Wishes and predictions
Where will the hot terrior be in 2008?
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
Another new year, a clean slate.
A new beginning. A year older. Older vintages progress. Younger ones are born. What’s going to be hot in 2008? What’s going to fall from grace? These are some trends, wishes and predictions for wine over the coming year.
Pinot noir will be replaced as the hot grape by syrah, especially in California. Pinot is delicious, but it’s finicky. It has a tough backbone. It demands the perfect soil conditions — lots of calcium, which translates into limestone. Syrah or shiraz is a more forgiving grape with a sunnier disposition. It conjures up summertime afternoons at the beach. The top of a mountain overlooking a great valley. It’s spicy and smoky like a beautiful dark-haired dancer. It pairs with casual food — tapas, olives, shellfish, pizza and summer fruits — easily and naturally.
Pinot noir on the other hand is like going to a formal luncheon with your maiden aunt and you have to eat creamed stuff in a puff pastry and put your napkin on your lap. Like your aunt, pinot brooks no nonsense, and while it does have a sense of humor, it merely chuckles and never guffaws. However, it can be profound and moving, like your first opera, but it takes concentration and discipline. And some movie will come out, set in Provence, and the characters will visit an ancient vineyards and the romantic notion of peasant wine, raised and harvested exactly the same way the Greeks did it 2,500 years earlier, will sweep the wine world and syrah will have its day. Then prices will go up and wine people will look elsewhere for bargains. But not before we see a golden age of syrah from California’s Central Coast.
And when syrah prices rise wine people will turn to lesser-known regions and grapes. Puglia, in Italy’s heel, produces some 25 different grape varietals. And state stores stock quite a few — primitivo, fiano-greco, molinara, negrara and corvina all offer the wine-drinker an escape from the pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio and chardonnay wine rut we all fall into.
Malbec will continue its growth in capturing a larger share of the wine market. As more and more is planted and sold, a few great malbec producers will emerge offering the Argentine equivalent of premier and grand crus. These will be deep and rich, and quite capable of long ageing. They’ll taste layered and spicy with hints of chocolate and currant. And, unfortunately, they’ll be expensive.
The other South American varietal that will get bigger this year will be Chilean merlot. While not new, this wine offers an inexpensive choice for very good to moderately great wine. Will it ever reach parity with St. Emilion? Probably not, but the fresh, fruity-tasting wine with delicate cherry hints should grace your table in ’08 because it’s delicious and inexpensive.
In the United States look to Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina and New York to emerge as better appellations. While wine is produced in every state, these second-tier states (after California, Oregon & Washington) are offering some amazing varietals. Marchal Foch, a cold-resistant blending grape, Catawba, which was once the most widely planted grape in the young United States, and Cabernet Franc, the Bordeaux blending grape that’s standing on its own and producing wonderful wines from Illinois to Long Island, offer a glimpse of what’s to come. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s harder to import wine from one state to another — especially when the winery is smaller — than it is to import wine from another continent. So if you’re traveling this year be on the lookout for wines that just aren’t available at home.
Shiraz will continue to be Australia’s signature and most widely exported wine, but look for other non-traditional varietals coming out of Oz. Riesling and Semillon, two soft, delicate and slightly sweet white wines, come to mind. For years conventional wisdom held it was too hot for these wines to flourish Down Under, but the cooler climates of the Riverlands and Margaret River (on the West Coast) proved the naysayers wrong. The trend will have come full circle when we get a decent pinot noir from Australia.
Finally, what I hope for but probably won’t get is more top-shelf wine from Eastern Europe. More Austrian wine, more Hungarian wine, more Romanian wine and more wine from the Crimea in Russia. You rarely see these bottlings, and when you do it’s usually on par with those ubiquitous animal-labeled wines from Australia. I would love to taste the everyday peasant wines of these lesser wine-producing countries as well as the higher-end bottlings. Hopefully someone will specialize in importing Grasa de Cotnari, the wonderful dessert wine from Romania.