The VinePair Podcast: What Will 2023 Be Like for the Drinks Biz?

To kick off 2023, Adam, Joanna, and Zach make some predictions about what the year will bring: from massive lawsuits about what exactly beer is, to a moment in the sun for the Pisco Sour, from the looming threat of ingredient labeling for drinks to more momentum behind boxed wine, and much more.

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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington. I’m Zach Geballe.

A: This is The “VinePair Podcast.” Whoo, I’m feeling it today. We are recording this pre.

J: What? Yes.

A: I was pretending that it was the day after New Year’s, but it’s fine. It’s not. We recorded early.

Z: I will say there is no better timing for New Year’s Eve than on a Saturday. You get that double day off afterwards.

A: That’s great.

Z: For most people badly needed. For those of you who are on day two of your New Year’s Eve hangover, we feel you.

J: We see you.

Z: Oh, yes. We see you.

A: We see you.

Z: Fellow geriatric millennials. Yes, we know, we know.

J: Yes, that’s us.

A: I’m going to propose something crazy, which is that because we’re rolling right into this, let’s just get into the predictions for 2023 as opposed to talking about stuff we’ve drank because we are recording this early so that we can all have a much-needed break. Every year we try to do an episode like this at the very beginning of the year to talk about the trends we’re seeing and what we think is coming next. It’s always fun to do. We would love to hear what your predictions are as well. Hit us up at podcast of, and let us know what you see coming in 2023. I’d like to kick it off to Zach first. Zach, what bold prediction do you have for 2023?

Z: This is appropriate at the time we’re recording it because one of VinePair’s star writers, Dave Infante, just dropped a piece about this absolutely bonkers lawsuit going on in the beer world.

A: Yes, that’s amazing.

Z: We’ll link to it in the show notes. Basically, Anheuser-Busch and Constellation are like at war over Corona Hard Seltzer. There’s a lot in the piece. I’m not going to recap this. The point is that we are potentially looking at a situation where a jury of randos is going to determine what the legal definition of beer is, which you might think, “Well, who cares?” Actually, this has profound potential impacts on many industries, not just directly the beer industry, but of course, the F&B industry, which has largely succeeded because it’s been considered beer from a legal and tax standpoint. Since there is no legal definition for hard seltzer, it’s like a category that consumers understand, but it’s not a separate beverage alcohol category according to the TTB, et cetera. This is an absolute batshit thing. Again, read Dave’s piece, he covers it in really good detail. The point is like almost no matter what the verdict is here, it’s going to have pretty significant impacts on the drinks industry. I think if the jury finds that essentially hard seltzer isn’t beer, which would seem like a pretty reasonable thing for just the average person to conclude because if you put that in front of someone and said, “Ah, here, I got you a beer,” and it’s a Papaya Guava Hard Seltzer, they’re going to be like, “Excuse me.” Totally within the realm of possibility that a jury could find that fact hard seltzer is not beer. Obviously there are potentials for appeals stuff down the road, but I can’t wait. It’s going to be bonkers. It’s one of the things I’m weirdly most excited about about this year, which maybe says some things about me. I don’t know. That was the first one that sprung to mind.

J: I think that’s a good one. Speaking of Dave and beer, I think something else we’ll continue to see because we’ve started seeing this already in 2022 is more diversification in the brewing space coming out of beer companies specifically. For these bigger brands pivoting away from being breweries or beer companies and becoming beverage companies. We’ll see more hard seltzers, hard lemonades, hard teas, hard- you name it from these brands as we see beer’s share shrinking a little bit or continue to shrink, I suppose. I think that that’s super interesting and something we’ll be watching in 2023.

A: Absolutely. I think another thing that’s going to continue to happen in 2023 is the rise of spirits in general. I think it’s going to continue to be the category that dominates the way that people consume. I think that has a lot to do with pricing with what people think is things they can understand.

J: It’s like the best value somehow.

