We Asked the Experts: What's Ahead for 2020

Last year it was all about rosé and putting everything in cans - so what do the experts predict is going to be big this year? We asked four in the know from the Australian drink industry: what they think is ahead in drinks for 2020? 

Charles Whitting, Editor of Beer & Brewer Magazine

Charlie Whitting, Editor of Beer and Brewer

Major beer trends for 2020 include the continued but slowing growth of craft and independent beer sales, although the number of breweries continues to rise. I expect these breweries to rely more and more on selling their beers in-house at their brewpubs, rather than selling to third parties. Ballistic have opened their third brewpub in QLD, while Stomping Ground are working to open their third in Melbourne.

Lower ABVs are also growing in popularity, whether it’s more sessionable beers or ones without any alcohol at all in them.

Another trend from the sharper end of craft beer is the increased popularity of wild beers, as adventurous brewers look to experiment with the yeast as much as the hops in their beers.

New additions to the brewing bill are also on the rise, with brewers putting increasingly interesting ingredients into their beers, including fruit, herbs, coffee and spices. Indigenous ingredients are being added to give an extra point of difference: as an example, Spinifex Brewing (WA) are doing this, as are Sobah (QLD), who are making non-alcohol beers using native ingredients.

Judy-Sarris, editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine

Judy Sarris, Editor of Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine

Champagne never goes out of fashion and rosé from both home and Southern France continues to flow. There’s continued interest in Mediterranean varieties as they seem to suit our climate so well, while pinot gris is taking a bit of the wind out of sauvignon blanc’s sails.

There’s a growing band seeking out less conventional wines crafted by smaller producers. In fact, wine drinkers are steadily becoming more adventurous, possibly fuelled by the fact that bars and restaurants are doing a good job of introducing them to a wonderful array of new and intriguing wines by the glass. 

Sustainability in vineyards is on the rise around the world, as some wine drinkers are actively sourcing organic and biodynamic wines. We may even see a bit of a trend towards vegan labelling. Millennials and Gen Ys in particular are avid fans of low-intervention wines as well as craft beer, while artisan spirits – especially gin – are enthusiastically collected and consumed across the board. At the other end of the scale, teetotallers, or those who simply want to drink less, can now choose from new and sophisticated ranges of low and non-alcoholic drinks. 

Finally, there will always be those who know what they love. They will not be abandoning their Barossa shiraz or Margaret River cabernet, or a whole gamut of good chardonnay, nebbiolo and pinot noir from home and abroad – and why should they?

Tyson Stelzer with RIEDEL Champagne Glass

Tyson Stelzer, International Champagne Expert

Australia is set for another big champagne year in 2020, upholding its mantle as the seventh-largest champagne market on earth, and the largest per head of population outside Europe! I believe discerning consumers this year will again be stepping up from entry non-vintage cuvées to explore prestige, rosé, vintage, grower and cooperative champagnes.

Prestige champagne will continue its dazzling growth curve, and while rosé will remain Australia’s most underperforming category, it too will post consistent growth and set a new record this year. This growth will continue to dent Australia’s obsession with large-house, entry-level non-vintage champagne. This can’t come a moment too soon. Of Champagne’s top markets, Australia has long been dominated by non-vintage champagne more than almost every other. 

Vintage champagne continues to decline in Australia, as it does everywhere, and yet it is widely and rightly heralded as champagne’s most underrated category of all. Production is minuscule and typically a strong step up from entry non-vintage blends.

Australia’s interest in champagne growers and cooperatives is second-lowest among Champagne’s biggest markets. The grower category is moving progressively away from the big retailers and increasingly into the hands of small importers, independent wine stores and progressive restaurants.

Ashley Pini, publishing editor of HIP Media

Ashley Pini, Publishing Editor of HIP Media

Each year we face challenges as the industry rationalises and re-invents itself, and 2020 will be no different. Taxes continue to impede growth, and there’s little political will to tackle it. So I think the most change will come in new category development such as hard (alcoholic) seltzers, and more local craft distillers and brewers as aforementioned impediments keep them from gaining international territory.

In spirits, I think we’ll see a greater emergence of premium-level rum, and the growth of tequila across the board. We’ve heard reports of tequila shortages but they’re unfounded; prices for Agave are high, but the supply is coming through.

Lower ABV products (including zero ABV) continue to grow, as will the Ready-to-Drink category. I think hard seltzers will start to get traction here, and I tip Canadian Club to get even bigger. They are already massive but continue to take big chunks out of the beer market. On beer, the craft revolution from WA will bring with it a new major player in Gage Roads, but continued purchasing from the dynamic duo of LION and CUB/Asahi will keep small and medium brewers dreaming of their pay-day.