12 Emerging Trends from Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth
Talking Trends with the President of Guildsomm
Geoff Kruth’s credibility is rock solid in the wine industry. He’s a winemaker. He’s one of only 236 Master Sommeliers in the world. He has an opinion, yet keeps an open mind. He’s the president of GuildSomm.com, a well-regarded non-profit organization of more than 10,000 wine professionals. But he is perhaps best known publicly as a featured character in the 2012 documentary SOMM, as the co-producer of the film SOMM: Into the Bottle, and as a producer of Esquire TV’s Uncorked.
Which is all to say that Kruth is uniquely qualified to speak on emerging trends within the alcoholic beverage industry, since he has fingers on the pulse of what’s hot for both consumers and the trade.
Here are twelve pithy assertions for what’s ahead, in classic Kruth language.
- Every trend is always a reaction to a previous trend. You can be sure that if we’re drinking low-alcohol wines now, our kids will be drinking high-alcohol wines later.
- In some ways the beer industry shot itself in the foot with craft beer, particularly with younger consumers. In the rush to fetishize extreme styles of beer – exactly how many hops can you put in a bottle? Many craft beer producers forgot to make them taste good.
- Craft beer needs to realign, and figure out how to compete without being extreme.
- Hot grape varieties? Mediterranean, broadly speaking.
- Bourbon’s popularity has peaked. Gin and agave spirits, including mezcal, have moved in.
- Vermouth has moved in at an even higher level, which is funny because it’s the kind of thing your grandmother drank.
- People are looking more down-market, are more value-oriented, but they aren’t looking for brands that seem cheap. It’s got to seem cool and authentic and at a more accessible price point. It’s more, “This interesting person is trying to make a cool wine for you at a price you could afford,” and not, “This winemaker who flies in a helicopter just got 100 points.”
- I see more people being interested in the DTC model as long as it has a personal touch from an in-between who isn’t a critic. They want a special sort of touch or a special expertise, or some way the consumer can identify with that person in the middle, whether it’s a retailer or supplier. There’s going to be more of this hybrid. It’s not, “I’m not going to send you my newsletter with points,” it’s more, “I’m going to send you a case of wine and tell you why you should be drinking them.”
- Some established wineries are going to have a harder time with DTC sales. We’re going to see a lot of fall off on their sales.
- Seeing a score in a magazine is not the only way to move boxes. Personal recommendations and experiences are also powerful. The consumer sees a wine recommendation on social media or they try it in a restaurant. Some person with some reach mentions on social media that they like a wine, and you start seeing all these orders. But people on social media don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed to. In ads you can seem obvious in that way, but it doesn’t work in social media.
- Retailers can draw a shopper’s attention to a particular wine in more ways than with a critic’s rating. Wine drinkers are looking for someone to tell them what they should buy. When it comes to shelf talkers, a score of 90 points from a well-known wine publication, or Joe’s Mom, or a staff pick are all pretty much equally effective at drawing attention.
- The theme that underscores all of the above, again and again, is authenticity. There’s a lot of marketing and a lot of bullsh*t in authenticity, but there is this desire to tap into what’s real. It has to fit the zeitgeist.
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