A: What we’ve talked about for years and years and years is that wine has continued to refuse to adapt. It has continued to refuse to talk to a younger generation, to be out in front with a younger generation. They’ve decided to say f*ck off. Basically, the spirits industry is willing to talk to us, is willing to throw events with us, is willing to be seen at the publications that we read, and be at the restaurants that we are. Then it’s much more accessible both via price, and what we can understand. Wine just has continued to not do that. I think you’re going to see some of the bigger wine companies realize that, and go hard into spirits. You know how many even importers and distributors I’ve heard from who say that they used to be only wine-focused, that are now launching spirits portfolios? That’s not out of coincidence. They’re also nervous. They’re going to get squeezed. I think it’s just going to continue to happen. The only way that this changes for wine is if wine finally starts embracing and saying, “You know what? We do need to leave this older generation behind. They’re fine. They’re going to continue to be okay with us. It’s cool if we move our resources down, and try to finally talk to some Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z, because we really need to.” I also think that wine is going to have to finally admit that the formats in which it sells its products don’t work for the general consumer. I think as consumers are continuing to be mindful with what they drink, they recognize that they can buy a really nice bottle of bourbon and drink it over multiple nights. As much as wine heralded the creation of Coravin, they never really helped grow Coravin, in a way, with consumers. They all heralded it for popping really expensive bottles because that’s how they wanted to use it, but they never actually saw the utility in allowing consumers-

J: Like everyday drinking?

A: -to drink a $25 bottle over the course of multiple nights. I think, at this point, Coravin’s a failure. It never has gained any real traction with the general consumer, and I don’t think it will any time soon. I think that the wine industry could start experimenting with half-bottles more, especially fine wines. I recognize that these are expensive, a lot of wine, presumably. Actually, half-bottles are more expensive than full bottles. I do think that that is how the consumer wants to drink. They want to be able to open that bottle and have that one or two glasses, or split that. That is why we’re seeing what we’re seeing. The idea for most consumers is that they’re going to come home and open a bottle of wine, and not be able to consume the entire bottle of wine that night because they want to drink mindfully, is becoming a real thing. When I ask people why they don’t drink as much wine anymore, it’s one of the first things I hear, is, “Because I don’t want to finish a bottle of wine, and I don’t know how to preserve it,” or, “I don’t feel confident in preserving it.” They’re just not doing it. I think that’s going to continue to grow in 2023.

J: I was going to say, I think the big opportunity here, and we’ve started seeing it as well, is in, like you said, these different formats and in boxed wine specifically, but I feel like the boxed wine, when the product and the liquid itself is very good, is appealing to a younger generation. I do hope we see more of that for wine’s sake, and that instead of just nice labels, we do continue to see good wine in–

A: It’s interesting. When we poll our staff, some of the boxed wines that come in that are now higher-end, they recognize the wine that’s inside that’s better.

J: Yes.

Z: Yes.

A: They do. They recognize when it says it’s from Provence, and this rosé was made by this winemaker. They recognize that, and they’re much more open to it. I think, again, Tablas Creek is going to lead the way in 2023 with this. I think this is going to be huge for them with putting their higher-end wines in boxes. You should see a lot more of it because, again, consumers, just because they want to drink a boxed wine doesn’t mean they want the wine to be cheap and shitty.

Z: Yes.

J: Yes, Zach wrote a great piece on this for us earlier this year.

A: Yes.

Z: Thank you.

J: I think the opportunity is there.

A: Yes, I do, too.

Z: Yes. I think it comes back to that exact point that we’ve been making about the ease of having a bottle of spirits at home that you enjoy, that you can go to at any moment. That is something that even a half-bottle of wine can’t really give you, the flexibility of a box of wine, whatever is in it, whether it’s white, red, pink, orange, whatever, probably not sparkling, haven’t quite gotten there yet, but in a way that the flexibility, the long-lived nature of these wines. If wine companies were, I think, savvy, and I know some of them are, they would invest that money that Adam was talking about, moving around from focusing on heavy glass bottles, aimed at boomers and stuff, to really being like, “We’re going to put really good wine in these boxes. We’re going to do what we can to keep the price manageable, but we’re also going to spend a lot of money reminding you that a 3-liter box of wine is like four bottles of wine. Yes, it might cost you $60, $70 for a box of wine, but you’re getting four bottles of wine worth of liquid in there. It fits in your small apartment, it’s easy to store, it doesn’t go bad quickly. There are a lot of really, really compelling arguments to be made for the format. As we said, it takes consumers, but it also takes people in the industry at a scale— Again, I wrote about Tablas Creek. I’m really glad that they took the steps they’ve taken. Certainly, for a very, very well-known winery like them with an incredibly sterling reputation for quality has seen the light on this. That’s great. They can shift opinion within the industry, I think, quickly.

J: Yes, either way.

A: Yes.

Z: You need financial might that goes beyond a family-owned winery and a commitment to not just putting the product in the format, but also really supporting it with advertising and frankly supporting it in the channels where it’s going to matter in grocery stores. Making sure that there is some way to differentiate expensive or relatively expensive, high-quality boxed wine from the things that currently dominate the market, which is to say both are fine. There’s nothing wrong per se with a $20 box of wine, but it is not going to generally appeal to the same consumer. That was a piece of all this conversation on boxed wine that I think is important to say is like you’re trying to capture a consumer who does not currently buy boxed wine, not just get people who buy boxed wine to triple their outlay for a box of wine.

