by Ron Washam

Wine Trends for 2016

What will be the most important, most newsworthy trends in the wine business in 2016? What trends and events will trigger every idea-less wine blogger to take to his keyboard and rewrite other people’s original remarks? This is the big question that arises every January. I have the answer. It’s going to be a very dull year in the wine business in 2016. Remember, you heard it here first. Nothing especially significant is going to happen. For God’s sake, it’s wine. It’s insignificant by definition. It’s happy juice made from grapes. Hard to think of much that’s more insignificant — maybe wrestling, or craft beer. That said, and it needed to be said, here are the trends and events I foresee for 2016.


Ordinary folks will be lining up to apply to become a Master of Sommeliers. The intensive M.O.S. program has one large advantage over the M.W. and M.S. programs — an extra letter after your name! Suck it, MWs! And it will be considerably cheaper to achieve since applicants won’t be forced to purchase very expensive and rare wines to taste in order to pass. Any old cheap crap will do. You’re really just drinking to get drunk — just like the average MS student! Achieving the MOS requires passing three tests. A written exam that tests your knowledge of how to make a sommelier’s life miserable, a practical exam where you are put into a restaurant situation and you have to demonstrate your mastering sommeliers chops, and, finally, you have to write a thesis on a topic of your choice that relates to sommophobia, the fear of sommeliers, which is interchangeable with coulrophobia, only somms have funnier hair and their cars aren’t as nice. After passing all three exams, you are awarded an MOS. By the end of 2016 there may be as many as 40 new MOSs, one of whom will be Doug Frost MW, MS, MOS.

Already, schools are popping up that promise to teach you how to pass your MOS exam. Most begin with a two week course in how to pronounce “sommelier.” (Hint: The “r” is silent, like in “libary.” Example: “I asked the sommelier if he had any libary wines.”) And there are online sites where you can purchase ghost-written theses with titles like, “It’s Corked If I Say It’s Fucking Corked,” “You May Be Looking Down Your Nose, But I’m Looking Up It,” and “The Sommelier is Tired, But I Wish He Were Listless.”

I predict M.O.S. will the the most prestigious wine degree in 2016.


Reacting to sluggish sales and the announcement by “Playboy” to cease publishing nude photos, “Decanter” will begin to feature naked women posing at famous wineries and vineyards. While there will be some controversy at first, everyone will eventually begin to look forward to each month’s pictorial. Decanter: Keeping Abreast of the Latest Wine News. The first pictorial will feature model Cecilia Vega at Vega Sicilia, and, wow, those are some very nice bodegas! Playful pictorials like “I’ll see your Romanée, and Raise You a Conti” should draw a much more interesting demographic to the old lady of the wine magazine world. Lovers of all things natural should enjoy the tribute to Old Bush Vines. And all tastefully done. Though one wonders if the 100 Point Scale is really called for. Riedel will provide the models with the proper stem wear.


As people begin to rely more and more on their smartphones (“smartphones” won the 2014 Oxymoron of the Year, just edging out “natural wine”), wine apps will continue to proliferate, feature famous wine critics, and become more fun and user friendly. There’s already a lot of buzz about James Suckling’s new app, WineSuck™. WineSuck™ scans a wine label, and once it recognizes the label, you hear the voice of James Suckling telling you how he met the winemaker when he was nobody and made him what he is today. These long, repetitious monologues make you feel part of the wine business. Do they help you choose wine? No, but that’s not the point, is it? The point is to give Suckling more of your money—it’s like actually being an Italian winemaker!

Everyone I know has been downloading Tim Fish’s new wine app, CircleMilt™. You just aim your phone at any wine display and CircleMilt™ selects the perfect wine. It’s ingenious. You rear back, throw your phone as hard as you can in the direction of the display, and, using GPS, the phone finds its way to the best wine. It’s the same technology spawning salmon use! And just like the salmon, when it’s finished, the phone dies.

Alice Feiring also has a new wine app, but it’s made for rotary phones.


Many of the world’s finest wineries are talking about capitalizing on the demand for their rarest and finest vintages by creating authorized fake bottles of wine. The ardent wine collector will be able to purchase certified fake bottles of wine directly from the estate. It’s so much easier than buying all those fraudulent wines at auction — a handful turn out to be genuine, and they never actually taste good! Always wanted a 1947 Cheval Blanc? For about $50, you can buy one directly from Château Cheval Blanc. Will it taste like ’47 Cheval Blanc? How the fuck would you know? But it will be in the proper bottle with the legitimate label and with an authentic branded cork! That’s 90% of it, anyway. Nearly every famous wine writer, and most wealthy collectors, have at one time consumed a bottle of fake ’47 Cheval Blanc, but yours will have come direct from the winery! It’s a dream come true.

Sadly, there are counterfeiters who are now beginning to produce fake authorized fake wines. Buyer beware! That fake bottle you’re bidding on at auction may not be a legitimate fake, though they’re famous for legitimate fakes. It could be a fake fake. I know, it’s astonishing what criminals will stoop to. Be certain that the auction house guarantees it’s an original fake.


Viticulturists and winemakers have begun the hunt for a site that has no terroir at all. None. Zero. Le Pan. It would have to be a remarkable vineyard, and immensely valuable. Wine made from this site would show absolutely no character, and would reveal nothing about the site. So like Pinot Grigio, only less distinctive. Smelling it, a Master of Wine would be baffled, reduced to a Master Sommelier. On the palate, the wine would simply be fruit, but not fruit that reflects the soil or the aspect or the climate. Would it even be wine if terroir couldn’t be detected? I smell an Andrew Jefford column, which isn’t unusual. Matt Kramer will be apoplectic. What is wine without terroir? Though, really, isn’t the question, what is terroir without wine?

Randall Grahm has a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his quest for the terroirless site. He wants to plant his 10,000 new grape varieties there. It’s going to be the newest trend in 2016. Imaginary grapes from imaginary places making the purest expression of wine possible. So pure, it’s tasteless.

Finally, a wine I can relate to.

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