Archive for May, 2015

The top 3 wine trends of the 90s

May 29th, 2015

The top 3 wine trends of the 1990s

By Joseph Temple

There was such a great response for the blog entry titled Looking back at 5 wine trends from the 1980s posted earlier this month.  Thanks for all the positive feedback about this slice of 80s nostalgia!  So, let’s fast forward into the next decade that gave us Monica Lewinsky, the O.J. Simpson trial and a tech boom that led to unprecedented economic prosperity.

According to Matt Kramer in his book Making Sense of Wine, “The 1990s were the most transforming ten-year span in the history of fine wine.  Everything essential to fine wine—wine grower ambition, a passionate and informed audience and abundant money—coalesced.”  But how did this decade differ and evolve from the one before, which was all about Chardonnay, wine coolers and Beaujolais Nouveau?  Have a look below to see three ways the 90s changed our wine drinking habits.  Cheers.


Wine becomes healthy to drink in the 1990s

On November 17th, 1991, the television program 60 Minutes aired a segment about something called the ‘French Paradox.’  Despite Americans exercising more regularly and eating fewer fatty foods than their counterparts in France, the latter reported far less cases of heart disease.  The only answer to this paradox was red wine, which if consumed in moderation could actually be healthy for you.  It was a clear break from the 1980s where some individuals had lumped wine in with marijuana as a potential “gateway drug.”

Providing an assist to the 60 Minutes piece was an endorsement from the highest office in the land.  Appearing on MTV in 1993, newly elected President Bill Clinton told the interviewer: “if you use it in moderation, there’s no evidence that it causes harm.  And there’s some evidence that wine, for example, is good for your heart if you use it in moderation.”  The idea that a daily glass was good for your health had clearly entered the mainstream as sales of red wine grew by more than 125 percent from 1991 to 2005.
blank

Merlot explodes in popularity during the 90s
By Dianne Patrizzi [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As more and more Americans switched over to red wines during the 1990s, Merlot emerged as the grape of choice for many oenophiles.  Analyzing its popularity, one sommelier writes, “First, it’s easy to pronounce—and, laugh as you may, that’s a big deal.  Second, Merlot is often rounder, plumier, more fruit-forward, and plusher in tannins that many of its counterparts, so it makes for easier and, for many wine drinkers, more pleasant drinking.”  By the mid-1990s, the wine had reached its zenith in terms of popularity as Robert Mondavi and others frantically bought surplus bulk Merlot from France to satisfy American demand.

Benefiting the most from this boom was Washington State.  In a book by Paul Gregutt, he recalls, “By the mid-1990s it seemed that Washington merlot was everywhere … Merlot was both trendy and spendy.  National publications that had scorned Washington as the land of cheap riesling were falling all over themselves to honor the state’s reds, especially its merlots, as the most Bordeaux-like in the land.”  Unfortunately for Merlot lovers, the 90s gold rush resulted in a focus on quantity more than quality, cheapening it in the eyes of many.  More devastating however was a certain award-winning motion picture released in 2004 that made the grape lose its cool factor almost overnight.  In fact, to this day, wine geeks are still debating the impact that Sideways had on Merlot and its drop in sales.
blank

90s tech boom boosts California wine
By Thomas Schanz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

During the dot-com bubble of the 90s, it seemed that a new millionaire was being minted every day as tech stocks skyrocketed to new heights on Wall Street.  And with most of this innovation occurring in California, it wasn’t surprising that the thunderous tide of Silicon Valley lifted a lot of boats throughout the Golden State.  The number of wineries had more than doubled from 807 in 1990 to 1,950 by the end of the decade according to George Taber.  Of course, the rise of the Internet and the phenomenal growth in California vineyards were not mutually exclusive either.  Taber writes, “Some executives were making fortunes at start-up companies in Silicon Valley, not far from Napa Valley.  Those people admired the sophistication that wine represented … Rich people wanted to buy into that by owning a winery.”  Writer James Conway concurred, stating that “a personal wine label for the status conscious had become the twenty-first century equivalent of a coat of arms.”

