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Tuesday Trials and Tribulations
They Predict—We Analyze

By Stephen Eliot

It’s that time again. Time for predictions and prognostications about just what lies in store for the wine world in the New Year. They are so plentiful that it is nigh impossible to navigate the wine blogosphere and not get electronic crap on your shoes, but then I guess that is nothing new. They range from the silly to the stupid with an occasional thought-provoking insight or two, but for the most part they are pointless and only add decibels to the din of barking poodles.

We have our own suspicions about what will transpire in the months ahead, but it takes no crystal ball to see continuing debates about alcohol levels, “naturalness” and the tyranny and/or irrelevancy of critics and “points” providing constant fodder for the internecine wine-culture wars. We will be lulled to sleep by soporific arguments over the impact of millennials and the value of social media in the world of wine. There are certain to be new voices no less convinced of their infallibility than those whom they would overthrow, and there will be those who find “redefinition” and “revolution” beneath every stone and behind every vine.

As usual, we will wait for the year to come to us. We write about what is rather than what we think the future will hold.

We are certainly interested to see how the much-praised 2012 vintage shapes up as more and more of the better Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs come to market. We have been much impressed by local Sauvignon Blanc thus far as well as the usual the front-running Pinots, but we have yet to be all that impressed by what Chardonnay has had to say—although, truth be told, the wine we are now tasting for our February Issue do contain a number of GOOD VALUES and that does raise our hopes for the quality of the “big flavor” boys yet to come.

We are equally interested, if far less optimistic, about the imminent flood of 2011 Cabernets soon to arrive on our doorstep and tasting table. The handful that we have tasted thus far are not encouraging, but, then, we remember the horror stories surrounding Zinfandels from the same year and that more than a few unexpected beauties such as those from Ridge and Ravenswood made their ways to our place. There is always hope.

It may well be that the continuing growth of winemaker and consumer interest in Rhône varietals becomes the year’s most fascinating story, and we confess real fascination with a good number of new producers who are working with everything from Marsanne and Roussanne to Grenache, both Blanc and Noir. And, please, do not count Syrah out!

One thing is sure; there will be thousands of new wines and hundreds of long tasting days on our 2014 calendars. Yes, reviewing wines for a living is a good job, but, when done conscientiously, it is work, and I admit to bristling a bit when I hear that it described as anything less.

I will not make predictions for the year ahead, but I will make a few promises, and they, quite simply, are to stay excited, to be ever mindful that there are new things to learn everyday and, as always, to consider every wine one glass at a time.


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