With 2011 now behind us it's time to look ahead what may be in store for us all in 2012. An attempt at forecasting how I believe certain wine topics affecting the Canadian market may play-out this year. Have your say too and leave a comment below.
Screw Cap Enclosures
I don't think there has ever been more cellar worthy wines produced in Canada at any given time than the impressive examples being consistently offered today. However, it remains a very small percentage of the amount of wines produced from our (relatively) young industry using (mostly) young vines (less than 15 years old). Most wines produced are for daily consumption and are presented in a North American-friendly, fruit-forward and lively style. A style perfectly attuned to the freshness-containing, aluminum screw-cap enclosure more commonly used in Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, in North America the screw cap (or "Stelvin cap" as it is all too often referred to in a Kleenex sort of way) is still associated with bulk, cheap, "jug" wines and rarely seen on quality, mid-range products like the sorts of wines we save for that special evening which is expected to be fulfilled within the next year or two.
It's a perception that a few influential producers like the Okanagan Valley's Tinhorn Creek are looking to change and who see the screw cap for what it is - insurance that of all the wines that leave the winery, none will come back due to a tainted cork. All of their wines, with the only exception being the winery's 200ml Icewine/Late Harvest bottle, are enclosed with a screw cap. Even their reserve wines which receive an extra year of bottle aging prior to release are sealed with the screw cap. These wines taste fresh upon release, yet, you can taste the benefits of the extra time in bottle. The jury may still be out on the long term effect but some data coming out of Australia is encouraging.
I believe that more wineries in BC and Ontario will adopt the screw cap for their bottom and mid-tier wines. Cork will remain the standard for the cellar dwellars as is my own preference. Hopefully, more screw caps will mean less synthetics - the bane of my wine bottle opening experience.
Prediction: Progress will be made, but item will remain "Unsolved".
Outdated Liquor Board Laws
I certainly support the amending of the current inter-provincial shipping liquor laws for the simple fact that I would like to be able to order wine from the Niagara Peninsula directly from the producer and at the winery door price. However, the Ins and Outs of the details as to how the laws should change I leave to other much more informed folks like @JustGrapesWine @freemygrapes and @TDMulligen.
Reading the tea leaves it feels as though support for some sort of personal consumption exemption is gaining ground with politicians and will not only be changed in our lifetime, but changed this coming year. This is a small victory in the larger battle to change the Prohibition-era laws and the mountain of ridiculous (and often confusing) regulations the antiquated laws support. But a victory nonetheless.
Prediction: Solved (somewhat)
Next page: Signature Grapes & Bordeaux Vintages
In Ontario there's the Riesling VS. Chardonnay debate, and in BC we hear equally about Syrah and Cabernet Franc becoming the de facto "signature grape" for the region. But will these debates ever truly answer the popular question "What is BC's or Ontario's Signature Wine?" No. Any restrictions to encourage the development of a signature wine by way of forcing what a vineyard can grow and where they can grow it would have to be self-imposed by the local viticulture association and we forgive the Canadian winemaking community from going that route in the wake of the watershed of Provincially imposed sanctions that effect just about every other aspect of their businesses. What little freedom they have they should hold on to firmly.
If signature wines do emerge, it will likely be by way of the free market. However, if it went to a vote mine would be for the following (explaining in detail will require its own post):
BC: Red - Cabernet Franc, White - Aromatic Blends
Ontario: Red - Cabernet Franc, White - Riesling
Unprecedented Bordeaux Vintages
2009 was reported as "the vintage of the century" by some. This was followed in 2010 by, amazingly, a "classic" Bordeaux vintage. Both arriving on the heals of the very impressive, and only in comparison, the under-appreciated 2008 vintage. An unprecedented run of good luck for the region. If I believed in reincarnation, I would devote the rest of my life to building good karma so that when I died I would come back a Bordelais.
It could be that the recent run of good-to-great vintages and record prices is making up for a near decade long drought (of quality) in the 70's. Or, perhaps, the region is benefiting from unprecedented good weather due to an unexpected positive effect of climate change. Others say it's due to the modernizing of the viticulture and winemaking practices that help push a vintage from good to great.
Likely, it's a combination of all these theories but the real secret to the success of Bordeaux is the Bordelais themselves. No one knows how to market a wine region as well as they do of their beloved Aquitaine and if it takes sacrificing a vintage to help restore faith in the meaning of a "great" vintage then I'm sure we'll soon read about how a particular year's weather was too good and produced wines best suited for early consumption. This translates roughly as "please, still buy them but drink up so that our reserves of the 2009's and 2010's go up in value".
Prediction: Solved. The run will end, prices will drop... but only for a vintage or two.