Looking into my crystal ball for 2009, I forecast a year that centers around value wine. Not necessarily value as related to price, because there will always be people who can afford $200 bottles, but value as related to what's in that bottle that makes it worth $200? See below for my actual and wishful predictions for the coming year.
- Value, value, value. This is no shocker to most people, but in light of the economy it will finally hit certain wine drinkers that a status wine priced three times higher than a non-status wine isn't necessarily three times tastier. For us mere mortals who can't afford $3,000 Bordeaux, a whole world of inexpensive, good-quality imports awaits discovery. Regions like Spain, formerly-overlooked parts of Italy, Argentina, South Africa, and Chile will lead in producing excellent bang-for-your-buck wines, and California sales will suffer as import sales grow.
- "Natural" wine. However you define natural--unfiltered, unfined, naturally fermented, organic, made with organic grapes, biodynamic, sustainable...these topics will continue to dominate geek-wine conversations in 2009, although they won't be as hot as value and carbon footprint.
- New "it" regions. Bored winos will seek newer and zanier wine regions as they tire of the Last Big Thing (Austria, Oregon, Portugal beyond Port). Let's talk Brazil, Hungary, Mexico, Great Britain, Colorado, and Belgium instead.
- Ingredients labels. You probably don't want to know what goes into your wine, but you should have the right to. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is considering making ingredients labels a requirement, but the industry is fighting back hard. I would like to see the requirement go into effect in '09 and prompt a revolution in winemaking that go back to simpler techniques and fewer interventions.
- Can the glass. Though glass is 100 percent recyclable, it's heavy to transport. I'd like to see box wine, PET bottles, and Tetra-paks become mainstream instead of fringe, with better-than-decent wines in them.
- California renaissance. California is an expensive place to make wine, granted, and as a result a lot of what you'll find from there is either uber-expensive great wine, or not-so-good but moderately priced wine. I hope that with the economic conditions, the real estate and land market will level out a bit so CA can truly compete on the world value wine stage.
- Ratings overhaul. You're simply not going to see a 100-point Vinho Verde in Wine Spectator, though I don't see why it's not possible for perfection within its own category. It doesn't seem like wine points are going away anytime soon, but I'd like to see a scale overhaul that doesn't put Albarino on par with Cabernet Sauvignon. It's like judging male and female athletes all together, and against each other.