Sources:

Goldstein, Evan and Esersky, Joyce. Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
Gregutt, Paul. Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.
Page, Karen and Dornenburg, Andrew. The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.
Slinker, Stacy. Idiot’s Guides: Wine. New York: Penguin Group, 2013.
Taber, George. A Toast to Bargain Wines: How Innovators, Iconoclasts, and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
blank


You might also like:

What was your favorite 90s wine trend?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Ask Sid: A cost-friendly alternative to Prosecco?

May 27th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Alternatives to Prosecco

Question: I recently read an article saying that the price of Prosecco is about to go up drastically due to a poor harvest. Can you recommend a cost-friendly alternative to this Italian sparkling wine as summer barbecue season begins?

Answer: I wouldn’t worry too much about the crop shortage or price increases predicted caused by the heavy rains in 2014 as stated by Bisol in that article. Their luxury expensive stony hill Cartizze may be more difficult to find but there are many other competing Prosecco producers out there to supply the light crisp value market which is growing. It is not quite like Grand Cru Chablis where there is a very limited supply every year. Lots of countries now produce well priced fresh bubbles suitable for the BBQ season. I have referred to many of them before including Spanish Cava from Penedes, England (Nyetimber among many), Canada (Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia; Bub, Bella, Blue Mountain, Cipes, & Steller’s Jay in BC; Trius Rose, Cave Spring, Henry of Pelham, Huff Estate, 13th Street, and Hinterland in Ontario and many more emerging), and from Down Under. At the recent 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival the classy Jansz sparklers from Tasmania were big hits. Check out your wine shop for their latest unique “grower” arrivals.


You might also like:

Will you try one of these recommendations?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Fonseca: 200th Anniversary

May 25th, 2015

Fonseca port wine 200 year anniversary

The first evidence of the Fonseca (www.fonseca.pt) firm trading in Port is an entry dated April 8, 1815. Now 200 years later they are a preeminent house with many historic outstanding vintage ports including the 1927, 1945, 1948, 1955, 1963, the surprising 1966, 1977, 1985 (note no vintage for 7 years later in 1992), and 1994 among others. The 6th generation carries on with David Guimaraens who returned to Portugal in 1990 after his broadening wine studies in Australia. No other Port house can claim 6 generations.

David explains the evolution of a bottle of vintage port as follows: “At 2 years it is bottled and you are completely committed to the style and the vintage. The first 10 years it is fruity, rich full bodied – a perfect young ruby port. From 10-20 years a transformation takes place whereby it loses the young berry fruit and bottle age maturity commences – sort of like a teenager who sometimes shows well but at other times doesn’t. From 20-40 years the vintage port develops bottle maturity and is great for drinking but still shows a lot of fruit and vitality. Over 40 years not every one makes this stage but where there is big fruit and big tannins it can go on even longer.” To celebrate their 200 year anniversary we tasted 5 decades with 1970 browning rim, raisins, caramel, spice; 1985 deep red, chocolate coffee buckets of ripe elegant fruit; 1994 produced by David’s father the legendary Bruce has youthful dense blackcurrants & fine tannins; 2000 purple concentrated tannic plums; and 2011 black inky opulent pure blackberries and licorice.

David feels that the end of the Portuguese spirit monopoly in 1991 has improved the product with cleaner finer results. Their neutral grape spirit for Fonseca, Taylor, and Croft now comes mainly from Spain at 3 euros per litre (compared to some others at 1.5 euros) which allows the fruit to show more luscious texture when young, more effective as a teenager and better integrated when old. Even though they still use foot treading of the grapes they take pride in being “the New World of the Old World” with their innovative ongoing changes. Nature rules with emphasis on viticulture, sustainable agriculture, bringing back abandoned grape varieties, understanding the importance of tannins for long aging, and the art of blending. Congrats to this cherished Port house!


