Wine and Cocktail Trends for 2021: Here's What to Drink Throughout the New Year
There's no denying that COVID-19 has changed the way we socialize and the way we purchase and consume the products in our lives—and the world of drinks has been significantly transformed in the past year. While we look forward to the days when we're spending more time back at our favorite wine bar and less time imbibing over a Zoom happy hour, this era of staying home has sparked beverage trends that are only going to grow in 2021. Here's what we'll be drinking in the coming year.
Wine Meets Tech
The pandemic has changed a lot of our buying habits, and that's certainly true with wine. In 2019, Wines Vines Analytics reports that only 10.8 percent of wine retail was via e-commerce. In April this year, near the beginning of coronavirus-related lockdowns, there was a whopping 441 percent increase in online wine sales, Nielsen reports. Recent data tells us that this wasn't just panic-buying: Online wine sales have continued to rise, and in a survey of new customers to Wine.com, 88 percent said they planned to keep buying wine online and were happy with the experience. Odds are, we're all going to be buying a lot more wine online in 2021.
It's not just wine shopping websites that we'll be spending more time on: The other growing digital push where wine meets tech is in the world of smartphone apps. Apps like Drizly put wine-on-demand in your pocket as they connect you to local wine and liquor stores offering delivery within the hour. Drizly also saw a surge in sales this past spring, with a 550 percent increase over baseline in April—and now that we're drinking almost exclusively at home, that convenience is something we'll continue to take advantage of in 2021. It's not all about purchasing wine, though: Apps like Vivino have become an increasingly popular way to learn about wine, access wine reviews from your community, track what you're enjoying, and discover new bottles to try. Changes like curbside pickup have made it more challenging to get in-person recommendations at the wine store, so smartphone apps are on track to become an essential part of wine discovery.
Another trend that got a jump start thanks to the pandemic is pre-mixed cocktails. Making craft cocktails at home is a lot harder than it looks, but spirits brands are jumping in to solve that problem by creating delicious, high-quality, ready-to-drink cocktails packaged in bottles and cans.
Innovative brands like Drnxmyth are backed by bartenders and use fresh, cold-pressed organic ingredients—making it possible to order quality bottled cocktails from top mixologists to enjoy at home. Try their cucumber margarita ($12, drnxmyth.com) or strawberry mojito ($12, drnxmyth.com). Livewire's Honeydew Collins is a fun and layered mix of gin, honeydew, coconut, lime leaf, and elderflower in a can ($19.99/4 pack, theworldsbestbartenders.com). Other fantastic canned cocktails to look out for: Tanqueray's Sevilla Orange Gin and Soda ($12.99/4 pack, totalwine.com) and Crafthouse Cocktails Rum Old Fashioned ($4.49, totalwine.com).
Virtual Wine Tastings
With wineries required to limit capacity at their tasting rooms, many have started to offer virtual tours and tastings, giving wine lovers access to an experience that in the past would have required travel. What makes these virtual experiences so unique is that, in many cases, they're hosted by the winery owners or winemakers, and now you don't have to be an industry insider, top sommelier, or VIP to get up close and personal with them. For example, every Thursday, Palmaz Vineyards in Napa hosts a Family Tasting Hour where members of the Palmaz family guide registered guests through a featured tasting kit of mini bottles created especially for the virtual event. These two-way video conferences invite guests to interact, converse, and enjoy the real backstory on the wines and the estate.
And virtual tastings don't end with wine—some wineries like Kendall Jackson offer virtual cooking classes from their estate chefs, featuring recipes explicitly designed to pair. Chappellet Winery has offered a virtual wine and chocolate pairing experience, and Canvasback Wine has been known to invite guest chefs to demo hors d'oeuvres and dessert recipes. Other wineries even feature live music concerts and vineyards tours at their virtual events. Many wineries plan on continuing to expand their virtual offerings even when tasting rooms and travel reopen. Connecting directly with their fans virtually has been a great new frontier for wineries, and we can look forward to more creative and fun digital activations in the months ahead.
Drinks Subscription Boxes
With everything from razors and meal kits to vitamin and curated beauty boxes offered in the form of an automatic monthly shipment, wine and spirits are now making a play for the subscription space. For budding mixologists, subscription services like Cocktail Courier and Shaker & Spoon offer fresh inspiration with creative ingredients every month, making it easy to discover new flavor combinations and mixing techniques.
For wine lovers, there's a subscription box for virtually every palate, region, and interest. Cellar 503 offers a curated selection exclusively of small-production wines from Oregon, so you can explore all the small wineries the state has to offer without having to take a road trip to visit their tasting rooms. ēlicit Wine Project puts a fun twist on the subscription model, by letting shoppers completely customize each shipment, not only by variety or producer but also by occasion: options include "weeknight hang," "special occasions," and "day drinking." And Women Owned Wineries features a rotating selection of ethically-farmed wines from female owners with a mission to help create greater equity in the industry-- supporting women in business has never been so delicious. Wine isn't a one-size-fits-all experience, and now thanks to all of these niche options, you can explore your palate in the most convenient of ways.
Wines That Give Back
The growing movement of brands that incorporate social responsibility into their business model has started to permeate the wine industry. Putting our dollars behind products that also do good has become a high priority when making buying decisions and wineries are taking note and supporting some worthy causes.
Napa's Frank Family Vineyards has been making waves with their #FrankForACause campaigns, which have supported causes from Autism Speaks to The James Beard Foundation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Environmentally conscious wine lovers may want to pick up a bottle of Lail Vineyards' Blueprint Wines, where 10 percent of online sales go to organizations fighting against climate change. To support arts education, try Halleck Vineyard Find Your Light Pinot Noir, a partnership with singer Josh Groban's Find Your Light Foundation. For the past 12 years, J. Lohr has donated a portion of the proceeds from every bottle of Carol's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to fund mammograms for women who would otherwise be unable to afford them. This program is called Touching Lives, and it has lived up to its name, providing more than 7,800 mammograms (and counting) to date. And Benovia Winery in Sonoma has created a special bottling, Courageous Care Pinot Noir, that salutes today's heroes who are selflessly treating COVID-19 patients. A percentage of proceeds from every purchase will be donated to Feeding America and Direct Relief in their honor.