Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris on January 11, 2017 0 Comments 2016 was a reasonably interesting year for wine around the world. We saw the continued growth and ongoing strength of wines from the southern hemisphere, mainly in certain parts of Australia and New Zealand, and it was the year when the sparkling wine crown was almost toppled from Champagne, with excellent results coming out of the eastern United States, and England, a relative newcomer to the scene. Last year also saw the continuing rise of “natural” wine styles — something set to continue for the foreseeable future — with organic and biodynamic farming techniques being taken up all over the world at an alarming pace. Orange wine hit our shelves in a big way, as did Greek white wine, and big, bold reds from Washington and Oregon. All in all, if only in the world of wine, 2016 was one of pleasant surprises with a decidedly youthful, millennial feel. There are big hopes for 2017, and many of the forthcoming trends have already been predicted. We’re going to see wine-by-the-glass become the norm, chilled reds and wine cocktails at every bar worth its salt, and more canned wines aimed at a younger, hipper, but more discerning audience. Read Our 2017 Wine Trend Predictions Here But which grape varietals are due their comeback? Grapes seem to go in and out of style on a five-year cycle at the moment, and this seems to be driven as much by the whims of fashion as it is to particular vintage years and food trends. Last year saw Shiraz very much back on the menu after a slightly dodgy couple of years, and this seemed to link up with an overall trend for luxury “junk” food — grilled and pulled meats, mountainous gourmet burgers, posh barbecues etc. If you’re curious about which vines are set to swing back round into fashion, or which grape varietals have a great year coming up, then read on and find out more! 1. Forgotten Treasures from Central Loire Last year saw an impressive resurrection of the Chardonnay grape, rescued from the grip of huge, multinational conglomerates and the buttery, oaky bottles which caused it to be the subject of much sneering in the 2000’s. 2017 will not only see the continuation of Chardonnay’s return to the spotlight, heralded by vintners’ renewed enthusiasm for sparky, bright and acidic unoaked numbers, but also the rise of another classic French white wine varietal that slipped into the shadows. Chenin Blanc has been unfairly frowned upon for a while now, due to more than a few bargain-bucket bottles and boxes being served up at rubbish weddings, etc. However, all the big names in the wine industry are looking to the Central Loire Valley, and the sub-regions of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine as the headline-grabbing parts of France for 2017 — and Chenin Blanc is going to break its unlucky streak, as the good stuff the locals like to keep for themselves is going to be hitting a wine store near you. 2. Merlot Set to be Big Again Of the red grapes, one of the more maligned in recent years has been the poor old Merlot. It has flooded the lower end of the market, and for the past decade or so has featured most prominently in cheap-as-chips South American wines, where it tends to be flabby, overly fruity, and dull, dull, dull. 2017, however, is set to be the year that Merlot returns to its rightful place as a high quality, fascinating red wine varietal, and no longer seen primarily in blends or in a student’s kitchen cupboard. Washington State regions such as Walla Walla and Columbia Valley are making some serious noise about their Merlot releases for next year, claiming they are sleeker than ever before, and with a tannin structure and body more similar to the best of California’s Cabernet Sauvignons. Interestingly, there has been a rise in the number of “white” Merlot wines released in the past few months, and it seems as though some wineries are trying to make this a new trend in itself. Whether it catches on, or remains a novelty, is yet to be seen… 3. Old World Reds Continue Their Comeback Elsewhere in the “old world”, other key red grapes are gearing up for a comeback year as millennial wine drinkers expand their palates to look towards wines which have dropped off the radar somewhat over the past decade. French varietals we haven’t heard much from recently like Grenache and Gamay are set for success in 2017, as are Italian table wines, made from Nero d’Avola. Barbera — especially in its uncomplicated, straightforward fruity form — is going to be one of the big food-pairing red wines of the coming year, and I personally couldn’t be happier. 4. Underrated Whites from Famous Red Regions It’s a little strange how some regions end up being synonymous with either red or white wine production, but rarely both. It’s almost as if the general public isn’t quite comfortable with a region which claims it can do it all, but then, wine drinkers are by their nature a cynical bunch. However, 2017 is said to be a year when some of the expectations get flipped on their heads — some of the most impressive comeback wines are going to be white wines from “red” regions. It’s been a great year for white grape harvests all across the Bordeaux, as well as the Rhone Valley, Beaujolais, and even Rioja, while red wines from these regions are set to be a little less exciting. Factor in the contrariness of millennial wine drinkers, who’ll seemingly go against the grain wherever they happen to find one, and white wines from red regions are suddenly the flavor of the year. 5. Austrian and Portuguese Varietals The other grapes and wines we’re likely to see brought back from the brink in 2017? Most major pundits are pointing to Portuguese white wines, especially the Vinho Verde wines of Douro — as Lisbon has become an en vogue European holiday destination, the sale of these fantastic slightly sparkling wines have gone through the roof internationally. As well as this, Austrian red wine, which has suffered from a less-than-ideal reputation for some time now, is set to make its triumphant return with red wines made with the Zweigelt grape. 6. A Change in Popular Sparklers The final comeback kid of 2017? If you’ve been keeping your ears close to the grapevine, you’ll know that Prosecco — after five years of glory — is very much yesterday’s news. What’s coming back to take its place? Sparkling red wines, and perhaps most interestingly, Lambrusco. This fizzy red is going to be big next summer, and few things go better with a platter of Italian cured meats and cheeses, so fill up your picnic hamper and let the good times roll!