Home News > March 2021 > Wine trends you’re likely to see in 2021

Wine trends you’re likely to see in 2021

Our wine competition has seen some of the fastest growing on-trade trends come to light, with stand-out entries from categories including orange wines, Semillon and Japanese wines and a record year for Ribera del Duero and less prominent sparkling’s. Here’s our round-up of the top trends you should be following and the wines you should be purchasing in 2021.

An overview of the top wine trends for 2021:

  • Orange wines

  • No and Low wines

  • Spanish wines from Ribera del Duero

  • Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda Valley

  • Japanese wine (in particular, Koshu)

  • Red wines from Australia and Argentina (the ones with less oak and different grape varietals and blends)

  • Less well-known fizzes inc. Crémants, Frizzantes, Franciacortas, Cavas and New World sparkling’s

  • Sicilian wines

  • Greek red wines

  • Alsace and German wines for pairing with food

  • Anything from the New World that includes the Semillon grape

Here’s a deeper dive into those categories and why they performed so well in our 2020 awards...

Stand-out wine regions in last year’s Sommelier Wine Awards included:

Spanish wines from Ribera del Duero

These wines had a record-year in our 2020 competition and picked up 37 awards. 80% of entrants took home a medal.

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda Valley

This region really had its coming of age in our 2020 awards. The wines were unexpected stars amongst the judges, commended for their refined style, which stood head and shoulders above the other Sauvignon Blanc's tasted from Chile.

One of the criticisms often levelled at Chile is that its wines taste too homogenous – of nicely ripened fruit, rather than an actual place. But Leyda changed that this year. ‘It’s been hailed as the place that Chile can grow some of its best wine,’ said Christine Parkinson, SWA Head Judge, ‘it never has been before but this year they have suddenly got there. Both their Sauvignon Blanc's and their Pinot Noir's had a style of their own – and were really good.’

Japanese wine (in particular, Koshu)

Winners from 2020 saw Japanese wine represented for a second year, with even more entries, and every Koshu taking home either a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal.

‘People are beginning to drink Koshu in restaurants, but we need proper Koshu styles in the market.’ says Diana Rollan, D&D London. So we can firmly say that this is a category we’re going to see grow.

Red wines from Australia and Argentina

These wines made a name for themselves by experimenting with different grape varietals and blends, regarded highly amongst the judges for moving away from oak and often high price points. As a result, they received more Gold medals than ever before.

Prosecco and Champagne

These categories continue to perform well. There have been stories about the slowdown in prosecco sales for a while, but on this evidence bubbles in general are still going strong. This was one of the best categories in our 2020 awards.

Less well-known fizzes

We’ve come to expect fine performances from the heavyweights – Champagne, prosecco, English sparkling and rosé – but this year there was a great show from less well-known styles such as French Crémants, Italian sparklers such as Frizzantes and Franciacortas, Cavas, and New World sparklers all performing extremely well.

With an awful lot of good bubbly at all kinds of price and in all kinds of style fizz is a real treasure trove for the curious somm.

Sicilian wines

Wines form this region were praised by judges for their quality and affordability, with a third of the red wines entered priced at under £10 (trade price ex VAT).

A reining in of wood has allowed the natural beauty of this usually underperforming region to shine through. Sicily’s reds have sometimes been criticised for being too big, too extracted and too oaked. But many of them were significantly lighter and more elegant in 2020, and they were a big hit with our judges as a result.

Greek red wines

These have increased considerably in quality according to the judges, with the country receiving almost 50% more Gold medals since our 2019 awards.

Alsace and Germany

Wine entries from these regions were applauded for their compatibility with food. These two categories are always big hits amongst the judges, leaving them thirsty for even more entries.


Grape varieties performing fantastically well at this year’s awards included:

New World Semillon

We’ve said for many years that Semillon is an under-represented area of our competition, and that with a bit more backing from submitters it could really shine. And finally, it did. The wines came in, and, as expected, the tasters loved them.

Over 85% of wines entered in this category received a medal. Four Golds was the best performance we’ve ever had by quite some way, and this was backed up with a solid number of further medals.

Even Semillon’s biggest fans in our tasting teams recognised that these wines aren’t necessarily going to walk off a wine menu unaided, but they can make for a stimulating alternative to Sauvignon Blanc, and judge after judge commented on their exciting food-matching potential.


Wine trends expected to grow this year:

Orange wine

Now a category in its own right for a second year, these wines were very warmly welcomed by the judges, paving the way for modern and interesting wines that have not previously been frequently represented in the on-trade.

Our tasters expected the wines to be funky and natural in style, when in fact they were clean, elegant, and beautifully made. We hope that this category will go from strength to strength. 

As head of Judging, Christine Parkinson put it, ‘This year orange wine cemented its place in the mainstream. The wines we saw here should be on all kinds of wine lists.’

No and Low wine

We started to see the trend for wines with lower alcohol four or five years ago, but the category this year has really started to gain traction.

The competition is showing that this trend is moving in the right direction and we expect to see further growth in response to consumer appetite.

Less oak

In the past our judges have often complained that there was ill-judged use of oak chips in the house wines category. But this has been dialled back or disappeared – often allowing surprisingly good fruit quality to shine through at giveaway prices. It’s one of the reasons, for sure, that house reds did well this year.

A reining in of wood is also allowing the natural beauty of some often underperforming regions to shine through, and were excited to see how these categories develop next year.

Mid-weight reds

In the past we’ve seen a red grape variety dominate each competition. Cabernet, for instance, was often a star in the early years of SWA; last year Australian Shiraz took home a hatful of medals. For 2020 we didn’t see one red variety come to the fore, but rather a generally strong performance from a general style: lighter, mid-weight red wines.

Beaujolais was popular, so too red Burgundy and Pinot Noir (not always the case), plus Cinsault, Grenache and reds from north-west Spain and the Italian islands.

They might all be different, but there’s a common thread here suggesting both better winemaking, and tasters who are increasingly receptive to that medium-bodied style.

The £8-12 band

Rising costs might make it difficult to get really good wines under the £8 level, but this year we saw some excellent wines in the £8-12 band – what you might call the ‘basic plus one’ area. So, cru Beaujolais rather than Beaujolais; ‘reserve’ rather than ‘standard’ wines. These are very much in the £30-45 sweet spot for restaurants and make choosing one of these award-winning wines easy.


Despite Covid-19, The Sommelier Wine Awards 2020 produced an incredibly strong line-up of wines available to the hospitality sector and we look forward to seeing these trends develop over 2021.

Sadly the pandemic has had a huge impact on the hospitality industry, but we have high hopes and are looking forward to it bouncing back, and seeing some of the exceptional wines tasted during SWA appearing on wine menus across the UK.

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