Who could have imagined what 2016 would bring? We predicted that our new President-Elect Donald Trump had some big plans last year, but even our most astute prognosticators had no idea just how … yuuuge they would turn out to be.
So we're left with no choice but to dream—and drink—even more bigly in 2017. Follow along on this wild ride with us all year long. And be sure you never miss a highlight (or lowlight) by signing up for our Unfiltered email newsletter. There's still no such thing as a free lunch, but there are plenty of free WineSpectator.com newsletters, and we're cranking out new ones every week. But first, let's take a look into our future …
Last year we were certain that the legal battle between now-retired San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan and Terroir Capital founder Charles Banks would end up on Season 2 of HBO's Ballers. Instead, Banks was indicted, we found out USA network is developing a drama based on a wine criminal, and some of TV's biggest hits—Game of Thrones, Outlander and The Bachelor—introduced their own lines of wines. So we're still betting big on wine on TV in 2017, and we think it's inevitable that more small-screen blockbusters get into the game. Here are just a few of the new TV show wines you can expect to see in 2017:
• The Walking Dead Each bottle of this unfined, unfiltered and undead wine comes with a winery staff member's finger buried in the sediment. Limited production!
• Westworld When a vintner falls in love with his optical sorter, sparks fly …
• The Americans It's just a bottle of vodka labeled as a Napa Cabernet. And it's a real disappointment for lead actor Matthew Rhys, who started his own documentary wine series last year.
• Orange Is the New Black Have you ever tasted an orange wine and asked yourself if it might have been made in a prison toilet? Orange Is the New Wine will answer that question. (The answer is yes.)
• Silicon Valley The Pied Piper cuvée is a technological marvel: The value of a mega-production bulk wine compressed into the quality of a boutique garage wine. Unfortunately, the packaging interface is atrocious.
Throughout the summer of 2016, gaggles of 30-year-old children wandered cities and countrysides, eyes glued to their smartphone screens. Some were in the thrall of augmented-reality mobile game Pokémon Go, attempting to find invisible cartoon critters for their online menageries. Others were sommeliers, scrambling to catch as many Arbois Poulsards, old-vine Valdigués, biodynamic grower Champagnes and other unicorn wines as possible, to show off their conquests on Instagram and Delectable feeds.
In 2017, Pokémon Go developer Niantic will release a sequel to satisfy the shared obsessive behaviors of Go players and somms (obliviousness to the people around them, willingness to waste hundreds of hours and dollars, dereliction of the duties of employment in pursuit of their quests): PokéSomm Go. Players “level up” by battling one another in PokéSomm “Courts.” Along the way, as in the original Pokémon Go, PokéSomm players collect game-enhancing items like pocket squares, Champagne sabers and homemade Amaro botanical kits—but the real thrill is in using the “Poké Riedel” to capture rare and coveted Pokéwines like Pikapoul, Mewtwon Rothschild, Quarts du Charmander, Rías Snorláx and Screagle. Within weeks, most players will reach Level 3 and lose interest.
As tasting notes become more and more abstruse with flavor descriptors like “lanolin,” “dried persimmon,” “medium-plus acidity,” “iron fist in velvet glove” and “feral wallaby,” drinkers will in 2017 clamor for a simpler way to describe a wine. On the heels of 2016’s launch of Wine Spectator Sticker Packs (2 sets!), 2017 will bring about a revolution in tasting shorthand, as reviewers and amateurs alike turn to emojis and emoticons to express their tasting notes. Now, >:O indicates “screaming acidity,” :-P is “mouthcoating tannins,” (ノಠ益ಠ)彡┻━┻ means “corked” and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ says “tasted twice with consistent notes.”
It was a big year for winery investment in 2016, and some acquisitions seemed to come from curious candidates. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan invested in Constellation’s Canadian brands like Inniskillin; American Tom Sullivan, chairman of Lumber Liquidators and Cabinets to Go, bought Bordeaux’s Château de Parc; and the Krause family of the Kum & Go convenience-store chain rang up Barolo’s vaunted Vietti. In 2017, expect more unexpected parties to dive into wine.
Unfiltered predicts the New Rochelle High School DebateMasters team will raise the money they need for the trip to the National Championship by investing in Gaja Tuscan property Ca’ Marcanda (“the house of endless negotiations”). The joint venture Opus One will change hands to two new co-owners, with the partnership of Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Constellation selling shares to esteemed rest-stop combination Pizza Hut-and-Taco Bell. And Lumber Liquidators will purchase another property: Paso Robles’ Justin Vineyards, based on their shared business plans.
Last year, Unfiltered watched John Oliver, host of HBO's Last Week Tonight, rudely take the mickey out of Long Island wine during a segment on his show where he interviewed former Rep. Steve Israel. In 2017, the British comedian will go on a paddy, slandering the best of American wine.
He first goes after Californian wine, accusing it of lacking "bloody balance." Later, he'll call out Washington's Quilceda Creek winemaker Paul Golitzin by name, shouting "Mate, you call that claret?!" The Pacific Northwest wine community will barely have time to recover, as the following week Oliver goes on the air claiming Oregon Pinot Noir is "naff."
Sources close to Oliver will reveal to Unfiltered that he was still pretty miffed over the Brexit vote not going his way, and wanted to help his home country's economy by boosting its promising sparkling-wine industry, which he called "the bee's knees." The only way, Oliver apparently lamented, was to tarnish the U.S.'s booming wineries. HBO will take immediate action, sacking Oliver's writers. When the rants continue, the people who had sacked Oliver's writers are also sacked. This goes on for a while, until eventually Oliver gets sacked.
An unemployed Oliver then goes on fellow Brit James Corden's The Late Late Show and attacks Virginia's Trump Winery, calling it "the smallest vineyard in the United States" and "not the best wine in America." Oliver disappears entirely soon thereafter.