Forecasting what's to come in 2015

By Kimberly Charles

As the new year gets into full swing it’s a perfect time to sharpen the lens on what’s to come in the world of wine, spirits, beer and other libations. We took a look at the influences of culture, economics,  and demographic shifts a few weeks before the Wine Market Council annual state of the market conference. Here we offer Charles Communications Associates’ take on what’s to come.  

New Normal – Relaxed, refined, easy

Everyone is pressed for time these days, even when they’re socializing.   Wine lists are shorter, casual dining is more prevalent, wines on draft are gaining in popularity (as is Kombucha and an even more in depth selection of beer, cider and sake on draft) --- we want quality and we want it quickly.   We’ve never been a Slow Food oriented culture and perhaps one day we’ll go back to the future and take it a little more easy, but for now it’s Go-Go-Go.  During the week, whether it’s a school night or a meeting with your personal trainer the next day, limiting the alcohol intake, much like eating your kale, has created a cultural shift.   For a while, restaurants have been offering 200 ml pours or carafes with varying sizes, and wines on tap such as City Winery in Napa offer trial of limited release and quaffable wines.     We want quality but on our terms.

Globe in a Glass

The global economy, good or bad, is allowing for more choice than ever when it comes to almost any consumable product.  The days of bringing back that precious, unavailable ingredient from your trip abroad are irrelevant given the marketplace access online and an increase in specialty offerings at retail.  Some standouts in this arena from the U.S. market perspective include, a growth in sake consumption, Portuguese wines had double digit growth last year, and imported wine overall was up 21% in 2014.   The falling price of the Euro will mean even better bargains for the imported wine lover.  Our sense is preference will follow the money and imports will see an even bigger market share in 2015.

Hot spots

Some of the buzzwords of 2014 in the world of wine included Grenache, the new “it” grape for those tiring of Pinot Noir or seeking a different flavor profile.   Much of the variety is driving the still hot rose market as well.  Blended wines, either dry or sweet are also still on the rise, and here in San Francisco where many trends beyond the comestible start, Petillant Naturel or a lower pressure light sparkling wine trend has begun. Also, expect to see a rise in new offerings from Oregon and Washington state.  The annual Silicon Valley Bank State of the Industry report noted this week that due to the challenges of permits and high land costs in California, domestically we will see more plantings in those states.  

How does your Beer Garden grow?

The craft beer explosion has taken the beverage market by storm.   Witness the profusion of beer gardens and halls around the country such as the Biergarten in Hayes Valley San Francisco, the 6,000 foot Denver based RheinHaus or the Lost & Found in Oakland, CA.   Beers on tap and beer gardens with great food offerings are the new social gathering spot for the under 35 set.   Interestingly, there is just as much of a geek factor around the subject of beer brewing and offerings among enthusiasts, yet when it comes to wine, the same sort of conversation is considered off-putting or elitist.   We hope that the craft movement in beer will provide a gateway for more and new wine drinkers.   Stay tuned.

 Cocktails – still shaking after all these years

After years of stops and starts in the spirit market, the era of cocktails is here to stay.  Many food & wine events have featured a more serious cocktail component over the past few years, fueled by the thirsty demand of consumers.   Cocktail programs are a standard now even at neighborhood joints, and we predict that we’ll see more and more health driven cocktails (an oxymoron we know) but look for garden and health-based ingredients, such as green tea, ginger or botanicals playing a role in concotions.  We were introduced to this very cool book by Dinah Sanders called The Art of the Shim at the SherryFest2014 and are making lower alcohol fabulous cocktails for entertaining. 

Here’s to a year of good libations from all of us at Charles Communications Associates!  

All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting