With prices of Champagne and white Burgundy remaining strong, lesser known wine regions, such as Sicily and the Maremma, will gain more attention in 2023.
By David Parker
As we head into another year — and in the midst of accelerated inflation — one thing we all learned from 2022 is that wine will continue to flow. And we’re all wondering what consumers will be drinking in 2023. Champagne and white Burgundy put in notable performances in 2022, but with their prices remaining strong, I expect lesser known wine regions, such as Sicily and the Maremma, will gain more attention in 2023.
Champagne continues strong
Some studies show that, while these categories are likely to remain strong in the new year, there will likely be an economic adjustment. The big demand for Champagne, for example, has driven the prices of some top products quite high, some of which could face a cooling off period. Overall, though, Champagne will see tight supplies, even with good vintages yet to be released by major houses, which will be a major factor for continued strength of the category in 2023.
This isn’t to say that consumers will stop drinking sparkling wines. People still want the fun of the bubbles and to keep attending events where it’s the libation of choice, so we believe its popularity will continue. The difference is that, going forward, not only for Champagne and sparkling wines but for all types of wines, the $50 to $250 range will become increasingly popular with collectors and casual drinkers.
This is true among all different types of consumers. Even high-end consumers are adjusting their purchase habits. Many customers that previously bought Grand Cru Burgundy are buying Premier Cru now, for instance. Price will be a major factor shaping consumer habits in 2023.
Consumers will additionally continue to expand their palates and venture toward less classic grape varieties and regions.
In Europe, the red and white wines of Mount Etna in Sicily are becoming increasingly recognized as world class by the fine wine community, as are the super-Tuscan styled wines from the Maremma region. Chile is also producing world class Bordeaux-style blends as well as its signature Carmenere, which is gaining popularity in the U.S market.
Look to the Trento DOC in Italy, and to the southern UK for exciting world class sparkling wines. Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc from the Loire are also approaching world class status and garnering excitement. With regards to long-known regions, Chablis is gaining on the Côte de Beaune among white Burgundy lovers and more and more attention is being paid to Austria and Slovenia.
Finally, interest in Sauvignon Blanc from many areas — Bordeaux, Napa, Oregon, New Zealand, southern France and elsewhere — is rising quickly.
As millennials and Gen Z embrace wine, we’re seeing previously obscure regions, such as Vinho Verde in Portugal, as well as biodynamic, organic and “natural” wines become more popular. These regions and wine types have affordable offerings. This last category, along with the related “orange wine” phenomenon, needs to mature in its production methods to be more broadly popular, but these are all trends to watch.
When it comes to wines as investments, top Bordeaux, red Burgundy and red Rhônes will perhaps see modest slowing of price appreciation in the short term, but overall demand will remain strong. Collectors will also be on the lookout for smaller producers. Many grower Champagnes will look currently underpriced when viewed in the rear view mirror.
It’s important to note that domestic wineries, especially those from California, Oregon and Washington state, are producing large amounts of high quality wines and gaining ever-greater attention among high-end consumers. One of the regions to watch is the Pacific Northwest, especially the Willamette Valley and southeastern Washington. Top new whites from the former and unusual red varietals from the latter area are especially exciting.
The Sonoma Coast is probably the California region rising most quickly in recognition, especially for cooler weather grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Green Valley area of Sonoma County is another region developing a serious reputation quite quickly.
The Anderson Valley in Mendocino County is maturing in reputation from an obscure “maverick grower” region to a serious producing area, noted for its ability to produce compelling cooler weather varietals and its habit of supporting hard-to-find, lesser known varieties.
The Sierra Foothills (California), while long a favorite for budget-minded consumers, is starting to mature in reputation. In Southern California, a number of coastal and high-altitude areas are joining the highly regarded Central Coast region in producing compelling wines.
Scores and reviews
Critic scores will remain important for purchase decisions in 2023, especially for the purposes of collecting and investing. There are now more reviewers than ever, many specializing in particular regions. However, we can’t forget about the “voice of the people” — scores and reviews by everyday collectors reported on sites such as CellarTracker! — which will continue to be widely followed.
That being said, and as much as a number in the 90s on a shelf talker might attract a casual purchase, scores are becoming less important for consumer decisions. Millennials and older Gen Zs rely more on what their friends and industry “influencers” think than they do on formal wine reviewers. Shelf appeal and recommendations from wine sellers will continue to carry a lot of weight for these casual, everyday purchases.
As the industry continues to evolve, I expect 2023 to deliver more of what we’ve seen over the last five years while also introducing exciting new varieties and regions, consumer buying and trading trends, and a few unpredictable turns.
David Parker is the founder and CEO of Benchmark Wine Group, the leading source of fine and rare wine for wine retailers, restaurants and collectors around the world. David is also the President of First Growth Technologies, focused on fine and rare wine and spirits information and valuation, publisher of The Wine Market Journal and the Spirits Market Journal, and president of the National Association of Wine Retailers.