Last year I had a drinking agenda. And I achieved most of my goals. Beaujolais, check: took a trip there in June and brought cases of it home. Madeira, check: drank it often and turned a lot of my friends onto it too. Beer, check: learned a lot and got more into dark beer than ever. Washington state and rum are still works in progress. So what's in my sights for this year?
Cider—Or cidre, as the French put it. The stuff is great, and recently a bottle of Bordelet pear cider I had with Vietnamese food at San Francisco's Slanted Door proved to me how fantastic a dry cider can be with food.
Calvados—OK, I'm just going to double down on apples. I love them in any form, but particularly juiced, fermented, and/or distilled. So cider and Calvados? Clearly a trip to Normandy is in the cards for this year.
Lesser-Known French and Italian Wines—I just ordered my first case of the year, Pouilly-Fuissé from Château des Rontets. It drinks far above its $30 price tag. So I'm going to go deep into some of the places that most of us tend to know less about: France's Mâcon, Loire, Savoie, and Languedoc; Italy's Campania, Sardinia, Abruzzo, Lombardy, and Sicily. Great wine deals abound from these places, not to mention distinctive, terroir-driven wines.
Belgian Beer—I'm no expert, but I'd like to be. A couple of sour ales and witbiers I had recently were so mind-blowingly good that I need to get to know them better. These beers are so complex, diverse, and delicious, and there are so many of them, that it's a bit of an intimidating subject to approach.
Now, some trends I see beginning, continuing, or blowing up in 2011:
Wine on Tap—This is already getting started, but it's going to surge in 2011 as people figure out how to do it better. That means restaurants sorting out their tap configurations, and producers sorting out how to distribute kegged wine efficiently to the restaurants. But this is a big deal, and I love it.
Home-Brew—Brewing beer at home has long been the hobby of beer geeks and college students, but I think it's going to go more mainstream starting in 2011. As DIY culture continues to spread and recession economics continues to pound people, nothing's more attractive than good, cheap beer—and brewing it yourself is a good way to get it.
Cocktails of the 1950s and Simple Drinking—I think everyone's a bit worn out by the cocktail supernova of the last several years. Bartenders are tired of the grind of making five different kinds of simple syrups twice a week on top of working long hours at their bars. Drinkers, too, are fatigued by waiting 10 minutes for a complicated, overwrought cocktail. The outcome? A return to the rightfully maligned humdrum drinks of the post–World War II era: Cape Cods, Whiskey Sodas, Gin Rickeys, etc. Mad Men was praised for bringing the classic cocktail to the screen, but really the show is depicting an era that prized efficient, no-frills alcohol intake. I think we're going back in that direction.
We shall see. In the meantime, stay hydrated!