Comment – Wine – What's Definitely Going to Happen in 2011

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As the old year decomposes slowly in its flat, forgotten by family and neighbours alike, and the newly-born one has its buttocks metaphorically slapped by the midwife of hope, Chris Losh takes his annual look at the stories you can definitely expect to be reading about in 2011.


Following the amazing clairvoyant powers of Paul the Psychic Octopus during last summer’s World Cup, bosses at Constellation draft in a tank full of squid to dictate company policy. A spokesman heralds the development, saying it will be “a significant improvement on the dice-rolling technique that we’ve used for the last ten years”.

In keeping with the new Age of Austerity, a London bar opens its first of a chain of new poverty-themed outlets. The Work House crams 60 people in a room the size of a cupboard, offers cocktails of gruel and misery and has an a la carte menu of six types of slop. It’s heralded by the capital’s mayor as “brilliantly capturing the new spirit of London”.

Executives of the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin petition the UN for sanctions on China. “We think they are secretly planting thousands of hectares of vineyards, but they won’t allow our inspectors in to verify the situation,” says president Roger Thesaurus. “Obviously, a powerful Chinese wine industry would be a considerable threat to the stability of the wine world. We don’t think that any nation that is unable to pronounce the word ‘rillettes’ should have control of so much grape must.”


Scandal in Italy, when it is revealed that dozens of producers in Chianti have been, quite literally, beefing up their wines with pasta sauce. The authorities come down hard on the perpetrators, pointing out that, if they are to add Bolognese to their wine, regulations stipulate that it should be home-made.

As Toy Story 3 cleans up at the Oscars, a New York bar finds itself in hot water with its Booze Lightyear cocktail. “They say we’re aiming it at kids, but lots of adults like it too,” says its creator. “Some of our customers are as old as 25.”

Cork producer Amorim raises eyebrows with its new advertising campaign: “Real Cork - because Taint is Quaint”. “We realised we’d never be able to get rid of it entirely, so we decided to embrace it,” said marketing manager Bouza da Sousa. “We’re also looking at “TCA is A-OK” and “If you walk the walk, then cork the cork”.”


Attempts by the Kiwi wine industry to head off rumours of massive overproduction are undone at the world windsurfing championships in Nelson when one of the competitors falls into the vast custom-built lake and describes it as tasting “like passion fruit, gooseberries and green peppers”.

Swedish industrialist Bjorn Tobewild makes enemies throughout the New World with his ‘Cumbre de los Andes’ wine from Chile. Grown on a glacier at 5,000 metres it is, he says, “The only real cool climate wine on the planet. Everything else is just marketing...”. Thin, unripe and viciously tannic, the wine is loved by the European wine press, who describe it as “the kind of wine that Bordeaux has forgotten how to make”.


With eight people dying of liver cirrhosis in 2010, the French government decides it needs to take a tougher line on alcohol abuse, and passes a law making it illegal for wineries to put any information on their labels at all. “We think these new blank labels will make it impossible for consumers to choose and, with luck, eradicate the cancer that is our wine industry. Hold on, is that a tape recorder?” says a Government spokesman.

In Londonshire, England, Prince William marries Kate Middleton and all jokes are banned for the day. The event sees a host of wine spin-offs: King’s Leap (from California); Kate’s Folly (from Chile) and Imperialist Idle Rich Cuvée from some Chinese vineyards that don’t officially exist.

Following the 250th recorded use of the headline 'Everything’s coming up rosés', the drinks world declares war on crap magazine titles.


As heated opinions fly around the internet about 2010 en primeur Bordeaux, Sky Sports sets up a boxing match between Jancis Robinson MW and Robert Parker at Nicolas Sarkozy’s holiday home. The ‘Thriller in the Villa’ is won on points by the bespectacled Brit, who uses footspeed and edgy tannins to avoid getting pinned on the ropes and battered by Big Bob’s oaky, alcoholic haymakers.

Photographs of the Royal Wedding are sold to Hello! Magazine and in an interview Kate Middleton reveals that she “once went to Japan and quite likes sake”. Instantly, sales of the drink sell out across UK and the US and the head of the Japanese Sake Producers association is knighted. Within two weeks, supermarket giant Tesco launches Katy-san Sake; “the drink that makes you feel like a queen”.


After two years of slow sales, the Champenois call an emergency press conference in Paris and reveal their latest plans to shrink the appellation by 20%. “In this, we are being completely consistent with our long-term strategy,” says spokesman Pierre Volteface. “Champagne is at war with vineyard expansion. Champagne has always been at war with vineyard expansion.”

