What Will Be The Future Of Wine In The Year 3020?
As someone who earns her keep by knowing things about wine, I’m often asked to prognosticate about its future. Initially thinking the assignment was “wine in 2030,” I picked a few current trends and tried to determine a reasonable progress level for a decade. However, realising it was actually 3020, 1000 years in the future, I decided all bets were off since I probably wouldn’t be around to see whether I nailed it or not.
A lot can happen in a millennium, with moves both forward and, occasionally, backward (witness the current popularity of amphora wine, a technology celebrating its 8000th birthday), but thus far, happily, nothing has quite managed to snuff out the great love that binds human and fermented grape. Long may that millennia-spanning hook-up last!
The vineyard, like most agricultural land, is a hybrid of natural world and manmade environment. However, certain viticulturalists are in increasingly elaborate denial that their vineyards are not “entirely one with nature.”
Some react by engaging (equally unnatural) domesticated animals in a simulacrum of the “circle of life” (witness the increasingly ubiquitous “chicken army” for pest control or “goat army” for weed control, never mind that they often turbocharge soil nitrogen). Others try to coax their hermaphroditic vines into mating with each other to produce often dubiously viable offspring, as they might have “in the wild.” Others so overplant their vineyards with cover crops that you’d need a weedwhacker to find the vines.
By 3020, I envision an entrenched “wild wine” movement: vineyards resembling grape vine terraria, artfully arranged with seed-grown vines valiantly climbing trees in (human tended) forests. Wild pigs, deer and goats (carefully gene-edited for photogenic adorability) frolic freely among them, encouraged to eat the lower-hanging bunches as a form of natural yield restriction. At harvest time, laborers dressed in animal furs (faux) handpick the eclectic array of bunches, treading them in open troughs and simply leaving them to ferment, with customers dropping in (by electric hover pod) to decant the wine into vegan leather wine skins and 3D-printed drinking horns.
Given the increasing fetishisation of site-specificity – for instance the vineyard owner who enthused to me about his project to chart every imaginable soil trait in his vineyard down to the individual vine – I can only imagine that by 3020 we can expect to see the micro cuvée trend brought to its logical extreme.
Using tiny sensors attached to each vine, bunch or perhaps even grape, winemakers will be able to prescribe specific treatments (administered by diligent micro-robots) to allow that grape to reach its quality pinnacle. The robots will then gently remove the grape, crushing it into a Lilliputian tank where after an individually monitored fermentation it will be blended with an algorithmically determined set of its fellow grapes, allowing each bottle to reflect the snowflake-like uniqueness of one micro-site.
Higher And Higher
Finally, on a more practical note, the trend of high-altitude winemaking to escape our planet’s rising temperatures (and sea levels) seems fated to continue. By 3020, I see antigravity platforms of earth raised to precisely the altitude required to produce a decently accurate approximation of a 2010 Cannubi or 2015 Clos St. Jacques. For those varieties able to survive warmer temperatures closer to the surface, a mere clifftop may suffice, with viticulturalists travelling to and fro by helicopter or, for the environmentally inclined, absailing. Those devoted to Riesling or Pinot Noir will likely have to develop a propensity for parachuting or else low-orbit space travel. Of course, if we’ve also lost the ozone layer at that point, maybe instead we can place our hope in vineyards in undersea glass domes with Jar Jar Binks-style scuba access.
This story was originally published in T.Dining Hong Kong 2020