just-drinks wine pundit Chris Losh turns clairvoyant to predict the big stories of 2008. Will our Nostradamus of the Spittoon be proved right? There is only one way to find out. Keep reading just-drinks!
January - a time for expensive skiing holidays and looking forward to the year ahead. In the absence of a salary that permits me to take part in the former, I thought I'd don a shawl, root out the crystal ball, and have a go at the latter.
So, 2008 will be the year when…
Absolut finally gets sold
At last the protracted business foreplay comes to an end and the Swedish government puts Vin & Sprit up for sale. An unholy bidding war breaks out between Bacardi-Martini, Pernod Ricard and Fortune Brands. The bids increase by the day, and vicious amounts of mud are slung as each company calls in its hard-line PR militias in an effort to persuade the Scandinavians that they are worthy recipients of their legacy.
In the end, disgusted by the spectacle before them, the Swedes sell the vodka to a co-operative of Nordic trout fishermen for NOK2,000, before donating the remaining several hundred brands of aquavit, schnapps and herring-flavoured liqueur to charity.
Constellation unveils a bold new strategy
There are angry scenes at a shareholders' meeting for the world's biggest wine company as Constellation announces a major shift in policy. "We've decided not to buy anyone this year," a spokesperson announces. "Instead we're going to concentrate all our efforts on selling more of what we already have."
Investment analysts brand the revolutionary approach as unworkable, while wine columnists protest at the irresponsibility of a strategy which threatens to deprive journalists of a prime source of easy copy.
In any event, the new policy only lasts until February when Constellation pays US$2bn for a 2,000-case-a-year family winery in Luxembourg.
"It was just too good a deal to turn down," a board member reveals. "The Elbling grape is going to be huge."
…Rappers turn to Port
Proving that it's not just the mean 'muthaz' in Cognac who have their fingers on the pulse of youth fashion, there is first surprise then delight in the Douro when it turns out that the gangsta rap community is turning to Port.
The craze begins when Jay-Z releases "Brothaz, pass the Taylaz… but only to the left", and soon sees urban clubs from LA to Detroit selling 'sparkling ruby' cocktails of young Port and Cristale.
Busta Rhymes' 'Crusted get me busted, an' tawny make me horny', from his platinum album 'Straight outta Pinhao', wins a Mobo. And the influence of the Port shippers doesn't end there. By the end of the year, gangsta rappers are wearing tweed jackets and bright red corduroy trousers, and saying "My word what a bore!" to each other as they compete in a meaningless sailboat race down the Mississippi.
SABMiller moves into government
Consolidation in the beer industry moves to a whole new level, as SABMiller puts together an audacious bid for several Eastern European countries. "Of course, we're interested in the brewing potential," the company says, "but the large armies are an added attraction as well."
The bid fails when the various parties are unable to agree a price for the Slovenian state smoked sausage industry.
…'Tap' water takes off
A Californian entrepreneur kickstarts a new craze with his bottled water concept: Tap. Pumped straight from the mains into plain plastic bottles, the brand is billed as 'healthy, hydrating and carbon neutral'.
"We haven't had to ship it anywhere - it just comes from my kitchen, so there's no carbon footprint," says the brand's owner, Randy Squirrel. "Plus it's got chlorine in, so it'll zap any bugs you got."
Tap is lapped up by the skeletal glitterati of LA who see a couple of glasses as a cheap substitute for a meal.
…The Champenois sort out their supply problem
With growing pressure on grapes in north-east France, the Champenois, in a rare display of unanimity, agree to an emergency expansion of the region's vineyards.
"It is only a small increase," says a spokesman for the CIVC. "We have pushed the boundaries out by 200km to the south and 50km to the west. If you consider how big Australia is, it's not so much really."
… Aussie rivers flow Cabernet
Meanwhile in Australia, following another dry summer wine producers hit on an innovative solution to their drought problem: using surplus wine to water their parched vineyards.
"With millions of litres of glut wine sitting in tanks, and the country's rivers at an all-time low, it seemed the obvious solution," says Brett Tooley of Wallaby's Wanger Winery.
However, the move meets opposition from Australian water companies who are worried that the low price of Australian bulk wine could destabilise the marketplace.