With the advent of 2012 upon us, it's time for Unfiltered's annual attempt to predict the events that we'll all be discussing around the office wine barrel during the next 12 months. But before we dust off our magic Riedel crystal ball, let's look back and see how accurate our 2011 predictions were.
A year ago, on the heels of Mariah Carey's Angel Champagne launch, we predicted that sparkly pop singer Ke$ha would loan her name to a pricey $uper Tuscan. Not only did $a$$icaia fail to materialize, Ke$ha seems to have disappeared as well.
We did, however, predict that the global economic downturn would spawn more vineyard thefts, and did it ever, with a worldwide Summer of Wine Crime that included multiple vineyard equipment thefts in Lodi, plenty of Pétrus shoplifting and counterfeit cheap rosé (cheap chewed gum included).
Unfiltered also predicted that wine would prove to be a better investment than gold. While gold is back up to a healthy $1,600 an ounce this week, 2011 did preside over some record wine sales, with a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti 1945 selling for a record $124,000 and a bottle of 1811 Château d'Yquem selling for $117,000—that's $4,800 and $4,600 an ounce, respectively. So next time, listen up, Wall Street. Finally, we claimed that scientific research would prove wine a more attractive beverage than milk. We were close—it turns out wine makes milk itself better: Cows who ate winemaking leftovers produced more, healthier milk and passed 20 percent less gas to boot.
So please enjoy Unfiltered's predictions for 2012, and may the coming year bring you good wine and good fortune.
• In the fake world of reality television, the new season of ABC's The Bachelor premiered this week. Nearly 8 million people tuned in to see Sonoma winemaker and rejected marriage proposer from last season's Bachelorette Ben Flajnik debut on the other side of the roses. Flajnik is co-owner and winemaker at Envolve Winery. On this week's season debut, Flajnik met 25 suitorettes (and one grandmother on crutches). It wasn't hard to start to whittling down the competition—having multiple personalities and attempting to make out with your fellow suitorettes are good signs you won't be long for the show. Flajnik clearly took a shine to beautiful 28-year-old Arizona model Courtney, while Unfiltered hometown favorite blogger Jenna from New York narrowly avoided a complete emotional breakdown. Lindzi C., the 27-year-old businesswoman from Seattle, received the coveted "first impression" rose. But Unfiltered's prediction for the future Mrs. Flajnik is Nicki, the 26-year-old dental hygienist from Texas. We'll keep you updated as the season progresses to see if we have any potential as matchmaker to the winemaking stars.
• The NFL playoffs kick off this weekend, and wine and football players have long made an excellent pairing. At this past October's New York Wine Experience, former All-Pro quarterback Drew Bledsoe presented his highly-rated Doubleback Cabernet from Washington's Walla Walla Valley. In 2012, we predict the most-talked-about man in football right now will continue proving everyone wrong, this time by making the first 100-point sacramental wine. Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will get into the winemaking game. Critics will claim his winemaking fundamentals are completely lacking, crediting everything except Tebow for the wine's dumbfounding success, from the vineyards to the weather. Unfiltered also predicts that Tebow and the Broncos will be unceremoniously and convincingly knocked from the playoffs this weekend.
• Multiple studies were published in 2011 touting the potential health benefits of wine drinking. The benefits of red wine in heart health have long been trotted out during the small hours of dinner parties. But wine drinkers can now also trumpet research showing their tipple may battle dementia (drinkers have a lower risk), multiple sclerosis symptoms, diabetes (especially in women), tremors in the elderly and sunburn damage to skin cells, news that abruptly put most hospitals out of business. Unfiltered predicts that scientists in 2012 will also confirm other anecdotally observed health benefits of wine consumption, such as curing excessive dental whiteness, promoting a restful night's or afternoon's sleep, looking very sharp in that sombrero, confidence you can climb that fence in a suit, and hangovers.
• Perhaps no market generated as much scrutiny and speculation among wine observers last year than China. The weak worldwide economy has been a drag for fine winemakers, so many have been turning to the Chinese, whose gift-giving culture rewards wineries with prestigious names. Bordeaux's Château Lafite-Rothschild went so far as to dress up the label of its 2008 release with the Chinese character for "8" (a lucky number). But Lafite faced strong competition from the likes of "Chatreal Latour," "Graves Pomerol" and "Château Margot," as Chinese copyright issues persist. (Other growing pains the Chinese grappled with in 2011: fraught real estate deals in France and a fake ice wine epidemic at home.) So far, the problem of fraudulent labels has mostly aggrieved the French, since they represent the largest share of China's imported wine market. With the November launch of Yao Ming's Napa Cabernet, though, Unfiltered predicts a strong appetite for American wines in 2012. Expect Chinese consumers to discover the fine stylings of Caimus, Cheeto Montylena, Rupert Mandavi, Joseph Phlaps, Schroomsberg, Colonia Crest, Sine Qua Yes and Screaming Beagle.
• These are turbulent times, and 2011 saw protests rock cities all over the world, from Cairo to New York. So far, the growth of Occupy Napa has been hindered by prohibitively expensive tasting fees. However, Unfiltered predicts that in 2012, the Occupy movement will roil the country's wine capitals to rally for what Americans really care about: The freedom to have wine shipped directly from wineries to their homes. Because in 2012, Congress will finally pass the much-maligned CARE Act, which floundered in the House of Representatives in both 2010 and 2011. Demonstrations will turn ugly when wine lovers bearing bottles and stemware crowd the Capitol building in Washington, using the lobby floor as a spit bucket. So the wise people of Congress will immediately pass a new bill preserving direct shipping instead (there will also be a rider that pays for one free dinner at Per Se for every American citizen). Unfortunately, the commemorative 2012 vintage Occupinot Noir won't be released until 2014, when "occupy" jokes will no longer seem as fresh as they do now.
Jean Luc Le Du — New York — January 9, 2012 11:17am ET
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