Sande's Picks: Wine is trending up

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A conversation with Art Gonyea, wine sales representative for National Distributors, reveals some interesting consumer trends in wine in Maine.

Art has been involved in wine sales for 34 years and has recently become a certified specialist of wine by the Society of Wine Educators. He notes that customers in Maine are “trading up” and buying higher quality wines at retail and in restaurants, which are offering better quality wines by the glass to complement upgraded food menus.

Consumers now have greater knowledge about wine because of exposure to in-store tastings, wine dinners and pairings, and instant information through wine apps that allow users to scan wine labels with their smartphones and get instant ratings and descriptions.

What wines and trends are hot right now?

Roses are still gaining in popularity. France remains No. 1, but new-world production from California, Australia, and South America is rapidly catching up. Organic and vegan wines (capitalizing on all things plant-based) and bio-dynamic wines (grown and made ethically and sustainably) are developing market niches. More winemakers use screw caps to protect quality. Boxed wine sales are up while large bottle sales are down, again as a nod to preserve quality. And more wines than ever are created by blending several grape varieties. (Blending is a very old-world, European practice that has caught on in recent years in newer production areas. It makes a wine that is generally smoother and easier to drink.)

Interestingly, in southern Maine (and moving north) wine taps are being tried. Wine is stored in small kegs and can be served by pulling on a tap along with beer.

And, wine and food tourism is exploding around the world.

Food & Beverage Events in the Midcoast

March 29

Harraseeket Inn, Dinner Series New England Night, 6 p.m.: Enjoy four courses including haddock, lobster, Maine duck, blueberry croissant bread pudding. Beverages are priced separately; 162 Main St., Freeport, 865-9377, $55 per person, reservations required.

Flight Deck Brewing Second Anniversary Extravaganza, noon-9 p.m. Food, live music, new beer release; 11 Atlantic Ave., Brunswick, Brunswick Landing, 504-5133.

March 30

The Brunswick Inn, “A Salute to Italian Farmhouse Cooking” dinner, 5:30 p.m.-close. Four courses including Italian fish stew, polenta with short rib, chicken liver pate crostini, chocolate ricotta cake. Other choices are offered as well. Beverages priced separately; 165 Park Row, Brunswick, 729-4914, $45 per person, reservations required.

March 31

Tao Yuan Restaurant, Gastronomic Tour of Shanghai, 4-8 p.m. Special menu filled with traditional regional dishes. Beverages priced separately. This dinner continues their gastronomic tour of China, which runs through May 26; 22 Pleasant St., Brunswick, 725-9002, $48 per person, reservations highly recommended.

April 5

The Brunswick Inn, “Tapas and Sangria,” 5:30 p.m.-close; 165 Park Row, Brunswick, 729-4914.

April 11

Now You’re Cooking monthly wine tasting, 5 p.m.; 49 Front St., Bath, 443-1402, free.

Food Features

Azure Café, 123 Main St., Freeport, is offering “Shuck Mondays” $1 oyster night, every Monday from 5-9 p.m. through Memorial Day; 865-1237.

Frontier Café, 14 Maine St., Brunswick, Fort Andross Mill, is featuring Cuban food and drink specials, 725-5222.

Fat Boy Drive-In opens for the season (under old ownership) March 28; 111 Bath Road, Brunswick, 729-9431.

Sande Updegraph lives in Brunswick and is a longtime food writer. She can be reached at sandeupdegraph@gmail.com.

Chef Lindsey Seibel of The Brunswick Inn creates an Italian Farmhouse Dinner on March 30.

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