J: Their perception needs to change.

A: You’re going after the consumer that’s buying premium bourbon and premium tequila, and you want them to consider you in the same set when they have a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. They’re going to do that with a box. They’re not going to do that with an expensive heavy bottle because then they think the bottle is going to go bad, and they’re going to dump it, and they’re not going to buy it. What else you got, Zach?

Z: Another thing that we talked about on the podcast relatively recently, but I think is again going to be a huge part of the conversation in 2023 is we have this looming specter of required nutritional facts/ingredient labeling coming to beverage alcohol. Again, I’m not going to go deep into this because we covered it in, I think, a really comprehensive way on the podcast in the last couple of months when the notice from the TTB came out. If you don’t think this is going to have big impact on the drink space in 2023, I think you have not been paying attention. We don’t know what the TTB’s guidelines are going to be yet. We will again come back to this when they released them. We have more than we can say definitively, but again, this is going to be a big story in drinks because it hasn’t been prior. A part of the success for certain drinks brands has been the, “Hey, we’re putting our calorie counts right on the package.” Certain drinks seltzers, some light beers et cetera, have really leaned into the low-ish calorie counts. The massive effects on the entire industry that will come from presumably some kind of required labeling, at least for large-scale brands and production, if not every single bottle can bag, whatever, of beverage alcohol it’s sold in the country, it’s going to be massive. Again, it’s hard at this point to see exactly what direction that’s going to go because we don’t have the guidelines. I wish I could make a more definitive prediction, getting inside the head of the people at the TTB is impossible. I’m not going to try. I do think it is very important to remind our listeners that this is a change that you will likely see by the end of 2023 on store shelves in some capacity. Be on the lookout.

A: Yes, totally.

J: Okay, I’ve got maybe it’s like a micro trend.

A: Cool.

J: It’s just something I’ve been mulling over and talking to everyone about: The Pisco Sour, Pisco and Pisco Sour, I think, is it’s going to have a moment-

A: Interesting.

J: -in 2023, because I’m seeing it on menus already. Some really fancy ones like Veronica, the bar in New York City, has multiple Pisco Sours on its menu already. I think we have this interest in cocktails from people that will make them more open-minded to a drink like this. Then also, this turn or willingness to have more decadent drinks that we’ve seen with like the Espresso Martini and the Piña Colada and things like that. I think the egg-white-based part of the Pisco Sour, also there’ll be more willing to try it, and it will proliferate.

A: I think that’s true. I think there will be more Pisco Sour, especially in certain cities. It may not go national, but I think definitely in certain cities for sure.

J: I’m calling it.

Z: It’s like the visual appeal of the drink is just like the Espresso Martini is so central to I think it’s trendiness, I guess. I guess we’ll maybe revisit when we get to the end of 2023, I wonder if it will be localized to the Pisco Sour or if egg-white drinks writ large will have their moment again because there was definitely a period maybe a decade ago where they were big. That was I think not so much because of-.

J: Then people freaked out.

Z: Yes, I think it’s not so much for social media reason I think it was like I just — The novelty of it, relative novelty. Obviously, the drink recipes had been around for a while, but they were totally out of cocktail culture for a long time because they’re difficult and laborious and frankly weird to a lot of people. I do think that their ability to be so vivid, especially in pictures and to some extend, video is definitely a point in their favor.

J: Yes. I think you can also make them vegan with Aquafaba or whatever other developments people have come up with.

Z: I have never gotten the Aquafaba to work. I get them to foam a little bit at home. I’ve tried. It just tastes like you’re drinking hummus. It’s hard to avoid.

A: It’s like you’re drinking hummus.

Z: Drinking hummus. I’m just saying.

A: I’ve just never seen the appeal of Aquafaba. I get it that it’s vegan.

Z: That is the appeal. That is-

A: There’s a lot of places that do it now. It’s like, “Oh, I’m scared of eggs.” Don’t be scared of eggs.

Z: Eggs are our friend.

