By The Glass
U.S. offerings will cost more
It is time again for me to look into my crystal wine goblet and discern what is to befall the wine industry next year and beyond. Only time will tell if my predictions and wishes for the wine biz come true.
» Top domestic wines will become significantly more expensive, due in part to the increased cost of production. But credit or fault will also be given to individual wineries and their owners, who feel that their wine is just as good as their European counterparts', whose prices continue to rise due to the falling U.S. dollar. They wouldn't want their wines to seem cheap next to others, would they?
» A shortage of Australian wine for export will lead to yet another increase in price in this segment of the wine trade. In 2007, Australia was struck by both frost and drought. What once was a wellspring of great value will become a trickle. One supplier told me that some wineries in South Australia were down by 70 percent! Official word is that the overall harvest was down 40 percent for reds and 29 percent for whites. So if you like them, you'll have to search harder and pay more.
» If you live on the Windward side, like me, you probably can't wait until Formaggio Grill opens in early January. I'm looking forward to Formaggio's wine selection and menu upgrading our choices for a great night out in Kailua.
» I hope that wine professionals step up their pursuit of the master sommelier diploma. When I passed the exam in 2005, it had been 16 years since Chuck Furuya earned certification. Another 16 years for Hawaii to produce another master is too long a wait! My advice is to go for it! We have plenty of local talent that has yet to shine and bring more sparkle to our paradise.
People have asked me what grape varietal will be next to captivate the American palate. I don't believe anything will be as explosive as pinot noir, but syrah/shiraz surely interests me. Australian shiraz already is on the rise. Domestically, on the Sonoma Coast, in Santa Barbara, Paso Robles and Washington, a growing base of great wines supports the phenomenon.
France has staunch icons tied to the varietal and even Italy and Spain are making sincere forays in producing quality syrah. The grape can produce wines with elegance and finesse, as well as wines with power. But syrah will be more like a slow sunrise compared to the meteoric rise of pinot noir. Of course, unless someone writes a screenplay with syrah as the main character. ...
Another prediction: Food and wine pairing will become less important. Yeah, you read that right. Sommeliers will continue to make wonderful menus that impress diners -- or they won't. Let's be honest: Sometimes pairings are greater than the sum of their parts, but more often, they are just OK. More people should figure out that drinking what you like while eating what you like is not so bad. As long as the two don't clash and make each other taste terrible, it's OK!
Wine is already intimidating. Why make it even more so? Let people enjoy themselves without worrying about picking the perfect wine. The simple fact that they are drinking wine already makes me happy!
A couple of celebratory bubblies for New Year's: 1999 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee ($100) is a wonderfully stylish champagne with hedonistic levels of flavor and complexity. If you like Krug, you will love this. NV Roederer Estate Brut ($20) is still one of the best values for California sparklers; lovely mousse, vibrant flavors, refreshingly clean.
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier and wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org