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What's In Store for 2005 (January 7, 2005)

Come into my tent and cross my palm with silver. I will gaze into my crystal ball and tell you the future. Here are my predictions for 2005:

  1. There will be no Stanley Cup Final.
  2. Carolyn Parrish will say something hateful about our neighbours to the south.
  3. Contractors who promise that construction on your new kitchen will take four to six weeks really mean forty-six weeks.

So keep this column, add salt and vinegar and wrap your fish and chips in it.

All of the above is just a warm-up to get me in the groove for my predictions as to what will be hot in the coming year wine-wise. First, four no-brainers:

  1. Red wine consumption will keep going up as more and more people accept the notion that a glass or two of red wine a day will protect your heart from attacking you. (Repeat after me: the resveratrol in the skins of black grapes acts like a scrubbing brush in your body, flushing out the low-density lipoproteins, the bad part of cholesterol that can clog your arteries).
  2. More and more wines appearing on LCBO shelves will be under screwcap (so don't buy shares in companies that manufacture corkscrews).
  3. The LCBO will continue to exist in its present form – in your lifetime and your children's.
  4. And Australia will continue to take up an unconscionable amount of shelf space in your local liquor store, especially with Shiraz and Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blends.

Now, don't hold my feet to the fire on this one but sometime in 2005 you will be able to bring your own wine into restaurants that opt in to the Liberal government's Bring Your Own Wine initiative. When and if this happens – over the dead bodies of many restaurateurs – you will also be able to take out opened bottles that you haven't finished as long as they are securely corked. (How they get around unfinished screwcap wines is another problem – probably with a paper seal.)

In terms of the Big Wine Picture, this year California will be the new Chile. That is, you will see a slew of bargain-priced California wines of decent quality in the Two Buck Chuck idiom. But they won't be two bucks, more like $9.95 and up. The declining US dollar and the soft market in the United States combined with the Australian dominance in the global market has forced California producers to offer well-made, accessible wines at consumer-friendly prices. Otherwise visitors to San Francisco will see the natives washing their cars with Chardonnay.

You will also find wines on the shelves from hitherto unfashionable regions of Italy, particularly reds from Apulia, Basilicata, Abruzzi and Sicily. And more Spanish and Portuguese wines.

In white wines, look for more Sauvignon Blanc from New World producers and a renaissance for that much-neglected variety, Riesling. This will not be a case of the Little Blue Nun triumphing over the Little Blue Cow but Rieslings in dry rather than semi-sweet style, the ones that make such terrific partners for a whole raft of recipes.

And, unfortunately, you're going to be subjected to more Concept Labels. The success of Domaine de Soleil's Fat Bastard Chardonnay and Shiraz with its truculent hippo spawned a Noah's ark of animal labels.

What I would like to see happen but won't because Queen's Park wouldn't countenance it, is for case lot discounts for consumers who want to have their house wine on hand. And discounts for licensees so that they can lower the prices on their wine lists. (Aspler, you're dreaming in technicolour. But if BYO does come in, I predict that those restaurants who embrace the concept will lower their wine prices so that you'll be tempted to buy a bottle in addition to the one you've brought in.) On this note, one final prediction: if the BYO thing happens, there'll be a run of the Corkage Caddy – a fabric tote bag for a wine bottle with a shoulder strap that collapses into the size of a hockey puck. Check it out on the net at www.corkagecaddy.com.

 

 

 

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