You might also like:

Have you tried Fonseca Port?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Movie Review: The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)

May 22nd, 2015

Anticoli CorradoAnticoli Corrado

By Joseph Temple

*** WARNING: SPOILER ALERT ***

Following the successful invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini is swiftly removed from power while a new Italian government signs an armistice agreement with the Allies. Unfortunately, what appears to be a great triumph for Britain and America ends up becoming a hollow victory.  Within a few short months, German forces occupy Northern Italy and establish a puppet government against those in the south.  The battle for Italy’s future was just beginning.

That is the setting for Stanley Kramer’s 1969 film The Secret of Santa Vittoria starring the late Anthony Quinn and Hardy Krüger.  Based on Robert Crichton’s book, the movie takes place in the small hillside village of Santa Vittoria where the fall of Mussolini has led to a power vacuum.  With indifference amongst the local population to this revolutionary change, Italo Bombolini, the lovable drunk played brilliantly by Quinn suddenly becomes the town’s new mayor.  But after learning that the Germans are on the move, he quickly sobers up and begins mobilizing the entire population to protect its greatest asset—1,317,000 bottles of fine wine.  Hidden safely away in a nearby cave, a game of psychological chess is played by the mayor and Captain von Prum who is eager to steal every single bottle before he and his soldiers leave.

Released during the golden age of World War II movies that included Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Dirty Dozen, Kramer’s contribution to the genre is noteworthy.  Filmed almost entirely in the Italian commune of Anticoli Corrado, the beautiful scenery is greatly enhanced by numerous locals who were used throughout the movie as extras.  According to IMDB, the actual Santa Vittoria had modernized greatly since 1943, making it impractical for a Second World War period film as production started in 1968.

Adding to its picturesque location, Anthony Quinn steals the show with his larger than life performance.  The buffoonish Bombolini will definitely make you laugh out loud, including one hilarious scene where he intends to punish the man caught sleeping with his daughter.  But he’ll also leave you at the edge of your seat, especially during his intense negotiations with von Prum over the million bottles that have gone missing.  His character makes you realize just how important wine is to Italian culture and why a whole village bases their entire identity on what Krüger’s character facetiously calls “fermented juice.”  Whether its Chianti, Sangiovese or Barbera, the audience never learns exactly what type of wine is being hidden away.  All you know is that giving it away to Germany is like “paying a stranger to sleep with your wife” according to Bombolini.

Unfortunately for the folks at MGM, The Secret of Santa Vittoria didn’t fare well at the box office.  According to Jeffrey Kauffman at blu-ray.com, the year 1969 marked a turning point in the history of film with counterculture movies like Easy Rider taking over the silver screen.  Big budget flicks with older casts had suddenly became yesterdays news, resulting in just $6.5 million in receipts during its initial run.  However, just like a fine wine, the film has gotten better with age.  So whether you’re an oenophile or a history buff, you’ll definitely need to check this out the next time you feel like being in a retro mood. Ciao!


You might also like:

Have you seen The Secret of Santa Vittoria

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Ask Sid: Disappointing purchased wines that surprise later on

May 20th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Ask Sid: Disappointing purchased wines that surprise later on

Question: Do you have an example of a wine you purchased that disappointed you but later with cellaring surprised you?

Answer: Great question! Lots I could share. This often happens with the pinot noir variety which doesn’t always develop in a straight line of maturity. Particularly high acidity red Burgundy vintages like 1972 & 1988 with time now have developed into some marvellous fresh delicious bottles. More recently in Burgundy maybe the irregular still tart 1996 and the smaller crop 2010 may be similar – definitely the latter has fruit acidity balance for the future. A recent example from this month is 1975 Chateau Montrose from that very hard tannic vintage. Cellared and drank too early many disappointingly dry austere bottles which definitely needed food. Many 1975 Bordeaux just don’t have enough fruit to out-last those tannins. However, even though it may not be the 100 point 1990 this 1975 now at 40 years of age shows improved old style complexity of true St. Estephe terroir from that over 70% cabernet sauvignon dense fruit less hidden by the strong tannins which are starting to mellow. Surprise or at least patience rewarded!


You might also like:

Has a wine that was dissapointing at first surprised you later on?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Skip to toolbar