Hot White Wines
What’s going to be big this summer?
So here's a question for all the ITB folks out there. With the change of the seasons, how heavily do you change your product mix? We all know that rosés are going to be big again this summer, and seem to be relegated to summer-time consumption. So stack-outs of affordable rosés are pretty much a given—but do you consider your entire product mix when warm weather comes around?
One argument for (subtly) shifting your product mix with the seasons: the temperature at which wines tend to be consumed. In the middle of winter, when your well-heated house might be 72 degrees, a wine straight from the fridge might seem a little too cool, but when it's 80+ outside, you know consumers will be swigging from bottles kept on ice, and rightly so. It's no stretch then that a different type of wine might be in order as the mercury rises, something simple without losing nuance, lower in alcohol to help one cope with the heat, and generally crisp and bright.
Of course, the same can be said for reds. In fact this is all rather obvious. The trick is how you use this information. Finding the wines that both fit the general model people want in a season while satisfying their desire for a range of attributes—which swings from familiarity to diversity—is the huge challenge. So what's hot, so to speak, these days?
I can only comment on what I've been seeing, but here are some wines that seem to be getting a little more buzz this year. Ready for summer, yes, but is the marketplace ready for them? That’s yet to be seen.
The Hot, Chilled, Stuff
Vermentino: Until recently available almost exclusively from Tuscany and Sardinia, Vermentino is taking off. I've tried samples from Lodi, Oregon, North Carolina and Australia over the past few weeks. While not all are exciting, many have been. With its typically lemony flavors, bright acidity and tendency towards showing terroir, Vermentino seems to be a perfect summer wine that is slated for success around the world. Will this be its breakout year? I'm not sure, but I think we're getting really close.
Moscato: Moscato has been on fire over the past few years, replicating the ascendancy of rosés. While this is generally a good thing, one has to wonder what might become of dry Muscats. Is there an opportunity to move people off the sweet stuff when it comes to warmer summer weather? I might be hopeful, primarily because I love a good dry Muscat, particularly with chilled seafood dishes. But if I were still in retail I'd have plenty of Mosacto on my shelves through this summer.
Alsatian Pinot Blanc: I wrote about a few Alsatian Pinot Blancs just this past week, and will write about some more from the USA and Italy soon. Why? Because I love them and frankly can't believe how little love they tend to get. It should be an easy sale—just move someone gently from Pinot Gris. Easier said than done, yes, but once people try these wines, with all their depth and precision, at least a few will have to question how they were ever satisfied with the Gris.
Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc will continue to be a top seller, but from where? Are palates tiring of the bold style popularized by New Zealand? I think there's a bit of a renaissance in appreciation of examples from France, with Sancerre leading the bunch. Quincy and Menetou-Salon certainly promise to be big players this summer, but I think the real surprises are going to be coming from points south. Think coastal Chile and South Africa. Not only do wines from these two locales combine the best attributes of New and Old World Sauvignon Blanc styles, they're also inexpensive—and we all know price is one of the biggest drivers of summertime wine purchasing.
So there are a few wines I would count on for surprising on the upside this summer. I'll talk about red wines in my next installment, but before then I would love to hear what you hope to feature on your shelves this summer. What looks to be your hot white wine of 2013?