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2013 Predictions

Unfiltered boldly foretells the future, from pop-star wines to reality TV to Chinese investment in Napa to a shocking turn in Rudy K's counterfeiting case

Posted: January 3, 2013

In the Wine Spectator tasting room melee that preceded what we all thought was the end of the world a few weeks ago—sorry, the photo evidence has been incinerated—Unfiltered's not-that-magical Riedel crystal ball was smashed to shards. Fear not, however, all you wine lovers who love spoilers: We've replaced it with a plastic GoVino version that has proven even more useful for games of editorial assistant dodgeball.

Before we take all the surprise out of 2013 for you, though, let's check on how we did with our 2012 predictions … hmm … we see … not well. Winemaking Bachelor Ben Flajnik chose the easy-on-the-eyes and otherwise terrifyingly manipulative model Courtney Robertson. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a playoff game to the easy-on-the-eyes and otherwise terrifyingly inaccurate Tim Tebow, who also failed to make the world's first 100-point sacramental wine. And instead of flooding the Chinese wine market with Napa knockoffs, Beijing actually recognized Napa Valley as an official Geographic Indication last month. Seriously though, we have a really good feeling about this week's predictions for 2013.

• We'll start off with a gimme: In the year 2013, we will see new wine labels from famous pop stars and other celebrities, but which ones? Taking a look at who's turning 21 in 2013, we see that Miley Cyrus will be old enough to pop some bottles next December, and if she does create her own wine, her recent response to her critics ("People are idiots") will work equally well when dealing with wine reviewers. Actor Josh Hutcherson may make a Journey to the Center of the Vineyard when he turns 21 in October. Actress and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model Kate Upton turns 21 in June, and she's currently hanging out in St. Thomas with her rumored boyfriend, MLB pitching sensation Justin Verlander; with the number of baseball players with wine connections too long to list here (Verlander himself treated his teammates to a night in the wine cellar at Barberian's steak house in Toronto after throwing a no-hitter in 2011), it's only a matter of time before Upton catches the bug. Our best bet for a new celebrity wine in 2013, however, is on a pop star just a hair longer in the tooth, 23-year-old Taylor Swift. Swift's most recent album is titled Red, and one of her biggest hits was 2008's "White Horse" which, translated to French, is of course Cheval Blanc.

• Unreal as it is, reality TV has carved out its own niche here at Wine Spectator in the past few years. Sonoma winemaker Ben Flajnik captured Unfiltered readers' hearts in 2011 as a finalist on ABC's The Bachelorette, and he was on the other side of the rose in the ensuing season of The Bachelor, one of the most popular Unfiltered stories of 2012. Far outpacing the Bachelor last year, however, was another reality star, The Real Housewives of New York's Bethenny Frankel, whose Skinnygirl wines was the top WineSpectator.com story of 2012. So where will the wine world meet the "real" one in 2012? Never has wine been more popular, nor have "nerds," so surely a wine geek will dominate the upcoming TBS reality competition King of the Nerds. Actually, the show's competitors are largely experts of nerdity's baser pursuits—science fiction, comic book heroes and video games—but knowing reality TV as well as we do, we're sure that alcohol won't be in short supply on set. Take it from us, the King of the Nerds winner's superpower will be in one of two high-nerd disciplines: foodieism or wine geekery.

In related futurenews, following the successful launch of her Skinnygirl line of wines, Bethenny Frankel will team up with Thierry Boudinaud and Guy Anderson of the popular Fat Bastard brand to release the first-ever wine specifically targeted at medium-size people.

• In a surprising but somewhat fitting turn of fate in the Rudy Kurniawan wine fraud trial, a Manhattan federal court will rule to throw out the case on a technicality, that technicality being "Rudy Kurniawan" is actually a fake person, conceived as a prank by some bored auction-house interns on a particularly slow Friday afternoon earlier this year. "You kind of had to be there I guess," an affidavit statement will read, "but we never thought it would get out of hand like this. I mean, we barely even bothered to come up with a credible backstory for 'Rudy.' Some guy just shows up out of nowhere from Indonesia or something with a truckload of the most expensive wines in the world? That's obviously ridiculous." To complete the ruse, the wily interns "just sent [their friend] Jeff [Chang] to parties or auctions or whatever to act like a rich wine snob." Another intern will add, "It's not like we expected anyone to actually fall for it—these people get paid to evaluate old and rare wines on a daily basis, right?" In lieu of prison time, the meddling youngsters will be sent to counterfeit-wine crusader and victim Bill Koch's fake little Old West town to clean out the fake old barn and stables as punishment.

Yao Ming, retired NBA all-star and one of the Eight Immortals of Taoist mythology (his power tool is shot blocking), made waves by setting up Napa Cabernet outfit Yao Family Wines in late 2011—and then selling his reserve in the Chinese market for $625 a pop. His influence, combined with growing Chinese disillusionment over the pricing practices of former favored region Bordeaux, will see a big uptick in Chinese investment in Napa wines and estates in 2013. Though many Chinese have invested in Bordeaux properties, differences in culture have often made deals frustrating and fractious. As one savvier Chinese buyer will put it, "The biggest difference [in cultures] is that in China, we do not have so many laws, and we will do anything for money." In California, where money is also quite popular, expect to see high-end wineries making minor adjustments to woo Chinese yuan: Peking Duckhorn, Sino Qua Non, Far East Niente, Silver Wok and Screaming Eagle, Hidden Dragon will be just a few of 2013's rebrandings.

• In 2012, the craze among American drinkers was Moscato, Moscato, Moscato: Producers couldn't plant and make it fast enough. The drink became trendy via ever-more mentions in pop and rap music, primarily because it rhymes with such popular words as "Eldorado," a discontinued automobile and legendary city made of gold, and "Fortunato," an ironically named character in an Edgar Allan Poe story. In 2013, expect to see a lot of dusty unsold Moscato bottles.

• Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour made news last year by announcing that beginning in 2013, it would no longer sell its advance wines as futures in the en primeur system, preferring to allow wines to mature to drinking age at the cellar. This year, rival Château Lafite Rothschild will opt for the opposite strategy, dismantling its winemaking division to focus entirely on the more lucrative business of selling Lafite futures. Instead of wine, buyers will receive an embossed certificate suitable for framing. The certificate's secondary market value remains a controversial matter of speculation.

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