A: This is maybe probably a microtrend, too. When we start thinking about the things that happen around certain times of year, and I know it because we’re close to the holidays from this year. I do think that there’s going to be a Coquito boom. I think you’re seeing that with what happens in food where everyone all of a sudden embraces the panettone, like, “Cool. That’s great.” Because eggnog is, for people who like it, delicious, but there’s a lot of other opportunities out there for these other international drinks that also around the holidays. I think Puerto Rico being so engrained in America as well, so many Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. Puerto Rico is an American territory after all. I think it’s going to be more, and more, and more, and it’s a fun drink that I think people are going to embrace because it’s similar yet different. The panettone is basically a f*cking  fruitcake.

J: You just hate the panettone.

A: I like it. It’s fine. It’s dry bread, but I just feel like-

Z: It has raisins in it, Adam. What could you not love?

A: Yes, it’s weird all of a sudden everyone’s like, “This is the greatest thing ever.” That’s what’s going to happen with the Coquito.

J: That’s actually good.

A: Yes, it’s delicious for a milkshake. Last week. Yes, I think that’s going to be big. I think you’re going to see other seasonal things like that happen from around the world where we start to embrace these other drinks.

J: I hope so.

A: I feel it.

J: You feel it?

Z: I have a trend that’s connected to this, too, which is like, again, a continuation of something that we’ve been saying over the last couple years, which is, this interesting middle finger to health consciousness that a certain part of the drinks industry or the drinks trends are showing. Where it’s like, I think we are seeing whether it’s these wintry, boozy milkshakey drinks to things like a Mudslide, et cetera. I think there is this deep longing for — there’s always a countervailing force. As we’re talking about within ingredient labelling earlier. At the same time as you’re getting this inundation of a certain kind of branding and marketing towards low cal, low carb, et cetera. I think there’s also a lot of people who especially when they’re out, part of I think the success of the Espresso Martini is the visual appeal, and part of it is like it feels like you’re being a little bit bad, right?

J: Yes.

Z: It’s sweet. It’s got espresso in it, so whatever your feelings about that are, it’s boozy, and it’s like an indulgent drink. I do think that we are in this period of time where people are — for whether it was looking to indulge because life during Covid was pretty bleak for some people to just life is pretty bleak for some people. We won’t really go there. I do think you’re going to see a continued popularity on this opposite side of the spectrum from the health-conscious drinks. I think those will also continue to be popular, and people might wildly oscillate between the two in some cases. I do think that a place where cocktail bars and restaurants can again distinguish themselves just like something Pisco Sour, it can be a decadent indulgent drink that people might not make it home for a variety of reasons like maybe, even if people have built out their home bars, do they have creme de menthe at home? I hope not. That’s where I think we’re going to see whether it’s rich, and boozy, and sweet, or just fruity and sweet, or who knows what. I think these drinks that basically give a middle finger to calorie counts are going to continue to be popular because part of what people want when they drink, and when they go out to drink is that sense of escapism and indulgence. I think people are realizing that.

J: Yes. We see it with bourbon, and we see it with every other spirit trying to evoke bourbon as well, and we see whether our pastry stouts and the like.

A: Yes, I agree.

J: What else do you got?

A: I don’t know. There’s so many here to think about what could happen or what couldn’t happen for the rest of 2023. One of the ones I feel like it keeps being cocktails because cocktails, they’re just moving in trends more. I think we will see the spritz continue to be a very popular drink, but not with Aperol. I think there’s going to be-

J: Alt spritzes.

A: -Alt spritzes, lots of Alt spritzes. Campari Spritz, more Amaro Spritzes, more other brands that are out there, that make delicious spritzes as like in New York called Lemone. There’s a bunch of these spritzes that I think will continue to be very popular. I think it’s the spritz has the potential to become really the official brunch cocktail sort of supplanting the Mimosa. I think you’re going to see a lot more people like it. It’s really fun to drink. There’s lots of different flavor variations. Let’s be honest, the Mimosa has been blah forever, it’s not that interesting of a drink. It’s orange juice and bubbly. The fact that you’ll see more alt spritzes allows people to drink spritzes that are based on their own flavor profile, like, what they like more bitter, more herbal, more lemon-flavored, more citrus-flavored. I think that’s definitely going to be a big thing in 2023.

J: Yes.

A: Anything else? Let’s see here.

