Toast the new year with a f lagon of cheer

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION TRAVEL - NICK RYAN

It’s prob­a­bly un­wise to ask a booze guy to pre­dict the fu­ture. The crys­tal into which I gaze is shaped into glasses, not balls, and the only en­trails I read are first braised with madeira and onions. Some­times the sooth is best left un­said.

But at this time of year edi­tors flick through their con­tact books look­ing for Nostradamus and when he doesn’t an­swer they just set­tle on the near­est “N”.

Which is why you have be­fore you now a list of pre­dic­tions for 2017 built by am­ple gut in­stinct as much as great in­sight, and pro­duced in the hope that this com­ing year is noth­ing like the mis­er­able bas­tard just passed.

The “nat­u­ral” cor­rec­tion

The rise of nat­u­ral wine has been the big­gest trend of the past few years, but 2017 looks set to be the year that some bal­ance and sense is re­stored to the wine lists of this thirsty na­tion. No longer will we have to throw out the baby and drink the bath­wa­ter. Good ex­am­ples of nat­u­ral wine will con­tinue to suc­cess­fully find list­ings be­cause de­li­cious wines al­ways will, but here’s hop­ing we no longer see the faulty, snake oil-scented bot­tles that some pim­ply som­me­lier bought just be­cause they liked the wine­maker’s wife’s beard.

Size mat­ters

While the wines we’re drink­ing are more di­verse than ever, the pack­ag­ing in which we buy them over­whelm­ingly re­mains glass bot­tles pro­duced to con­tain 750ml. That is start­ing to change. Half-bot­tles are gain­ing favour for the flex­i­bil­ity they of­fer in restau­rants and some es­pe­cially thirsty wine­mak­ers are bring­ing back the 4-litre flagon. Wine in kegs has been around for a lit­tle while but im­prove­ments in the tech­nol­ogy will move it be­yond niche and we may soon be see­ing pre­mium wine in casks push­ing to­wards the $50 mark.

Try this:

Proud Pri­mary Pro­duce’s Up the Moun­tain Yarra Val­ley rose 2016, $70.

Viti­cul­tur­ist and wine­maker Stu­art Proud is a child of the flagon-fu­elled 1970s who thinks the time has come for the for­mat to make a come­back. He’s filled his flagons with a beau­ti­fully bright and ex­pres­sive rose so de­li­ciously drink­able you’ll be thank­ful for all that ex­tra vol­ume.

Brandy is back

We live in a golden age of Aus­tralian dis­till­ing. The past cou­ple of years have been all about gin and we now have so many ar­ti­san gin pro­duc­ers in this coun­try, the ra­tio is one gin brand for ev­ery three moth­ers in need of ru­ina­tion. Now it’s brandy’s turn to boom. Like gin, brandy is the foun­da­tion of many of the clas­sic cock­tails in vogue and while there’s an ocean of co­gnac avail­able to stock our bars and liquor cab­i­nets, 2017 will be the year we tap into grape-dis­till­ing tra­di­tions of our own.

St Agnes XO 15 year old, $100. A pol­ished and de­li­ciously com­plex spirit rich in the aro­mas of can­died peel and grace­ful oak age­ing.

Try this: The wines of Greece and Por­tu­gal

The se­lec­tion of im­ported of­fer­ings on our wine lists and bot­tle shop shelves has never been bet­ter but it’s still dom­i­nated by France, Italy and, at least in the ries­ling sec­tion, Ger­many. But 2017 will serve us up some ex­cite­ment from op­po­site ends of the Euro­pean con­ti­nent. De­spite both be­ing busted-arse broke, Por­tu­gal and Greece have en­er­getic wine in­dus­tries look­ing to en­gage more with mar­kets be­yond their bor­ders, so get used to see­ing as­syr­tiko, ser­cial, mavro­tragano and bas­tardo ap­pear­ing more fre­quently on the list of your favourite wine bars.

Ev­ery­thing avail­able by the glass

Re­cent stud­ies of the be­hav­iour of mag­pies have dis­pelled the myth of the bird’s at­trac­tion to re­flec­tive ob­jects. That leaves som­me­liers as the species like­li­est to suc­cumb to the lure of shiny new toys. Right now it’s the Co­ravin, a faintly sadis­tic-look­ing in­stru­ment that pierces corks, ex­tracts wine and re­places the liq­uid with pre­serv­ing ar­gon gas while the cork re­mains per­fectly in­tact. In the­ory this means ev­ery wine in the cel­lar is now avail­able by the glass, which may make 2017 the year wine nerds bat­tle to see who can sub­ject the most ex­trav­a­gant bot­tle to this new­fan­gled thiev­ing trick.

At around $500 the Co­ravin sys­tem won’t be for ev­ery­one so for home use con­sider the very ef­fec­tive Wi­ne­save sys­tem ($39.95 and also based on ar­gon) as a way of ex­tend­ing the life of your opened bot­tles.

Try this:

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