Great Speculations

A WINEMAKER WROTE last week, asking me to refrain from speculating about what his company might or might not do in the future. . . .

That got me thinking. . . .

Isn’t a lot of what’s thought, said and written about wine based on speculation? Even the most basic assumptions? . . . .

We hear it all the time from winemakers. . . .

«Our vineyard manager thinks this will be a great place to grow Viognier because of the soil, exposure and cool marine influence». . . .

«WE’LL USE DIFFERENT rootstocks and grape clones to ensure complexity in our wines». . . .

«Phylloxera won’t be a factor». . . .

«French oak is expensive, but it’s a better match with Zinfandel than American oak». . . .

«It looks like we’ll have a huge crop». . . .

«If the weather holds, we’ll pick in a few days». . . .

«Rain’s in the forecast—we’d better pick tomorrow». . . .

«THIS RAIN WON’T do much damage» . . . .

«The grapes are perfectly ripe—bring ‘em in». . . .

«Red Mountain has a nice ring to it—and the label’s really cool». . . .

«We’ll start out small—with just a few hundred cases and a mailing list». . . .

«We’ll grow slowly, so we don’t lose control of quality». . . .

«We’ll never make more than 2,000 cases». . . .

«I’LL ALWAYS BE in charge of the wines». . . .

Of course, wine critics engage in speculation, too—it’s part of the job description. . . .

«It should be a great vintage». . . .

«These wines will drink well for the next six to 10 years». . . .

«PRICES CAN’T GO much higher». . . .

«Now’s a good time to stock your cellar». . . .

«There’s no better time to sell». . . .

«There’s no reason to think these wines won’t age well» . . . .

«It was a better year in Russian River than Carneros». . . .

«California wines don’t age». . . .

«Zinfandel’s gone forever». . . .

«The 1989 Bordeaux reds are overrated». . . .

«The 1990 Bordeaux reds are underrated» . . . .

«SANGIOVESE WILL BE the next hot wine». . . .

«Oregon’s climate is just like Burgundy’s». . . .

«Burgundy is the only place you can make great Pinot Noir». . . .

«Cabernet won’t ripen in Mendocino». . . .

«Long Island is perfect for Merlot». . . .

SPECULATION MAY DRIVE some winemakers zany, but without it wine would be a much less stimulating subject. . . .

Were critics and our speculations suddenly to vanish, it wouldn’t be long before winemakers would miss the conjecture—and the critics—more than they’d expect. . . .

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