products weren't readily available, and there wasn't a bar culture of making fresh juices and using fresh ingredients like there is now.' Loveday said.
'So the remake of the cosmo with lower sugar and lighter ABV means you're getting hits of nostalgia but in an elevated way.'
Great summer drinking, indeed.
Mathews acknowledges that these aforementioned drinks trends are also a response to what's happening in the outside world, particularly as a practical reflection of a post-pandemic hospitality world.
'Because of hospitality's latest staffing crisis, restaurants and bars are reverting to classics - for cocktails and wine - to simplify and make it easier for staff and patrons. I love this style - there is a reason classics are classics.'
And while what’s in the vessel is not to be discounted, when it comes to summertime drinking trends, the question of HOW we imbibe emerges as we tend to partake in more ‘situational’ or outdoor drinking.
Tate sees the rise in canned wines and wine-adjacent drinks as an answer to this.
'Things in cans are gonna keep happening and keep getting better. The offering is already super exciting - both Bizarro cans (from Delinquente Wines) are sick, Mem (from Three Blue Ducks) is doing awesome canned wine, and Campbell Burton is bringing in ludicrously good canned vino from Jordi Llorens’.
Drinking less but drinking better, preconceptions are slowly shifting with packaging. We will see heaps more of this throughout Summer.'
And if the explosion of canned and small-format bottled cocktails (i.e. the new range from Four Pillars and the many additions to the Curatif range), it’s a trend that’s not slowing down anytime soon - just in time for G&T’s and margaritas on the beach.