Friday, January 15, 2016

Trends in Wine, Beer & Spirits for 2016

Since the turn of the century there has been a great deal of change in the wine, beer and spirits industry. 2016 looks to keep on this trend as consumers continue to expand their horizons and try new things. Perhaps the hottest of these categories is the world of craft beer. It seems that a new brewery opens in our state about once every quarter and the portfolios of our distribution houses are expanding at a tremendous rate. There is a seemingly endless hunger, or thirst in this case, for the next new brew.

This generation of twenty somethings has turned the establishment on its ear with their taste for "good beer" and the generations of beer drinkers that precede it are following the lead. Back yard and holiday parties are replacing the half keg of Bud Light with a couple of logs of seasonal selections or cooler full of mixed styles. The "mixed six" and variety packs are popular as consumers quench their thirst with a more experimental approach to their suds consumption. This has left Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors scrambling to keep up and in 2016 we expect to see customers continue to support small local breweries while the giants either try to buy them up or introduce brands that appear to be small and crafty.

Another very hot trend is Brown!
Bourbon and Scotch along with the emerging Aged Rum and craft Tequila categories are on fire. The problem will continue to be supply and demand. The sudden demand for these spirits which can sometimes take as many as two decades to produce is making the job of catching up nearly impossible and that is especially in the world of fine Scotches. This category is also going away from the established names like Johnnie Walker and Old Grandad while single malts and craft bourbons take center stage. Look for the "non age statement" single malts to be more relevant in the scotch world as they blend a bit of their older stocks with younger whiskey to meet demand. Experimental woods like Sherry, Port, and Cognac barrels are being used to help the younger whiskeys show some dimension that is historically achieved by laying them down to let father time work his magic.

Bourbon is running into the same issue that Scotch is but this part of the industry has a key advantage... Time. While single malt Scotch takes 10-20 years or longer to reach it optimal drinking window, Bourbon is at its best between the ages of 5 & 15. This is a huge advantage and keeps the pricing competitive which is very big. A bottle of a national brand like Elijah Craig Bourbon 12yr has a price in the mid thirties while Balvenie Doublewood 12yr Scotch is nearly double the cost. That is a huge advantage and offers people the option of experimenting just like in the craft beer world. Consumers can take home a few different bottles to find their own personal favorite. Look for Scotch to continue to experiment while Bourbon leads the "Brown" category.

Sipping Tequila and Aged Rum are poised to control the warmer weather as spring and summer roll in and small batch Gin will also gain more space on retail shelves while Vodka with its endless flavors continue to be less relevant, especially the "big brands".

Lets switch our attention to the wine world and the Rosé category first. If your store doesn't offer at least 40-50 selections this spring and summer, you need to find another place to shop. We topped out at more than 200 selections last year and they all sold well. People are not married to a particular label in any category and this one is no different. A mixed case of Rosé is the rule rather than the exception in 2016 and the trend will carry over to the larger category of wine in general. Our customers are open minded and putting their faith in us more and more as time marches forward. Give us a framework to begin, "I like Italian", "Lighter bodied please" or "What do you love right now" then give us a price range and we are off to customize a selection that is just right for YOU.

The openness of consumers in our industry is refreshing and the trends toward more balanced wines by winemakers around the world, lower alcohol, better acidity, and brighter fruit will stay on trend as we see it. This year will see more experimenting with lesser known varietals and smaller winemakers that offer a more "hands off" approach. Look for responsible wine making with more unmanipulated grapes and less sulphites to continue to increase in popularity. People are tired of "Big box" brands and love the idea of discovering this seasons offerings.


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