With 2021 off to an already unbelievable start, it's time for Unfiltered’s annual exercise in predicting the most astonishing and unpredictable events of the coming year in wine. (Before that, however, perhaps some soothing viewing of Shafer Vineyards’ six-hour video of serenely grazing sheep.)
Let us first tally our successes and colossal forecasting failures of our predictions for 2020. Our assessment that Gen Z wine lovers would demand ever stranger flavors came true when we beamed up Klingon Bloodwine, California honey wine appeared on Shark Tank, Aldi supermarket re-introduced ChocoSecco and Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum repulsed and delighted us with an exhibition of the world’s most revolting adult beverages (and no, it didn’t include Alabama’s sewage plant cuvée). We also predicted that more TV wines debut in 2020—another easy win: Real Housewives and Star Trek: Picard both answered the call.
Our Riedel crystal ball is not always so clear, however. After seeing Burgundy winemaking icon Aubert de Villaine’s star turn in L’Âme du Vin (The Soul of Wine), we guessed that de Villaine would take Hollywood by storm. Instead, we learned that an upcoming TV series—Shadows in the Vineyard, starring Noah Wylie—would tell the true-life tale of vine sabotage and high-stakes ransom perpetrated against de Villaine’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti estate. The rest of our predictions were far farther off the mark, something to keep in mind as you’re delighted and amazed by what 2021 almost definitely has in store for us … but there’s only one way to know for sure: Sign up for our Unfiltered email newsletter! It’s free!
Vino Reality: VR Headsets Enable In-Your-Face Winery Tours
No single event dominated the past year more than the COVID-19 pandemic, and the service industry was particularly hard-hit. Wineries the world over were forced to close their doors to visitors at various times. Among the many developments of the past year were that wine-loving professionals have spent far more time than ever before at home with their children, and have simultaneously been forced to become more tech-savvy (all while being deprived of those coveted winery tasting room visits and tours). In 2021, wineries around the world will begin offering virtual-reality tours and guided tastings, and wine lovers across the globe will begin commandeering their children’s VR headsets to instantly winery hop from Napa’s top properties to Bordeaux first-growth châteaus to super Tuscan estates and back, without ever leaving their homes—and while their children rightly laugh at them for looking utterly ridiculous. It’s a win, win!
Vine Disease Vaccines Arrive
In 2020, we saw mind-blowing scientific advances in the field of viticulture, from mildew-suppressing sex inhibitors, garlic sprays and UV light treatments to cross-bred disease-resistant grapes. In 2021, in celebration of eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s top vaccinologists turn their attention to vineyard afflictions, notably Pierce’s disease, red blotch and leaf roll virus. By December 2021, vine vaccines for all of these diseases are approved for distribution, starting with California’s 100-year-old Zinfandel vines. Sadly, a rogue botanist will leave gallons of the treatment out in the sun to rot, half the Zinfandel growers will refuse the vaccine in belief that it will alter their vines’ DNA, making the grapes more palatable to our lizard people overlords, all while Napa’s top cult Cabernet vines keep jumping the line.
Portland Trail Blazers Abandon Basketball for Basket Presses
Two years ago, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers signed Adelsheim Vineyard to their roster, and since then, star Blazers players have been making fast breaks to Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country. In 2020, shooting guard CJ McCollum launched his own Pinot Noir brand (again with Adelsheim), followed by former Trail Blazer and NBA champion Channing Frye. Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony started hosting the What's in Your Glass? YouTube series, and former Blazer Moe Harkless told us about his wine interests as well. In 2021, the Portland Trail Blazers will shock the sports world and surprise no one in the wine world when they abandon basketball completely and pivot to winemaking. Superstar Damian Lillard will give up draining buckets for draining old-school basket presses, and wine lovers will flock to the tasting room just to watch him fill a wineglass of his Le Grand Dame Pinot Noir, which he has no trouble pouring in 37 feet from the rim.
Fast-Food Wine Collabs Proliferate, Delighting All
2020 was a devastating year for fine dining, but the drive-thru industry boomed, and one such franchise had an unexpected hit when it released a limited-edition Pinot Noir cuvée. Taco Bell’s Jalapeño Noir was released in September and sold out in 11 minutes. With demand like that, it’s no surprise that dozens of fast-food chains will follow suit in 2021, each trying to outdo the next. White Castle will box its sliders with bottles of Canada’s Checkmate, while Checkers will compete with a King Estate Kombo Meal. We’ll see a Little Pio Cesare from Little Caesars go up against a Domino’s Dominus collaboration, and Napa’s MacDonald brothers will make a special-edition cuvée for … well, you can see where this is going. We’re not sure what all this will mean for sommeliers, but we’re going to truly relish their fast-food pairing recommendations.