Wines to Watch for 2017

The New Year's festivities may be over but exciting new trends in the world of wine are just ring in 2017, the Charles Communications team takes a look at the up-and-coming wines and regions we look forward to most. 


The versatility of Cabernet Franc. Image credit: Wine Folly.

The versatility of Cabernet Franc. Image credit: Wine Folly.

The Wine: Cabernet Franc 

Why it's unique: Long a passion for many on the professional side of the equation, it now seems to be enjoying interest beyond sommeliers, beverage directors, winemakers, collectors and other aficionados.  Cabernet Franc is the thinking person's grape variety.   It has a distinctive aromatic profile and an interesting qurik wherein it "gains weight" as it ages. It often starts out as an ugly duckling wine, closed and one dimensional, only to hit its stride once as it matures taking on complexity and dimension. This is its blessing and its curse.  It is often dismissed in its youth, but rewards those who wait.  

What I also love about Cabernet Franc is that it is both unattainable i.e. Chateau Cheval Blanc (rare and pricey) and accessible Chinon or Bourgueil for example.   We seem to take a long cycle in the U.S. for a wine to become a trend, note Pinot Noir is still popular 13 years after Sideways the movie came out so the future is bright for those discovering new varietals. 

Why it's trending for 2017: With a growing sophistication in the marketplace, those who know wine are seeking out wines with more subtle profiles yet a certain familiarity. Winemakers wish to make something that pleases them rather than sells well.  I often see them brighten up when you order one in a restaurant or talk to them about a great one you tried.  Also, the curiosity and trial of the millennial generation is making the opportunities for encounters with the variety more commonplace than previous generations. I also think its more subtle taste profile and balance is in keeping with the healthier trends of our times. 



Michael Cruse in the cellar. Photo courtesy of The SF Chronicle.

Michael Cruse in the cellar. Photo courtesy of The SF Chronicle.

The Wine: Artisan California sparkling wine. 

Why it's unique:  A category that has traditionally been embraced only by large dedicated household names, we are starting to see an uptick in serious quality, grower Champagne-style sparkling wine projects coming from some of California's most lauded artisan producers. 

Why it's trending for 2017: Established and respected California sparkling wine houses like Iron Horse and Schramsberg forged the path, but the quality statement for smaller producers is only gaining more and more mass appeal, with Bedrock's Under the Wire, Fesstivity (by Fess Parker), Flying Goat Blanc de Noirs, and Michael Cruse's Ultramarine project all receiving serious critical accolades in the last year. And of course, the Pet-Nat craze we've seen in the last few years does appear to be going anywhere - especially with elegant (and ridiculously affordable) versions like Onward Malvasia Bianca cropping up all over California's most sought-after restaurant lists. 



The Wine: wines of Hungary

Photo courtesy of Anthony Salazar.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Salazar.

Why it's unique: I have always been a big fan of sweet and dessert wines. When a friend of mine from Hungary gave me this bottle of 2008 Pannan Tokaj Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, I was beyond ecstatic. On the nose was a mix of fresh citrus fruits and lemon peel, while the palate brought out flavors of apricot, peach and honey. It became an instant favorite of mine. 

Why it's trending in 2017: It's great to see that Hungary is finally being recognized, and sits at the top of Condé Nast Traveler's list of wine regions to visit in 2017 because I believe it has long been overshadowed by neighboring countries. Not only does Hungary produce high-quality dessert wines made with Furmint grapes, but also dry white wines that are mineral-driven with a depth comparable to Chenin Blanc. I am definitely looking forward to tasting more from this country in 2017.



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    Lambrusco in the light. Photo courtesy of Vinepair.

Lambrusco in the light. Photo courtesy of Vinepair.

The Wine: Lambrusco and Italian sparkling reds

Why it's unique: Lambrusco wine is known for its sapidity, the saline character that comes across as hardness on the tongue. Coupled with the wine's bright acidity, this savory attribute makes it an ideal pairing for salumi or cheeses and therefore the perfect complement to the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, the so-called "stomach of Italy." Lambrusco came into the American consciousness back in the disco days of the 70s, when mass-produced and candy sweet versions were first imported into the US on a large scale. Fortunately, we've come a long way since then.

Why it's trending in 2017: Far from the cheap and cheerful versions that come to mind when we think of Lambrusco, contemporary producers are valorizing this under-appreciated wine. Long considered a rustic, quaffable wine, Lambrusco has traditionally been brought to its sparkling state in tank yet increasingly winemakers are beginning to experiment with more refined techniques, following in the footsteps of the French and employing the metodo classico typical of Champagne. Other sparkling Italian reds on the rise include Gutturnio and Pignoletto, both of which are also typical of Emilia-Romagna.



Photo courtesy of Porto and the North.

Photo courtesy of Porto and the North.

The Wine: Vinho Verde

 Why it's unique: The Vinho Verde wines from Northern Portugal are light, bubbly, crisp whites that have seen their popularity surge in the last decade. The light fizz that is common in most Vinho Verde wines is extremely refreshing, and their bold acidity and minerality make for very drinkable wines.

Why it's trending for 2017: Millennials are the new largest wine-consuming generation, and are interested in unique, reasonably priced wines. Vinho Verdes are affordable, approachable and fun. The average bottle of Vinho Verde goes for just $10 at your local retailer. For the past decade, Vinho Verde wines have been viewed as cheap and amusing- the perfect patio wine for a summer afternoon. But more recently, Portuguese producers have debuted a new kind of Vinho Verde. An elegant, serious wine that appeals to a wide array of wine drinkers. Watch out for Vinho Verdes from boutique producers in 2017. 

All the Swirl is a collection 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