2009 - The Oenomancer Sifts Through the Wine Lees
The Prog Nose-Ticator sniffs out some bouquets to inhale, and brickbats to avoid, for the coming year…
* 2007 Burgundy will be re-evaluated as a much better vintage than previously thought, because 2008 etc… What do you mean there’s no 2007 left?
* All New World wines which score 95 plus Parker points in three successive vintages will be allowed to stamp: “THIS IS AN ICON WINE” on the front label.
* Certain wine merchants, imitating the cunning strategy of supermarkets, will introduce loss leaders (on brands and popular wines) in an attempt to buy business and corner certain parts of the market.
* Supermarkets will continue to play the “chicken game” of the Truly Unnecessary, The Bad Practice and The Plug Ugly with their perennial deep discounting as they wait for each other to blink. Will they ever learn to bogof?
* We’ve all heard of reverse osmosis and spinning cones (have we?) but what about flavour inhibitors and deneutralisation? Technological advances will enable winemakers to remove unwanted and unwonted flavours from certain wines (for example, any flavour whatsoever from Pinot Grigio that mindblowingly high yields haven’t already stripped away); conversely, deneutralisation will give the winemaker-technician the opportunity to add a range of the finest fruit flavours known to science to the final blend.
* Darling, you reduced the duty on wine because you listened to the reasoned pleas and modest proposals of the wine industry. The naughty yoof culture of the nation takes to the streets by way of celebration quaffing Chablis 1er cru by the half bottle and decking oysters by the dozen like there’s no tomorrow. In total panic the government introduces an emergency duty levy three times the rate of inflation (when inflation was at its highest point in the economic cycle) to clamp down on “middle class exhibitionism, high spirits and bivalve abuse”.
* There will be a succession of colourful bigger-and-better bin end sales as merchants endeavour to divest themselves of overstocks.
* Undervalued for many years, and never quite getting it, Portugal will finally takes its place in the sun as the country that excites the wine critics. We will also learn that Alvarinho can be spelt thus. Spain will be the comparative losers this year as the perception remains that it churns out international trophy wines commanding funny money. C’mon, Spain, all that glisters is not oak!
* Sterling ceases to become a currency and instead becomes a yo-yo. Wine merchants abandon the notion of bringing out wine lists and instead quote their wine prices according to the hourly fluctuations of the money markets.
* Restaurants will experiment with creative ways of selling wine in restaurants even if it means getting round silly by-laws regarding the legitimate size of measures that can be served…
* We will witness the growth of Vin de Table on increasingly irreverent labels as French growers trial cuvees, varieties and styles which takes them outside appellation regulations.
* Yet more growers will start or continue the process of conversion towards biodynamic viticulture, augmented by an increasing number of winemakers using little or no sulphur during vinification.
* The above so-called movement will split into factions: the fundamentalists or proto-Steineristas; the Organic Purists, or Terroiristes; and those who merely want to adopt the badge of the trend, the Faux-Bios. And all the categories in between which I can’t be bothered to make up.
* The proliferation of wine conferences, seminars, free trips etc reaches critical mass stretching journalists and other opinion-formers to their limits as life literally becomes an airport carousel, old chum. The Events Horizon expands exponentially as South Africa launches a two week World Pinotage Forum, Chile counters with its Carmenere Classics, whilst California responds with the Black and White Zinfandel Show. Yes, there are 365 days in the year to fill…
* Grape variety of the year… I’m still backing my hunches from last year: Gamay, in its more mineral incarnation, a red for all seasons, and Chardonnay, because we’d forgotten that it didn’t have to be an expression of oak but can brilliantly marry fruit and terroir whilst giving us something to roll around our mouths.
* Winemakers will start to experiment with alternative regimes of wood ageing. Rather than oak we may see chestnut and cherrywood and, for cheaper alternatives, balsa plank and extract of sawdust.
* The 100 point RP scale begins to lose its currency and credibility after a succession of Wine Advocates awards perfect scores with the profligacy of banks giving out 100% mortgages. In the new recessionary atmosphere the majority of wines submitted will not be marked at all and the growers will just have to sit on their offerings until times change. If only…
* A French negoce house decides to label their Burgundies with varietal indication. A Saint-Aubin Chardonnay is bottled - under stelvin - and a small earthquake occurs in Burgundy when thousands of dead growers start rotating in their graves. Less successful is their Saint-Aubin Chardonnay sur Gamay, which is deemed “somewhat confusing” by notable Burgundy commentator Clive Coates.
* More contradictory reports about the good/ill health benefits of drinking red/white wine whether you are male/female. The stress caused by reading such reports inevitably drives more people to drink.