Unfiltered spent the New Year's weekend reflecting on our favorite wine-world developments in 2005, from the major news events to the truly important--celebrity gossip. After analyzing the trends, consulting our inside sources and polishing off our leftover Champagne, we've come up with our predictions for 2006. Granted, we're about as reliable as the weather forecasts for more than five days out, but these are the stories we'd love to report in the coming year.
• The movement toward alternative packaging that brought us wine in a carton, wine in a tube and wine in plastic mini-bottles sold in irreverently labeled four-packs will culminate this year with wine in a pyramid, wine in a globe, solid wine, frozen wine, powdered wine and foamed wine (the latter thanks to the spreading influence of Spanish chef Ferran Adrià). And although the screw-cap advocates even won over some French, the closure war hasn't seen anything yet. Word is that the producers of those wads of cotton that you find in aspirin bottles have been talking with higher-ups in the wine industry.
• In their increasing efforts to target women, wine marketers will begin offering "bonus gifts," advertised in store circulars. With every case purchase, shoppers will receive a burgundy-tinted cosmetics tote filled with grape-water hydrating facial spray, Pinot polyphenol body cream and everlast lip stain in Bordeaux Blend, designed not to smudge even during a three-hour wine tasting.
• After failing to convince the federal courts that bans on direct-to-consumer wine shipments are necessary to prevent sales to minors and ensure orderly markets, alcohol-beverage wholesalers will start evoking "homeland security" as the reason to preserve the three-tier system. Big-box retailer Costco, which is suing the state of Washington to get regulators to allow it to buy directly from wineries, will be labeled "the insurgency." Wine lovers who bought holiday gift bottles online will discover they have been the targets of wiretapping.
• Wine brands will join perfume and clothing in every music star's product merchandising campaigns. In 2005, rockers such as Mötley Crüe lead singer Vince Neil and Carlos Santana put their names on wine labels, as did Latin singing sensation Luis Miguel, while pop star Madonna is kicking off 2006 with a line of wines to accompany her album Confessions on A Dance Floor. Even The King got his own posthumous Graceland Cellars collection, complete with a Velvet Elvis bottling. Here are the wines we'll be looking for (or looking out for) on retailers' shelves in 2006: Britney Spears Sauvignon Blanc (nice body, but no flavor), Mariah Carey Chardonnay (starts off fine, then fades into something strange and unpalatable) and 50 Cent Cabernet (because Two-Buck Chuck needs a rival).
• All those cute and cuddly animals on value bottles of wine may soon disappear. Activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will draw up a bill banning the use of these images on subpar bottles of wine, claiming they amount to abuse—causing emotional suffering and harm to the animal's reputation—and violate the Animal Welfare Act. Congress, eager to divert attention from the ethical scandals engulfing the capital, jumps on an issue that will give them a humane image.
• Who says wine is supposed to be drunk, anyway? Forgetting that it's what's on the inside that counts, Champagne houses continued to dress up their bottles in designer fashions. After Veuve Clicquot put on a yellow neoprene wetsuit and Pommery outfitted its Brut 1995 with a Shanghai Tang silk bag, Veuve had to top it all by putting its Grande Dame 1996 into a layered Pucci outfit, combining both a neoprene case and a drawstring bag. The next hot thing in couture packaging—wine sold with interchangeable outfits, just like Barbie.
• Now that wine drinking and winemaking have become so popular among race-car drivers like Jeff Gordon and team owners like Richard Childress, the first-ever NASCAR Winter Wine Classic in Daytona will outstrip both the Naples Winter Wine Festival and Auction Napa to become the top charity wine auction in the United States. The top lot is a customized Chevy emblazoned with the names of all the bidder's favorite wines. Politicians hoping to court the NASCAR-dad demographic start hosting wine-tasting fundraisers featuring Napa Cabernet.
• As for the rest of the sports world, wine will continue to replace Gatorade as celebrity athletes' drink of choice. After making significant inroads among the football crowd and adding Arnold Palmer, Mike Weir and the PGA Tour itself to the golf-pro lineup, winemaking became the thing to do for numerous other sports stars, from basketball's Larry Bird to ice-skating champ Peggy Fleming to former Mets pitcher Tom Seaver. With the Winter Olympics coming up, look for wines from the medal winners in the giant slalom, bobsledding and curling. The only sport we don't expect to see a wine from this year: cage fighting.
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