Millennial-friendly and South African wines, ethical brands and sparklers are among North South Wines’ predictions to be 2017’s big winners.

The distributor – which is part-owned by producers – held an inaugural tasting event in London last month to celebrate its three-year anniversary.

Commercial director Kim Wilson told OLN: “We have grown rapidly and now it is more about bedding in our ranges.

“We think there is a massive opportunity for companies such as ours over the next 18 months. There has been a lot of consolidation in the industry and that leaves opportunities for smaller players in the next tier down. Not everybody wants to be part of the big guys’ portfolio.”

One of North South’s key areas of NPD this year is wines for millennials, and it is to launch a three-strong range – as yet unnamed – this spring, which tells the story of wine through 60 pictures in the style of Instagram.

Wilson explained: “Millennials drink less often but better quality. You can only put a few words on a bottle and people don’t look at the shelf for very long, so this is a way to talk to them in their own language.

We will start with an Australian Heathcote Shiraz, a New Zealand Nelson Sauvignon Blanc and a Nero d’Avola from Italy.”

Another concept for millennials uses text-speak, with an entry-level wine called TD4, meaning “to die for”. Wilson said: “Research shows 80% of millennials want brands to entertain them and no-one is really doing that in wine.”

North South is also working on a wine to suit the barbecue occasion, called Meat your Match, which will have a striker strip on the label, as would be found on a matchbox.

Wines with a higher purpose – ethical, organic or environmentally-friendly – are also a focus. “We have wines already which tap into this trend, such as the Wine People’s Purato Nero d’Avola, which is organic, uses recycled paper and glass and vegetable ink on the label.

“We also expect to see more from Sicily and southern Italy. Grillo has the most potential for Italian whites and Pecorino is doing well. We launched a Grillo with M&S and it has done very well. We also see a separate growth area in Appassimento- style reds,” she said.

Meanwhile, South Africa is an area where the company can hold prices better, according to Wilson.

She said: “We are really hopeful for this sector. We have a full breadth of range, including wines for independents and supermarkets. The latter are looking more to South Africa as a value-added area.”

Wilson said sparkling wine continue to be strong in 2017. The company is now looking at premium Prosecco and alternatives to this.

Low and no-alcohol is another of its predictions, along with Australian premium wines, Provence-style rosé and craft gin.

“Premium Australia is interesting. Heathcote is an area growing in momentum.”