New York’s Drinking Scene Is Evolving Again — And Wine Palates Are Shifting

The wine market in the U.S. overall has been volatile, to say the least, in the last few years. Younger drinkers have slipped away from the category as hard seltzers and craft beers have penetrated the drinks business, while a growing health-conscious movement has brought low and no-ABV styles, as well as cannabis, hemp and CBD-infused drinks, into the forefront. According to the Silicon Valley Bank State of the Wine Industry Report, this is the second year in a row that wine consumption has dropped.

This has been echoed in New York City and the surrounding areas as well. But, there is good news here. The wine scene is still vibrant. And even with an influx of new types of drinks and the shifting habit of drinkers, one thing is for certain — patrons are looking for unique, exciting wines and are willing to pay a bit more for them than they used to. Lower priced wine is being overlooked in favor of higher-quality wine with a higher price point. This has led to a bright spot — while consumption has seemed to stagnate a bit, dollar sales of the classic drink have shown a slight increase overall (even though volume consumed has dropped to some degree) as more expensive wines with interesting stories behind them are piquing consumer interest.

“People are curious about the people behind the bottle. They want to know if it’s women-owned, sustainable, biodynamic, backgrounds, doing a significant amount of charity work,” says Amy Racine, beverage director at New York, NY-based JF Restaurants. While sommelier, beverage director and server education is key to growing wine programs, there are a few drinking trends in New York that are also helping wine to regain its premium position.

What’s Worth Sipping?

Not a new trend, but certainly one that is gaining new ground in New York-based drinking establishments is premium pour programs. Whether using Coravin or other specialized preservation machines, wine drinkers across New York are heading to local watering holes itching to try that brand new Champagne from an exclusive house; a red that has a limited run; or an all-time favorite, well-known white that purchasing a bottle of simply can’t be justified for one reason or the next.

“Guests are very much interested in higher-dollar pours. They are spending about the same amount on wine as last year with volume only slightly lower. We’ve expanded many of our programs to include Coravin pours and premium pairings and they are moving,” says Racine.

Bubbly is still highly trending in New York, a phenomenon that has continually increased since the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. However, a premium pour program has allowed restaurants, bars and cocktail lounges to offer the latest vintages from significant Champagne houses with a high price point, as well as smaller, craft ones that tell a story.

“With Champagne, it’s really about preserving the combination of the wine and the freshness,” says Amelie Derrieux‑Sable, director of marketing, Champagne Henriot. “Premium pour programs are definitely a tool that is effective with introducing and supporting by-the-glass options for top establishments where they are looking for high end vintage Champagnes as an offer.” She also notes that premium pour programs allow establishments to keep the same Champagne house in the rotation but allowing drinkers to try new things from that house, especially one that has become a bit of a fan favorite.

While premium pours are catering to many consumers, there are also several other trends that have become increasingly popular, experts have noted.

  • Wine-Based Drinking Experiences: Racine explains that something that’s taken off in her restaurants is the ability to create Instagramable moments and experiences that allow imbibers to have a bit of fun. “Guests are hungry for great visuals and experiences,” notes Racine, who has tailored her menu to include these types of things. For example, one of the locations she oversees has started offering a Champagne Buffet, which the brand pairs with a custom raw bar. She also noted that there is a renewed interest in vermouth — not just as a mixer, but also on its own. To that, she has shaped up a vermouth flight, which is a pour of three different vermouths and accoutrements to mix and match.
  • Rosé All Day: According to Alex Diard, global brand ambassador for Chateau d’Esclans, rosé has become increasingly popular to drink year-round. This is different for the region, as this style of wine used to be reserved for spring and summer sipping. Diard has concluded that there is a reason for this: A drinking local movement has hit the state. “With a growing emphasis on local and sustainable food, there has also been an increase in demand for local and regional wines. New York now offers many different rosé from different local producers,” he says. However, he explains that there is one type of rosé that is still tops among drinkers in New York — rosés from the South of France. “Provence style rosé remains the most popular among those drinkers in New York,” he says, something he has both witnessed and noted through research.
  • Wine Cocktails: Diard also explains that he’s noticed more beverage directors putting wine-based cocktails on the menu. “Bars and restaurants are experimenting with wine-based drinks, such as sangria, spritzes, and wine cocktails made with vermouth and other fortified wines,” he says. The more distinctive, the better.

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