WITH some help from the experts, we reveal the wines and spirits set to tickle our taste buds in the coming year...

We may all have some trusty favourites when it comes to our tipples of choice, but there's no denying that trends play a key role in drinks menus. Remember when prosecco sold out? And it wasn't that long ago that most bars offered a choice of two or three gins, whereas now the options seem limitless.

But what's set to be tickling our taste buds in 2019? The drinks industry likes to keep us on our toes, and of course, some trends take off more than others. Given the number of wines to watch, low and non-alcoholic options and the popularity of small-batch spirits, predicting which libation we're going to be polishing off will always be a balancing act.

To point you in the right direction and hint at what's in store, we spoke to some industry insiders. Here's what looks set to shape our drinking in 2019...

1. South Africa is leading the way

South African winemakers are producing an abundance of world-class wines, despite grappling with a three-year long drought. In contrast with the resulting reduction in harvest size, the quality of South African wine has anything but declined.

"South Africa has been upping quality in a steady curve for the last decade and is now at the stage where its entry-level wines are effortlessly winning high medals and happy converts," says Adam Lechmere, general manager, International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC). "It's easy to produce icon wines in tiny quantities at high prices, far more difficult to consistently come out with value wines that are interesting, full of zest and eminently drinkable,"

Try this: Huguenot Chenin Blanc 2018, Western Cape, South Africa, £9.99, Laithwaites.co.uk

2. Australia is outshining France in the chardonnay stakes

The ABC (anything but chardonnay) era is drawing to an end, as shown by the landslide success chardonnay enjoyed at the International Wine Challenge (IWC), with nearly 30% of all Gold medals going to chardonnay wines, including the two highest scoring wines in the competition.

Indeed, winemakers Down Under have been working particularly hard to demonstrate the elegance and precision of the grape and romped home with eight gold medals, while France, typically the standard bearer of vinous excellence (especially for its white Burgundy) brought in six .

Try this: One of the highest scoring wines (97 points), McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay, Australia, currently reduced to £13 from £15, Sainsbury's.

3. English sparkling wines are in, prosecco is out

Could the prosecco bubble have finally burst? We're starting to look elsewhere to satisfy our unquenchable thirst for fizz, and while champagne dominated the sparkling wine category at the IWC, England was the only other country whose wines were deemed gold-worthy.

Both Ridgeview from Sussex and Raimes from Hampshire were awarded top prizes, with 95 points for their Blanc de Blancs 2014 (100% chardonnay) and Classic Brut 2014 respectively. A triumph, as no other sparkling wine from any other region scored gold.

"England and France are the only gold medal winners among sparkling wines. That's amazing, and shows the astonishing improvements English producers have achieved over the past few years, battling head-to-head with Champagne," says Charles Metcalfe, IWC Competition co-chair.

Try this: Raimes Classic Brut 2014, England, £30, Raimes.co.uk.

4. The low and no-alcohol movement is gathering momentum

With the importance of health and wellbeing continuing to grow as a general trend, mindful drinkers are more open than ever to low and no-alcohol serves, low-abv cocktails and beers in the 1-2.5% abv bracket.

"There's a sense of satisfaction about opening a beer after a long day," says Beth Pearce, buyer at Majestic. "And whilst we know about the health risks of doing just that, we still want something which tastes the part.

"We did a lot of blind tasting before dipping our toe in the low-alcohol beer world, and finally settled on Small Beer, a craft set-up in Bermondsey, South London. It harks back to the medieval world of 'small beer' in strength, but is thoroughly, appealingly modern in taste and production."

Try this: Original Small Beer Lager, £12.96 for six 33cl bottles, Majestic

5. Gin goes global

2018 began with a record 315 homegrown gin distilleries, a rise of 127% in five years, but now it's not just us Brits who are getting overjoyed by juniper.

In the last 12 months, Majestic have launched gins from Provence in the South of France, Finland and Pennsylvania - adding to those from New Zealand, California and, of course, the UK. The trend for local vs international is expected to continue, with the gin-craze diversifying, rather than slowing.

"The genius of gin is that it can really reflect where it's born," explains Majestic's Beth Pearce. "It can be at an international level, with botanicals and flavours only found in the country of origin. Or it can be even more bespoke, with local gins in the UK reflecting the very landscape surrounding the distillery. It's what makes gin such a fascinating, unique spirit."

Try this: From the fragrance capital of the world, 44N, Grasse, France, 75 Euros/approx £66 (50cl), Comte de Grasse.

6. Instagram is influencing the cocktail craft

Cocktail culture has sky-rocketed over the last 10 years, and today any mixologist worth their salt can whip up an array of complicated cocktails at the drop of a hat.

So how do you make your drinks standout? Global drinks producer, Diageo, suggest many are turning to social media, and a new generation of 'drinkstagrammers' is bringing fresh vibrancy and diversity to cocktail making.

One such influencer, Elliott Clark (@apartment_bartender), says: "Social media is democratising mixology, making it accessible to everyone. For people like me who've never stepped behind a bar, it opens up this incredible industry and provides a creative outlet to engage and interact with the wider drinks community. But more than that, it challenges seasoned bartenders to think outside the box and push themselves creatively."

Let's just say in 2019, how your drinks look will be just as important as how they taste, with social reach taking the cocktail experience to a whole new level.