SWA 2017 trends predictions...

The entries are in, the bottles are being coded and the tasters finalised. With SWA 2017 kicking off in less than three weeks, Competition Director Chris Losh takes a look at some of the trends from this year’s entries.

After pausing for breath in 2016, we’ve seen a big jump in entries this year, but it’s not been across the board. Some categories have stayed static – or even fallen; others have seen mahoosive increases. It tells us a lot about what the trade thinks is hot in the on-trade at the moment.

English fizz, for instance. It’s hard to believe that just five years ago we got very few bottles. Now it’s almost as big as Champagne. In fact, at this rate it might even surpass it next year. Always popular with the somms, I’d expect a hatful of Golds here.

Tawny port, too, is another category that’s really taken off. For reasons that we don’t really understand, it’s developed to become by far the most popular of the port styles in this competition and is thoroughly dominant again this year. There’s never a shortage of amazing top wines, but it’ll be interesting to see how some of the younger styles get on.

One trend that we have been picking up on is the growth of red Rhone varieties in the New World. Although Cab/Merlot/Cab Franc numbers are up on last year, a big increase in Shiraz, Grenache et al means that they have almost overtaken Bordeaux varieties for the first time ever.

This, to an extent, was expected – but we didn’t expect Chardonnay to lose its number one spot to Sauvignon Blanc. The cooler styles of Chardie have been popular in this competition over the last five years, and we did get a good increase this year, again – which is handy given the impending shortages of Chablis. But Sauvignon numbers really took off and predominantly thanks to a truck-load of entries from New Zealand and South Africa, it’s overtaken Chardonnay this year.

Big mover in the New World, though? Malbec. We got fully twice as many entries as last year – including a good showing from Chile – so it’ll be interesting to see if that translates into medals. As for ‘trends to watch’, for the first time ever we have a flight of New World ‘Italian Varieties’ too. Will we look back on this in a decade’s time and realise that this was the start of the Next Big Thing?

Some of the most amazing numbers we’ve seen this year, though, have been in Europe. Last year was, admittedly, on the back of a couple of small (and sometimes difficult) years for growers in France and Italy, in particular. But with some good vintages to work with we’ve seen some astonishing increases this year. Take Italy. Reds are up 30%, and whites up 50% (!) on last year. They’re both record entries by miles. Our tasters should love that!

In France, it’s heartening to see a lorra lorra Burgundy and Chablis again – and the return of Beaujolais, with the lovely 2015's on show – will definitely be eagerly anticipated, too.

Finally, the growth in interesting wines from outside Europe’s big-name regions continues. Turkey’s red entry might be down a bit this year, but the whites are up (which will please the many tasters who have developed a taste for Narince). And we’ve got increased numbers from Slovenia and Greece too.

So all in all, some scintillating stuff to look forward to in a fortnight’s time. Hope to see you there!

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