Corkscrew - The wine year in (p)review

Looking back and forward

Not sure who first said "opinions are like assholes — everyone has one," but it's brilliant. It goes to the heart of the human condition, the "I am so right and you must listen to me" mantra. Am I an exception to that rule? Uh, no. So I will report on the state of wine affairs in 2007 and 2008, with loads of opinion weaved in. My anal-ysis follows (sorry, couldn't resist).

What wine was ... 2007

Rosé rose

When the cover of the New York Times' food section featured rosé wines being gulped at hipster Manhattan haunts, I knew pink had finally risen from its white zin rep. Armani-wearing men even touted the beauty of this crisp red wine alternative. 'Bout time.

Wine as growth vitamin

"Red wine protects from colds," "Cardiovascular and cancer benefits," "Wine with a meal helps you burn calories faster"... only a few of the headlines found when I Googled "wine and health." More than 20 pages pimped the advantages of red wine and its healthfulness. And in 2007 the masses started getting the medicinal message. In 2006, U.S. wine sales reached an all-time high of 300 million cases, and all indicators point to more growth. Of course, the next study released could debunk all the others, but my health, and my consumption, remains quite strong.

The warming trend

The fact that vineyards in cold, rainy England are actually producing drinkable wine might indicate to even global-warming deniers that we are, indeed, heating up. Established wine regions are fretting – Napa and Sonoma counties recently founded commissions to study the effects of increased temperature on their cash-cow crops. But this means good things for the states and countries that haven't been able to capitalize on the major wine action. Go, Canada, go!

What wine will be ... 2008

Screw cappa yappa

We love our wines from Down Under. And with the majority of New Zealand and Australian wines being capped instead of corked, Americans will become more comfortable with the idea of great wine being unscrewed.

Merlot makes it back

Still reeling from the Sideways slap, Merlot producers responded fairly quickly to the protest by coaxing beefier, more concentrated and definitely more delicious Merlot back into the bottle. With its fruitiness and approachability (not to mention affordability), people will start moving back into Merlot's soft and willing arms.

Wine at your doorstep

At the deserted post office last week, I asked the postal guy behind the counter what gives. He said Internet sales have definitely curbed the need to mail gifts ourselves. So now that we're OK with buying toys, CDs and electronics online, I envision growth in Internet wine sales. Retailers only have so much space and selection, whereas online the world is our wine smorgasbord. Thirty-four states currently allow direct shipping of our favorite beverage, reaching 78 percent of the adult population. Do some perusing at Wine.com, AppellationAmerica.com or the many other direct-sale wine sites and see what's out there.

Embracing organic

In case you haven't noticed, "green" is hip. We're paying more attention to what goes into our bodies, recycling and eating organic. Although this trend hasn't hit wine sales yet, vineyard managers have been transitioning to organic farming in varying degrees. Many don't label their bottles organic but raise fruit that is better for you. It makes sense – healthier crops make better wine.

Recommended wines

Ladoucette 2005 Pouilly Fume (France) This French Sauvignon Blanc is positively pretty. Rich and gentle acidity yet lively with tart lime, minerally slate and a delicious finish of earthy chamomile tea. Unique. Sw = 1. $30. 4 stars.

Joel Gott 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon California A wine with a lot going on. Slightly sweet with ripe raspberry, blackberry, licorice, earthy caramel and red cherry. Great value in a warming red for winter. Sw = 3. $17. 4 stars.

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. Star rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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This refreshing rosé blend made from grenache, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and dolcetto (an Italian grape) smells like sweet, perfumey fruit. On the tongue, itís soft íní elegant, with cranberry, sweet cherry, ripe strawberries and fresh, lively acidity. Quite perfect, really. Perfect for any occasion, even happy ones. Sw= 2. $17 retail. 5 stars.  

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