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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wine before nine: America's forward-thinking wine trends

U.S. wine industry trends
Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted;
some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.
- Paulo Coelho

By Erin Tran

Even though wine has been around since 7000 BCE, its connection to everyday life, technology, and business is incredible to look over. Today, wine is a dessert to some, a means of livelihood to others, and an inspiration towards innovation. In the end, wine has one main purpose and that is to be enjoyed.

Americans work longer hours, have less vacations, and a stronger need to relax compared to any other country in the developed world. In Japan where over-working is also a problem, the term for “death by work” (literally) is “karoshi.” Businesses understand this need to relax and enjoy life and many are responding through their offerings. Let’s take a look at some of America’s innovative wine trends that businesses and customers are moving forward with.

Wine on tap

The idea of wine coming from a tap is brilliant, simple, and more eco-friendly. With less bottles to toss and an easier way for restaurants to manage the serving temperatures and quality of wine, many places across the country are seeing wine on tap popping up. Winemakers and wine drinkers were hesitant at first but many realized the benefits of a longer-lasting, higher-quality product that is also cheaper to keep on hand.

Many communities in the US are favoring buying local and Texas is definitely one of the states that really boasts buying local. Thus, it was only natural to offer the ability to purchase local wines in kegs. At Whole Foods’ home base, Austin, TX, shoppers gained the eco-friendly option of purchasing wine on tap in 2012 and it claims to be the first grocery store to offer wine on tap to its customers. The trend spread across Texas to many restaurants, primarily by word-of-mouth.

Whole Foods wine time

Pushing the envelope on wine through the inspiration of craft beers, Whole Foods promotes their Sip, Shop & Enjoy philosophy by allowing guests to visit their Wine and Beer Bar in select stores around the country and do just that—grab an adult beverage and sip on it as you wander around the store checking off items on your grocery list. The wine is available through taps.

Comparable to beer growlers, Texas’ 16 Whole Foods offer “Old Schoolers” glass jugs that customers can wash out and bring back for more wine on tap, but they are more commonly referred to as “boars.” Another plus is that Whole Foods recycles wine corks, so now you don’t have to stockpile them in your junk drawer in hopes of using them as fishing floaters in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Starbucks evenings

Speaking of zombie apocalypses, Starbucks not only caters to their groggy coffee zombies in the morning, they also picked up on what other small coffee houses around the country had a niche in—serving alcohol in addition to coffee. Extending the coffee house atmosphere into a relaxing place to have a drink after 4pm, Starbucks offers a selection of wine that varies from city to city and a more random supply of beers. 

In addition, they have gourmet Small Plates and Dessert available to nibble on too. The food is nothing short of fancy for a more upscale atmosphere:
  • Blue Brie Cheese, Toasted Wine Walnut Cranberry Bread and Fig Preserves
  • Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Skewers with Honey-Dijon Sauce
  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Balsamic Glaze
  • Truffle Mac & Cheese
  • Chicken and Roasted Tomato Flatbread
  • Artichoke and Goat Cheese Flatbread
  • Chocolate Fondue with Dried Fruit Medley and Madeleine Cookies
  • Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brownie
Shut-up and take my money. Oh wait, they’re not everywhere yet. The launch of Starbucks Evenings began in Chicago, Seattle, LA, Atlanta, Portland, and Washington, D.C. Cities like Dallas do not foresee Starbucks Evenings coming anytime soon since most counties are considered “dry” where restaurants are not allowed to sell alcohol but most are BYOB. At least they have wine on tap.

Single-serving wine bottles

In areas and events where BYOB is the norm, including certain restaurants, get-togethers, picnics, hikes, camping, etc., the invention of single-serving wine is the golden ticket wine drinkers are looking for. They are available in glass and plastic containers, both recyclable, and the latter much less breakable. Stadiums and festivals are also toting single-serving wine for a more convenient and safe way to sell to customers who are wandering around without a table to set their wine glass on.

For those who would like to create their own single-serving wine bottles, there are multiple benefits to doing this. First, you can choose whatever wine you like and pour it into a 187 ml reusable wine bottle with a screw top instead of carrying around a 750 ml bottle. Second, when you’ve had a glass or two and put away the bottle, moving the wine into smaller bottles reduces the oxidation and decanted sediments.

Third, this gives you the option of having multiple bottles of wine open and available to drink. Fourth, if you want an even more budget-friendly option, purchase liters of wine to distribute among your smaller bottles instead. Fifth, if you’re a little heavy-handed on the wine pouring, this is a great way to help you maintain serving sizes.

About the author: This is a guest blog by Erin Tran, a writer for LiquorMart.com. If you liked this piece, then follow me on Twitter @LiquorMart. When I’m not writing about wine or culture, I’m usually looking for the next wine festivals and checking out local restaurants.

Image license: NoahHererra/Pixabay; US-PD