What do earthquakes, Cuba, the Coppolas and Grumpy Cat all have in common? Unfiltered predicts they'll all play a major role in our wine conversations this year. But before we get to the fun and fortune-telling, let's take a peek back at how we did with last year's predictions.
Our top prognostication for 2014 was that Kanye West, who was way ahead of the curve on the Moscato craze, would create his own line of $1,000 bottles of water packaged as "wine." Instead, we learned that at this year's Cannes Film Festival, West demanded that all water bottles he drink from first have their labels removed, lest he be associated with any brand of water at all. He also previously tweeted, "I hate when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle," so we clearly misjudged Kanye's intentions last year. Keep that man away from the water somms!
We also predicted that in 2014, convicted wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan would start (and fail) a wine club in prison, serve out his sentence, and take haven in the wine-counterfeiting mecca of China, and yet there Rudy still sits, having been sentenced to a full 10 years in prison. Let's put those bad bets behind us and look into Rudy's faux-Cristal ball once again to see if we can come up with a more accurate forecast for 2015 ….
• Readers of Unfiltered know that pretty much every celebrity and their dad have a wine label at this point (see Kate Hudson and step-dad Kurt Russell; see also Fergie and father). This past Thanksgiving, the Interwebz' most famous cat, Grumpy Cat (née Tardar Sauce), appeared in her first made-for-TV movie, Lifetime's Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, with Grumpy voiced by none other than the never-nice Aubrey Plaza. (Unfiltered forced our entire family to watch, thereby ruining our own holidays.) This year, the permanently brow-furrowed feline, obviously displeased with being just an Internet meme and television star, will make her entrée into the world of celebrity fine wines with a range of offerings under the Sour Grapes label: Câteauneuf-du-Pâté, Grümper Veltlitter, Méow-Camuzet and Furmitage, all of which she will of course despise. (We see you rolling your eyes. Think you can do better? Prove it in the comments!)
• The news in December that the United States and Cuba would begin steps to "normalize" diplomatic and trade relations was obviously an occasion to light up for Unfiltered's friends at sister magazine Cigar Aficionado, but what of us tipplers? Americans visiting Cuba—travel is still restricted but less so—may now return stateside with up to $100 in tobacco or alcohol. Good thing, because now that we're back on speaking terms with the New World's unruly little brother, wine lovers in 2015 will see that in the past half-century, Cuba's wine industry has become truly … revolutionary. For one thing, Cuba still holds a glut of fine old wines from the 1962 harvest—a very fine vintage for both vino and ineffective embargoes (don't worry, most have been kept in pristine condition from decades of ambient cellaring in Siberia). Now that Cuba's neighbors to the north consume more wine than any other country, expect these treasures to find their way to auction. Fret not about fakes: Cuban winemakers are famed for their rigorous ideological purity. And the trade relationship promises to be reciprocal, with Cubans already infiltrating the mailing lists of cult California wines. In the years since '62, the island's sandy soils and mild climes have found comrades in red grapes like Cabernet Franco and Touriga Policía Nacional. The means of production have not changed meaningfully during the Castro years of winemaking, however, with the use of foreign agents in the field closely monitored and strict restrictions on the operation of the press.
• A 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook up Napa Valley this past August, injuring hundreds and destroying tens of thousands of gallons of wine, but millions of gallons more were saved, despite their 10- to 20-second jolts. In 2015, the oldest of the wines in barrel during that time, from the 2012 vintage, will be released … and they will be of tremendous quality, both ready to drink but built to age, with perfectly integrated oak notes and gentle tannins, thanks to an unexpected violent micro-oxygenation process that occurred within the agitated wine barrels. Australian winemakers Sparky and Sarah Marquis will declare that the "Mollydooker Shake" was the right approach all along, and the most popular piece of new winery equipment in Northern California will become a wine barrel-sized pneumatic paint-can shaker.
• In December, NASA successfully launched the first Orion spacecraft, designed to eventually take humans beyond low-earth orbit to the moon or even Mars. Some of the quicker movers in dining and wine will begin mapping out plans for the moon colony that will inevitably follow, as Earth's most cosmopolitan cities crumble into the sea and most prized terroirs shrivel into heat-scorched lifeless hellscapes, taking many Michelin-starred chefs and high-priced Napa Cabernets with them. Danny Meyer will purchase a plot on the Sea of Tranquility to expand his Shake Shack franchise to true universal popularity, and, never to be outdone, Guy Fieri has begun work on his latest concept, Guy Fieri's X-Treme G-Force Cosmo Cafe serving, among other delicacies, plates of "Deep Impact Pepper Jack-Chorizo 'Fuel Tanks,'" "The Maple-BBQ-Wasabi-Coronapocalypse" and something cryptically called "Totally Unhinged O-Rings." Meanwhile, Paul Hobbs, once merely a "globetrotting" winemaker, seeks out potentially valuable Cabernet sites with the terroir for growing "crater-floor" fruit.
• In April 2014, 27-year-old movie director Gia Coppola joined her grandfather Francis Ford Coppola and aunt Sofia Coppola in the wine business. The Gia by Gia Coppola wine label features three low-alcohol wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir) aimed at a “calorie-conscious, younger demographic.” Unfiltered thinks the Coppolas are only just getting started. 2015 will see a rash of wines debuted by different members of the Coppola family. Nicolas Cage, grandson of Francis and Sofia’s cousin, will release a bold, very high-alcohol Zinfandel called Gone in 60 Seconds. It will become a cult wine. Not to be outdone, Jason Schwartzman, grandson to Francis and cousin to Sofia and Nicolas, will create a light, self-effacing Pinot Noir in collaboration with future director of winemaking Wes Anderson. The resulting wine, Crushmore, will be very balanced … almost too balanced. Also in 2015, vines will be planted in honor of Sofia’s daughter Romy. The Romy by Romy Coppola label will be released in 2027, on her 21st birthday.