The 2010s were eventful for the Michigan wine industry, and that momentum shows no sign of slowing down. At the start of a new decade, winery representatives from around the state reflect on which big, recent industry trends they expect to continue and thrive in 2020 and beyond.
Experience-Based Wine Tasting
Increasingly, guests at Michigan tasting rooms want more than a glass of wine — they want a memorable experience.
“Over the past five years or so … we’ve seen a shift from people coming to taste wine/buy bottles to take home to people coming and wanting to spend money on glasses of wine and hang out on the patio,” says Marie-Chantal Dalese, president and CEO of Chateau Chantal on the Old Mission Peninsula. “They’re looking at us more like an experience rather than a shop.”
As more millennials frequent local tasting rooms, they’re choosing to attend wine-related events and take advantage of immersive educational opportunities.
“We have a lot of young people that come in and want to spend the money to do the full private tour and tasting experience and really see how the wine is made,” says Jenna Veiga, marketing and events manager at nearby Mari Vineyards.
In recent years, Michigan wineries have grown increasingly adventurous with their packaging.
Around the state, more wineries are utilizing cans, which are appealing for many reasons, says Brian Lesperance, vice president of Fenn Valley Vineyards in southwestern Michigan.
“It makes wine more portable,” he says. “It keeps it fresher longer. It’s better for the environment. It’s less expensive for the consumer.
“I don’t think it’s going to displace bottles by any stretch, but I think it has a real potential to be as strong or stronger than some of the other alternate formats, like bag in a box.”
Rick DeBlasio, general manager of Shady Lane Cellars in northern Michigan, says canned wine is a practical option for people engaged in outdoor activities.
“For us up here, being close to the beaches and camping and boating and all the outdoor activity that goes on — and golfing — cans make a lot of sense when you can grab a four-pack and put it in a cooler,” he says.
Kegged wine is another burgeoning packaging trend that consumers may soon notice cropping up in restaurants.
“We’re seeing a lot of restaurants take one of their beer lines and, using nitrogen just like they would for some beer, push wine — red and white — out by the glass,” Lesperance says. “What it’s doing is it’s really bringing that by-the-glass product price point down closer to a beer, and you’re guaranteeing a fresh glass of wine because your headspace is going to be filled with nitrogen instead of air.”
The crew at Shady Lane is planning to keg some wine this year, which DeBlasio describes as “an exciting prospect, especially for the consumer marketplace” beyond the tasting room environment.
Orange wine has been around for millennia, but its recent resurgence makes this a trendy libation in Michigan and beyond. Amber wine, as it’s sometimes called, is made from white grapes that have been fermented on the skins, resulting in a more tannic, phenolic beverage.
“It’s got more of an herbaceous quality — think almost like an herbaceous tea,” Veiga says. “A lot of people who like things like sour beers or IPAs, they tend to like these as well because they have kind of more of those quirky flavor profiles.”
Shady Lane makes one called Pomeranz, which it describes as “orange, amber and esoteric.”
But just like IPAs, orange wine isn’t for everyone.
“It’s a love or hate thing,” says Caryn Chachulski, wine club and marketing manager at Bonobo Winery on the Old Mission Peninsula. “Some people really like it; some people don’t.”
Either way, it’s here to stay.
“I know for us, at least, it’s going to be a staple item for our wine menu, and we’re going to keep doing it as long as the crop allows,” Veiga says. “But I think that you’ll see more and more pop up over the next few years as well.”
While it’s difficult for local winery reps to forecast new developments in the industry, DeBlasio has one sunny prediction for the state: “Personally, I think Michigan is going to lead the way as far as wine trends go in our regional cold-climate styles.”