Consumers are making informed wine choices

Woman drinking a glass of red wine

By Roseline Victoria Vijayakumar

Increased consumer awareness and a desire to explore and make more informed decisions are driving today’s wine trends. 

The preferences of younger consumers are shaping the industry landscape. “Younger consumers are looking for wines slightly lower in alcohol and with less sugar,” says Magdalena Kaiser, director of Public Relations – Marketing & Tourism, Wine Growers Canada, adding “Ontario’s cool climate produces wines full in flavour but lighter than those from much warmer climates, [such as] Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Cabernet Frant and Pinot Noir. They’re especially food-friendly.”

The spotlight is now on affordable sparkling options as consumers have started to recognize sparkling wines as a gastronomic experience while mineral-driven wines have garnered, attention due to their refreshing profile and drinkability. 

“The majority of consumers drink red wine, but we’re starting to see more esoteric regions and grape types gain popularity,” says Bernard Joseph Lemoyne, general manager and head sommelier at Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa. “Consumers are starting to explore alternate regions such as Sicily and we’re starting to see wines from Mt. Etna coming through.”

Wine trends indicate cyclical shifts between light, low-and-no alcohol and full-bodied styles. Specifically, the increasing popularity of non-alcoholic wines indicates a shift in consumer habits driven by the health-conscious consumer.  

“We’re seeing regions such as Nova Scotia coming out with lower ABV wines,” says Lemoyne. “One of the non-alcoholic options I’ve seen comes from Germany. They’re doing reverse osmosis to remove alcohol and provide zero-per-cent ABV options.”

“[Currently], light and low ABV wines are more refreshing styles, but [I expect] that will fade and consumers will go back to their full-bodied reds and big oaky whites,” says Lemoyne. “However, there are always little branches off these trends where we start to see new markets emerge.”

Spring and summer bring a shift towards rosé, light reds, lighter whites and sparkling wines. “Sparkling wine is not just for celebrations and the holidays,” says Kaiser. “More people are drinking sparkling wine throughout the year, which is great to see as it’s especially food friendly.”

Approaching wine and food pairings involves a flexible mindset. Whether following the adage if it grows together, it goes together or exploring unconventional choices, the focus should remain on ensuring that the structure of the wine complements the food.

Lemoyne says one of his favourite food-and-wine pairings at Atelier is wild boar belly marinated for 48 hours with a mix of sweet spices, jalapeño and green-apple salsa and Barolo chinato, an aromatized wine infused with herbs and spices, fortified and lightly sweet. 

“You want something that will complement one or the other,” says Lemoyne. “You don’t want any one factor to be taken away. You don’t want the food to be shy and you don’t want the wine to be shy. Both need to show.”

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