Z: Well, I have two more. I have one serious one and one slightly less serious one. Let’s go with the serious one here, which is that I do think that we are going to continue to see weird random disruptions, whether you would consider them supply chain issues or things connected to continued global instability. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I feel like we’re going to have three times in 2023 where it’s going to be like, “Oh, suddenly, no one can find cardboard boxes.” I don’t know, whatever the thing is. We do just seem to be in this period of time where whether it’s again continuing ripple effects from Covid-related shortages to, again, Alpha mentioned global instability to who knows what that we’re going to get one or two or three of these again, random things like carbon dioxide has been an issue for beer, possibly. It’s very strange. You would think one thing in this world we would not be short of was CO2, but apparently, we are, hard to believe. I don’t have a more specific one. I am not a logistics person. My brain starts to melt when I try to read about how modern-day logistics works, but the era of just-in-time shipping and all that kind of stuff is very fraught for disruption and because we don’t have the ability to completely rebuild the global infrastructure around trade and shipping, it’s going to continue to be jittery and weird and hard to predict which is maybe not a bold prediction but is a prediction nonetheless.

J: Yes. I have one for beer.

A: Okay.

Z: Yes.

J: Obviously, we have over 9,000 craft brewery, breweries in the United States at this point. I’m sure that number will continue to grow, but I think what we’re going to see less of is this idea that this expansion. I think they’re going to open. I think they’re going to stay small. They’re not going to try to open in the region or across the country, locations across the country. I think breweries are going to open, and they’re going to stay local, and they’re just going to deepen their local footprint instead of looking for these opportunities to expand, which are quite small at this point. This is something we’ve talked about and something we’ve explored in different pieces on the site. It doesn’t seem like there’s a business opportunity for that kind of expansion in craft brewing anymore.

A: Yes, I agree. My last world prediction is wine-related. I think that we’re going to see two things happen this year. One is, I think we’re going to see the larger wine companies continue to shed their very low-end brands. I think we are going to also see the emergence of more Beaujolais-esque grapes that aren’t Beaujolais becoming very popular. I’m already starting to see like Pelaverga and Schiava and things like that on-

Z: Zweigelt.

J: Big year for Zweigelt.

Z: Everyone’s looking for this high-acid, fruit-forward red wine.

J: Easy drinking.

A: Yes, that Beaujolais provided, and oh, just so everyone knows, clean, you all, clean because I think the way that we replaced–

J: What’s happening to Beaujolais?

A: It’s getting too expensive. I think the issue here is that Beaujolais was that clean wine, and then a lot of people were like, “Oh, we know how we’ll replicate this.” We had this bad trend for the last few years where the way that you replicated it was you made natty carbonic versions of Zinfandel that actually aren’t good.

J: Juice.

A: They were just like these juice bombs glue, glue. I think what people are trying to realize is, “Oh wait, there’s actually all these other grapes around the world that actually do this as well without having to manipulate them, or without having to infect Brett with them to make them light and fruity and fun.” I think that we’re going to see a lot more of that where importers and restaurant lists et cetera are looking for these wines because this is what clearly people want to drink. We’re still moving away from lots of oak and the bigger bolder wines again because people are eating differently, they’re drinking differently. I think it’s going to be a big trend in 2023. Like I said, I’m already seeing it a lot on lists here in the city, and I think it’s just going to be bigger and bigger.

J: Yes.

Z: Makes sense. My last prediction-

A: Go.

Z: -is that I predict that the three of us will have a drink together in person in 2023. I certainly hope it comes true. Didn’t happen in 2022 but…

A: Yes, maybe at the VinePair bar Zach.

Z: Yes, I would love to.

A: Yes, shoot us a note. Like I said at the beginning of the podcast, give us your predictions we want to hear what you think is going to happen in 2023.

Z: Yes, we’ll share them if they are good.

A: Yes, we’ll share them.

J: Yes

A: We’ll share them. Hit us up, and Zach and Joanna talk to you on Friday.

J: Have a good week.

Z: Sounds great.

Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair Podcast, the flagship podcast of the VinePair Podcast Network. If you love listening to this show, or even if you don’t, but I really hope that you do, as much as we really do love making it, then please drop us a review or a rating, wherever it is that you get your podcast. Whether that be iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere. If you are listening to this on a device right now, through an app, however you got this audio, please drop a review. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

Now, for some totally awesome credits. The VinePair Podcast is recorded in our New York City headquarters, and in Seattle, Washington, in Zach Geballe’s basement. It is recorded by Zach, mastered, and produced by Zach. He loves all the credit. Keep giving it to him. Drop his name in the reviews. He’s going to love hearing how much you love him. It is also recorded in New York City by our tastings director Keith Beavers, who is the managing director of the entire VinePair Podcast Network.

I’d also love to give a shout-out to our editor-in-chief, Joanna Sciarrino, who joins us on every single podcast as our third and most important host. Thank you as well to the entire VinePair staff, and everyone who’s been involved in making VinePair as special as it’s become. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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