The Graf Schnippenschnappen von Himmelsdorf winery in Germany unveils its special wine for the World Cup in South Africa. When it is pointed out that the event took place a year ago, the general manager says: “We felt it was more important to get the wine right than rush it out for marketing reasons.”

The use of the headline “Pinot Envy” sees the editor of Decanter sentenced to six months hard labour in a Bulgarian wine factory.


TV cameras flock to a small village in Andalucia that claims to have harvested “Europe’s earliest grapes ever” on 6 July. The grapes are unripe, and the whole thing turns out to have been a publicity stunt by the local mayor who owns a string of hotels that had been empty for 18 months.

Kate Middleton mentions in an interview with Marie Claire magazine that she “likes to unwind with a gin and tonic’. Supermarket shelves across Europe are instantly emptied of gin, the Beefeater distillery is declared a World Heritage Site and Tesco launches “Kate-tanicals Gin – the G&T for HRH”.

There are strikes at Constellation headquarters, when the ‘12 wise squid’ make a surprise decision to sell off all the office furniture.


In a survey that rocks the wine world, global research company Random Nonsense exclusively reveals that wine consumers are stupid. “There’s been a global misapprehension that wine drinkers are intelligent and engaged, but in fact the vast majority are really thick,” says CEO Randy Squirrel.

With the US economy still sluggish, and President Obama changing his slogan from “Yes we can” to “We thought we could”, wine companies cut prices further to survive. Scientists at the University of Lindsey Lohan declare that wine is officially cheaper than air and begin work on developing human gills.

With most of Europe on holiday, Diageo makes a surprise bid for Greece.


The Autumn TV schedules start with the car-crash reality show, ‘I’m a winemaker get me out of here’ where New World wine growers are forced to pick fruit before it’s over-ripe, denied access to heavily toasted barrels and punished for referring to their $8 Pinot Noirs as “Burgundian in style”.

Diageo completes its takeover of Greece. “We’ve been rather under-indexed in aniseed, and we see this as a significant opportunity to leverage our portfolio arak-wise,” says a speaker of marketese.

The Wine Nerd website is closed down and its founder hit with a EUR20,000 fine for an article entitled 'Riojan Roll'.


The parlous state of the Irish economy is laid bare when it is discovered that a businessman flying into Dublin with two bottles of duty free Argentinian Malbec has doubled that month’s wine imports. Pernod Ricard offers EUR20 for the troubled country. Diageo counters with a bid of EUR25. After a vicious bidding war, the French company acquires Eire for EUR126, a deal which sees a 10% drop in its share price. “We’re worried that they have significantly over-paid for what is, effectively, a rain-lashed building site,” says one financial analyst.

Kate Middleton mentions in a hard-hitting interview with the New York Times that she “doesn’t really like vodka”. Sales of the drink plummet, and the Smirnoff factory is fire-bombed by agitators wearing Princess Kate masks.


Californian winery Silicon Hills launches what it claims is the most expensive wine on the planet. Made from a six-hectare vineyard that is so rigorously pared back that each vine yields only one grape, total production is just two bottles, worth $800,000 each. The first is given 1,000 points out of 100 by Wine Spectator. The second, bought by a dot-com billionaire, is corked.

The biodynamic world is rocked when French police discover that Pierre André, winemaker at Rhone winery Vieux Television, has been stealing bodies out of the local graveyard, mixing them up with cow’s horn, fennel and some garlic butter, then burying them in the vines. His defence that “Steiner told me to do it”, sees him acquitted in the French court.


As Christmas approaches, the hospitality sector battles a threat from Kinect gaming. “Our new ‘Dylan Thomas’ game for the X-box allows participants to simulate being in a bar and having a drink without ever having to leave their home,” gushes the press release. “Get drunk, be obnoxious, even start a fight if you want to! It’s just like the real thing.”

As ‘unseasonal cold’ strikes Scotland, the government is shocked to discover that price promotions have rendered spirits so cheap that members of the public are adding vodka to their car cooling system. “Of course, we don’t agree with it,” chuckles a drinks industry spokesman, “but you have to admit that it’s ironic that people are adding booze to their anti-freeze, not the other way around for once.” The Scottish parliamentarian Calvin McThrasher is less amused. “These people will burn in hell,” he says. “This is precisely why we need a progressive tax that stops people drinking altogether.”

After using ‘A very Sherry Christmas’ for a feature on seasonal recommendations, the food and drink editor at The Times is drowned in a butt of Malmsey.

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