First the bad news. Expect prices to climb. With so much acreage destroyed by fires in various parts of California and so many vineyards tainted by the dense smoke that enveloped the vines, there will be less wine making its way into the marketplace.
And we all know what happens when supply does not meet demand.
It’s not just wine producers in this country who have been hammered. Fires in Chile and elsewhere in South America have cut into production. In Europe, vine-killing frosts, hail and drought have beaten up producers and cut their crops ... and product.
American consumers are expected to be a tad more discriminating when buying wines. As I advised last month, be wary of buying wines from northern California from the 2017 vintage.
Also this year, those of us who enjoy a glass or four of crisp, flavorful, dry roses can expect our cup to continue to run over. Winos call the tsunami of dry roses that have hit the market over the past four years “the rose juggernaut.”
In the past four years, U.S. sales for these lovely pink wines are up some 57 percent. In 2014, you would be lucky to find three or four quality rose wines — and I’m not talking about White Zinfandel. Today, even on supermarket shelves, dozens of selections yell, “Buy me!”
And they are from all over the globe — including from Northeast Georgia wineries. Spanish, French, Italian, Argentinian, Chilean, South African roses are widely available. And they are so lovely to drink. Nearly dry, most commend themselves to lighter food dishes. Just wait until picnic season comes around. Dry roses are the perfect picnic wine.
The packaging revolution is expected to pick up its pace in 2018. A decade ago if you wanted wine, you bought a bottle. Today, however, you can pick up a box, a can, a tetra-pak or even a small keg filled with wine.
I hear you asking, “How about the quality?”
Answer: The quality of the wine in alternative packaging continues to improve every year. Many box wines have edged beyond just being adequate everyday sippers to being better than average table wines ... at a price point most wine buyers appreciate.
We are approaching a time when the folks who produce good-quality wines in bottles are going to start putting the same wine into boxes, cans, etc. Some Australian producers already are doing just that. The primary difference will be in the price.
One wine writer put forth the following scenario: You like a mid-range Italian Chianti for $12 to $14 a bottle. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could buy a three-liter box (equivalent to four regular-sized bottles) for, say, $30 to $35? The answer to that is “Yes!”
The advantages go beyond price, though. A box or a keg will keep the wine fresher for much longer than bottled wine. Box wine should remain sound for four to six weeks. And think of the convenience of storing one large cube, as opposed to four bottles.
There’s an ecological aspect, too. Boxes and tetra-paks are completely recyclable and create less of an impact on the environment than the production and disposal of glass bottles.
Kegs and boxes also should be high on the priority list of restaurants. No worries about the wine going bad through a combination of just hanging around too long and being exposed to air, and storage is so much simpler than with bottles or cases.
This next item is not indicative of a trend, but a confirmation of something most wine scribes and educators — including yours truly — have been saying for decades. It goes like this: Check out the bubbles in a glass of Champagne. The smaller the bubbles, the better the quality of the wine.
Recently, a group of Champagne-loving scientists with a tad too much time on their hands conducted experiments to determine if that long-held thought really is true. They poured glasses of Moet et Chandon, one of France’s finest sparklers, and compared them with some cheap plonk from California by measuring the sound frequency at which the bubbles in each wine burst.
They learned smaller bubbles burst at a higher frequency than did the larger bubbles found in the cheap stuff. And the Moet was loaded with the high-frequency bubbles.
I knew I was right about that ... just not why.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at email@example.com. His column publishes monthly.
Wine of the month: Brancaia Tre Rosso Toscano 2014
The wine: Dry, medium-bodied red table wine.
The grapes: 80 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent Merlot, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.
The source: Tuscany in Italy.
The verdict: Check out the grape types used to make this ... Tuscany. Hey, folks, we got us here a Super Tuscan ... but at about 30 percent of the price of the big names. Super Tuscans were created about three decades ago by some of Tuscany’s biggest-name winemakers who were tired of the same old, same old formulas for red wines. So they started blending, gasp, Merlot and Cabernet with the traditional Sangiovese. The result: Some of the world’s best reds that defied normal categories. They also sported huge price tags. The folks at Brancaia have taken fruit from three notable Tuscan vineyards and blended those grapes into a lovely, well-balanced red you will be proud to serve. Tannins give a hint of leather; oak offers up a soupcon of vanilla. Only 16,051 cases were made so you may have to hunt for the TRE. It’s worth it.
The price: About $25