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Sommelier Belinda Chang Predicts 2018 Will Bring a Return to Wine Classics

Chang expects to see more traditional wines, fewer experiments, and a new European hot spot for oenophiles.

Belinda Chang Photo: Courtesy

Belinda Chang is a James Beard Award-winning sommelier who believes that in 2018, “everyone is going to live their best wine-drinking life, Oprah-style.” Now, that could mean anything from you get a 100-point Cabernet, and you get 100-point Cabernet, and you get a 100-point Cabernet, to oenophiles becoming the focus of endless speculation about their political aspirations. What matters most is that Chang sees good living and great wine in our near future. Now that’s an awfully sunny forecast.

What do you anticipate being the main storyline regarding wine in 2018?

I’m looking forward to a return to classics in 2018. The last few years, the wine world has experienced a sort of wild and crazy experimental phase. But now a lot of sommeliers are pulling out their dust-covered copy of the old Clive Coates book (The Wines of Burgundy) and reacquainting themselves with the appellations of Burgundy. Gueridon, or tableside wine service, is a bit of a forgotten art that is coming back in a big way this year.

How do you feel about the prevalence of wine apps and websites?

As much as they annoy some sommeliers and people working in retail shops, I find the Internet and these crowd-sourced wine apps to be invaluable sources of information. You no longer have to take the word of, say, some kid who looks like he tried his first glass of wine three months ago. I use them myself all the time. Especially if I’m in a place that doesn’t have a particularly great wine education program — I look at the list, and just Google wines I want to know more about. There’s certainly no shame in doing so.

Besides the Internet, what other recent technological developments have had a profound impact on the way wine is sold and consumed?

The Coravin has changed the restaurant industry’s wine by-the-glass programs forever. Because of it, there’s nothing you can’t drink by the glass now. You want a $1,000 glass of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche? Sure, let’s do it. You can pour the first glass, and that bottle will be good for months without any perceptible change in the quality of the wine. It’s an amazing innovation.

Which under-the-radar wine region will emerge as a hot spot in 2018?

I’d say Portugal, for sure. We’ve all had a glass of port with dessert, but what many people don’t know — yet — is that for decades now winemakers in Portugal have been making epic blended reds on par with Bordeaux and the great meritage wines of the world. These Portuguese wines are really exciting, and I think you’re going to see them popping up on more and more people’s radars this year.

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