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Tuesday Tributes: Best of the Blogs
The Next Big Thing—Pick Your Poison

By Charles Olken

The wine world loves new things. When we find a new toy, we run with it until we break it, and then we move on. Some of those new toys turn out to last a lifetime. Others go the way of the hula hoop.

California Chardonnay is one that came on late, just kept getting better and better, and even now, fifty years after it finally became a new toy, then a special, shiny new toy and then the new toy that drove out so many other toys like Sylvaner, Grey Riesling, Green Hungarian, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay is turning another corner and becoming even more special.

But, just as the boxing world is always looking for a new champ, so too does the wine world keep looking. Look at the contenders that have come and gone just in the last few decades—Sangiovese, Gruner Veltliner and Aussie Shiraz. Which one of the current breed of market favorites is going to get the chop next. Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot among reds? Italian Pinot Grigios and White Zinfandel among “white” wines.

That topic is addressed brilliantly in one of my bits of required reading. The blog called The Wine Economist somehow manages to keep me on my toes trying to keep up with Professor Mike Veseth’s various themes and thoughts. Always challenging, often revealing new truth, The Wine Economist is one of those smart blogs. Most blogs, no matter how good they are, are rarely smart. It is the unusual piece of winewriting that cause its readers to take a step back and think about the world we live in.

This week’s Best of Blogs does just that through the good professor’s essay entitled “The Next Big Thing In Wine”. It appears at the following link and is worth a read:

Here is the line that got me hooked. To be sure, there is a bit of misdirection at the front of the essay, but one Professor Veseth wrote the following, I went all in because he was making me think. Read on and you may also get hooked.

“Many of the winemakers and winery executives I talk with around the world display an understandable fascination with THE NEXT BIG THING. White Zin, which once defined TNBT here in the United States, shows that fads and trends can at least sometimes develop staying power, as the huge sales figures make clear. But TNBT of today cannot afford to get too comfortable — there’s always another NBT on the horizon”


Christian Miller Speaks
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:3/22/2011 3:15:52 PM

Christian Miller, who knows a lot more about the wine markets than most of us and is a frequent poster here as well as an occasional, when we can get ahold of him between his frequent travels, taster at the CGCW table, left the following comment on my LinkedIN page.

"Moscato is a NBT, but it's not clear how much among regular wine drinkers and whether it has legs. Malbec is already a BT, no "Next" required. Petit Verdot is a wannabe NBT here in California, but I don't see why. Torrontes and Albarino are tantalizing among whites."

I Speak
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:3/22/2011 3:31:54 PM

Moscato sales are apparently rising rapidly. How far that rise will extend and whether the rise is related to a dip in White Zinfandel sales is not clear.

If I were a maker of Italian Pinot Grigio, however, I would pay attention because that commodity, in my humble opinion, outsells its real worth by about five to one. Or to put it another way. I don't see the virtue in thin, characterless wines.

There are Rieslings in this world selling at roughly the same price with far more interesting flavors. I personally would seek out the value priced bottlings from Ernst Loosen's Dr. L Riesling from the Mosel long before I would drink Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

That's just me, of course, and if Pinot Grigio can become a giant seller, so maybe can Muscat or Moscato under its various names and guises. Christian's comment about "not clear how much among regular wine drinkers" is a bit pregnant with meaning.

Do regular wine drinkers drink Wh. Zin and P. Grigio? Do CGCW readers drink those wines?

If I were to guess, I would think that few Muscat based wines will become NBTs for the wine collecting crowd unless someone finds a way to make light, high natural acid, fruit driven wines from the hot areas of the world where Muscat is most frequently grown. If all that Muscat does is eat up market share from Wh Zin, it may be a big thing at the cash register, but it won't "register" much around here.

by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:3/22/2011 10:14:33 PM

Um, have we not learned anything from clothes, music and food? The next big thing simply means there will be some energy behind something, the masses will follow if they want to or not, there will be a shitload of crap offerings dumped on the market and then people will get back to the basics. ...always with the claim, "I liked it before it was cool"...


Do your readers or people with cellars drink Pinot Grigio or Moscato, not likely but my guess is they didn't just wake up one day drinking Paul Hobbs or Littorai or Lafon or Gaja, they started somewhere and ventured off from there. I'm guessing the Rombauer only crowd doesn't read your publication or bother much with a cellar either. They spend more money but they are still drinking sweet wines that please them...


I personally think chasing the next fad is a fools game, following trends is one thing....watching the numbers, seeing what is selling, well that is paying attention but trying to figure out what is going to be the next Malbec? What's the point? So we can watch it do what bell bottoms, Spanish food and teenage boy bands do, fade off until someone discovers them again? My time on the hamspter wheel is too short for that.


I can tell you from the retail side, (and the kind of retail that welcomes new comers) we sell a mind blowing amount of Moscato d'Asti and its red partner Stella a paying the rent at times LOT. Started a couple years ago and it keeps growing. I'm thankful for these people, their willingness to drive to our shop to by the first wine they ever liked and we can tell that they too are thankful to us for not only stocking those wines but for not making them feel as if they aren't welcome. We all started somewhere and it is too soon to tell if this burst of new wine drinkers will end up being tomorrow's cellar owner, way too soon but I have hope....

Sweet $$
by Sherman
Posted on:3/23/2011 11:57:51 AM
I must agree with Ms. Dugan that we all started somewhere along the wine trail and, for most folks, that was a light, easy-to-drink white wine of some sort (most likely with a bit of Residual Sugar). Some folks progress along the wine trail and start buying bigger, more substantive wines that usually are more expensive (becoming the enthusiast). Many customers are content with where they are in their wine evolution, continue to buy what they like and never make the leap to enthusiast (remaining consumers).With many years of wine sales experience in both retail and wholesale, I'm continually amazed at how cases and cases of Santa Margharita Pinot Gris, Rombauer Chard and many others continue to fly out the door on a regular basis. At $20-$30 a bottle, to boot --I can confirm the trend is continuing, with a noticeable increase in sales of sweet red wines (some with 5% RS!), that are being marketed as easy drinking summer sippers ("serve well chilled" is the advisement on the label). The muscat/moscato trend is another one that is increasing, although I think it may just be trading dollars from white zin to something "new and shiny."We can only hope that these "gateway wines" will act as conduits to bring customers to us and that we can help them along with their development. Once they're comfortable, maybe we can convince them to try a nice little pinot noir that's not too scary.

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