Toast the new year with a f lagon of cheer
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.
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.
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.