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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Wine Predictions For The New Year

Happy New Year to all! Here are my predictions for 2014. I hope it is an awesome year for you.

1) If you have not heard of Kirkland Signature, you will definitely see more of it in 2014. The United States’ largest fine wine retailer’s private label has been in its stores now for a few years, but will make even more of a splash in 2014. From Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to Napa Valley Cabernet and from Champagne to Irish Whisky, the KS brand will continue to grow and become an even bigger player in the fine wine game.

2) Italy is going to be BIG in 2014. There will be some terrific wines from the 2009 vintage coming out of many of the classic growing regions, especially Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans, as well as Baroli and Barbaresci. I also think that Italy is going to be a great country to find bargains. Its economy is soft, so they are motivated to find thirsty markets as well as make wines attractive enough to please that market. I’m not saying that the top wines will be discounted. Those rarely are. But in the sub-$20 market, there will be plenty of choices for some really tasty wines.

3) California’s 2012 harvest will be called “the greatest of the decade.” This is a little hyperbolic, but I think wine critics already have raised a flag on the 2012 vintage, and it is the flag of love and devotion. One of the positives is that the harvest was a copious one, which hopefully will translate to a leveling of pricing unlike the 2011 and 2010 harvests, which were smaller and less homogenous. From what I have tasted, there are some very exciting wines from the harvest and I look forward to tasting many more.

4) There will be some great innovations in wine packaging coming down the pipeline. I’ve seen some previews of bottles with a wineglass (actually plastic) attached and/or as part of the bottle, making it even more convenient to just grab a bottle and have wine wherever the party takes you. There will be more 1.0-liter bottles on the market that will make the per ounce cost of the wine more attractive – good for both consumers and restaurateurs. Lighter-weight glass bottles will be more common, and recyclable paper containers of wine will be making our world “greener.” I just hope the wines inside are as satisfying as the packaging.

5) Get ready for Chinese wines. For the past few years, we have heard how the Chinese market is swallowing up allocations of the top wines of the world. World wine producers all have made entry into the huge Chinese market. Now it is time for the world to find out about Chinese wines. China has invested considerable resources to produce its own wines, not only for domestic consumption, but also for the world stage. Early reports are mixed, but it will only take one blind tasting along with some blue chip wines from Europe or California, and China will have a bonafide wine brand. It’s not like we don’t buy enough products made in China.

Recommendations: 2012 Berger Gruner Veltliner “White Stone” ($17) Evocative white fruit with citrus and, yes, a mineral, almost chalkiness about it. This is a very soulful and complex Gruner with intensity and deliciousness far beyond its price point. 1999 Salon ($359) This 100 percent Chardonnay Champagne is one of the great collectibles from the region, and with good reason. It exemplifies the elegance and power of Le Mesnil together, all the while expressing the noble terroir of the village. This is crème de la crème.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.com or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.

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