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Looking into the crystal glass

Expect wine on tap, a French revival and brewpubs in 2014

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At a time when people are compiling lists of all sorts -- best of 2013, predictions for the New Year, etc. -- it's tough to resist jumping into the game.

So if you've read your 2014 horoscope via Georgia Nicols, pour yourself something tall and festive and enjoy my drinks-related predictions for 2014...

Wine on tap catches fire. Wine is a perishable beverage -- flavours begin to change the moment it comes in contact with oxygen, and after a few days it's noticeably acidic/vinegary.

And while machines such as the Enomatic hold multiple bottles of wine and allow restaurants and lounges to dispense the stuff through a spout that keeps air from getting in the bottle, having a by-the-glass option that draws from taps makes a lot of sense for eateries and bars.

Vancouver Urban Winery has created Freshtap, a system not unlike beer taps, whereby wine comes in kegs. An inert gas goes into the keg, acting as a blanket between the wine and oxygen and preventing wine from spoiling quickly.

Freshtap is already in use in lounges and restaurants in B.C. and other provinces as well as across the United States.

My prediction: We'll see them in Winnipeg in the new year, possibly at regional chains such as Earls or The Keg.

French wine bounces back. In many ways, French wine is the benchmark upon which most wines of the world are measured. We look to Champagne for the best bubbles, Burgundy for the best Pinot Noir, Bordeaux for the best big red wines, etc.

French wine takes up a good chunk of space at Liquor Marts and private wine stores, but doesn't sell at nearly the same clip as wines from Italy, Germany, Spain or South Africa. Of the 200-plus booths at the Winnipeg Wine Festival in 2013, for example, only three were pouring French wine.

Has French wine bottomed out in our market? While it's tough to say, at some point I think sales will rebound much in the same way they did with Spanish wines in 2013.

There are some good values to be found in crisp, complex Alsatian whites as well as reds ranging from lighter (Beaujolais) to medium-bodied (Vin de Pays D'Oc, Cotes du Rhone) to robust (Bordeaux, Rhone Valley).

My prediction: in 2014, France is the new Spain.

Manitoba finally gets a brewpub. While the brewpub chatter has gone a little quiet since Darren Wanless announced his BrewWorks & Kitchen concept was abandoning their plans for the old 4Play spot across from the MTS Centre, a brewpub opening in our province in 2014 is practically a given.

If it's not Darren Wanless and his BrewWorks concept, it'll be someone else. I've heard rumblings of other interested parties both already in the beer industry and otherwise sniffing around at the potential of opening a brewpub.

My prediction: There will be at least one brewpub in Manitoba by Canada Day -- almost certainly in Winnipeg, but maybe Brandon -- but not necessarily opened by the BrewWorks & Kitchen group.

Cave de Rasteau 2012 Le Dome Du Grand Bois (Cotes du Rhone, France -- $13.95, Liquor Marts and beyond)

A blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan grapes, this Rhone Valley red locks in blackberry, white pepper, mocha and leather notes on the nose. This medium-plus bodied red brings a lot of fruit on the palate -- plum, blueberry and blackberry specifically -- but with light tannin and some black tea/pepper notes that offer some food-friendly structure. Try with a roast, stew, or medium-sharp cheeses. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2


Lallier Grande Reserve (Champagne, France -- $50.25, Liquor Marts and beyond)

Behind the yeasty, green apple and bread dough/pie crust notes on the nose of the Lallier is a slightly lactic note that was slightly off-putting. But everything comes together nicely on the crisp, zippy palate, with red apple, toasted nut, lemon rind and bread-dough notes balancing toastiness, acidity and chalky mineral notes on a fine lace of bubbles. If you're curious about real French Champagne, it's tough to find a better point of entry than this for the price. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2


Jack Daniel's Winter Jack (Lynchburg, Tenn. -- $20.99, Liquor Marts)

Dubbed an "apple whiskey punch" on the label, the bottle also suggests serving it warm, which I did. The apple, cinnamon and clove notes on the nose also came through as advertised -- aromatically it was more akin to herbal tea than Tennessee whiskey. Flavour-wise, it's much sweeter than an apple tea, with green-apple candy and cinnamon notes punching through with 15 per cent alcohol, which warms you up right quick. While unpleasant when tasted cold, when warmed up a touch it takes the edge off a deep freeze nicely.

Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2013 D9

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