June 25, 2011

The Turning Tides of Wine

25 June 2011 | by Andrea Frost

It’s the human condition to obsess about everything but the present. What we’re really interested in is the romance of the past and the possibility that shines so brightly in the future. There is often little joy to be had in the here and now. We have that in spades. It’s a done deal.

I was reminded of this recently, enjoying over dinner the musings of demographer Bernard Salt. A modern-day reader of the crystal ball, Salt spoke of noticing the small detail to see the slow, but certain, changes of a People. If you look carefully, you can watch a fad become a fashion, a fashion a trend, a trend a change, and when enough of these changes unite, a paradigm shift.

I wondered about wine and drinks and trends … the past, the present and the future. As I scanned the montage of my drinking life, I was surprised how many drink fads I have endured.

Take cocktails, for instance. A decade ago, we had the ultra glamorous Cosmopolitan that we bought to match our Manolo Blahniks and actually believed we’d loved well before Sex And The City. Or how about the South American-inspired Caprioskas? Those gorgeous, heady drinks that took three days to make and three week’s work to pay for. How swiftly we ditched them when we realised they took that long to make, sorry, muddle, every, single, time. And then there’s cider. Ever since the casually cool Kate Moss was spotted at Glastonbury in hot pants and designer gumboots clutching a pint of cider, plenty have followed suite.

These drinks were all being guzzled when, according to Salt, we were keen to flaunt our wealth. Of course, wine has gone through it as well.

Chardonnay suffered a fall from the A-list in recent years, her only fault being her flexibility and willingness to dance to any winemaking song that was played for her. Happily, it is these very virtues that will help her endure and re-form (as she is already doing, Madonna-like) after the fall.

Sauvignon blanc has had a bit of a time lately. There she was, going about her lovely way, being the subtle, light, drink-now wine with the lovely French heritage – then boom! The New World took her to places her French cousins never imagined.

Red wines have been affected too. Recent pop culture has driven a small and now quietening fad where wine drinkers suddenly noted the complexity of pinot noir, which incidentally was the only red they liked, at the same time they turned their noses up at merlot. That’s show biz. And of course, the most notable shift in red wines, it is said, is because of Robert Parker. He liked his reds big, so they made them big. Now we’re wondering if they were perhaps too big and at the expense of something more important.

Throughout the discussion, I noted the shifts in the current wine detail and wondered how this will impact the future.

Right now, we’re talking about a sense of place, natural winemaking, hand-crafting our wine, and listening to nature. We’re also finding joy in the Old World and its artisan ways, native varieties and loyalty to itself. This is the turning, the change, the reaction to the heady, showy, badge-hungry days of the past. We’re moral consumers now, redeeming ourselves for wrongs committed and seeking absolution at the altar of our consumer choices.

While reflecting on the past and wondering about the future, I almost forgot about the now and the wine that I was enjoying. I took a sip. I remember it fondly; a Punt Road Shiraz from the Yarra Valley, but that’s behind me now. Already I’m wondering what’s coming next and, if just by thinking this, the tide is turning again.

(Hi. Down here. Sorry to interrupt. But until Monday 27th June, you can vote for this blog as Best New Wine Blog at the World Blog Awards. If you would like to, I know I would like you to, just click HERE, then on the survey monkey link and on New Ruby Press).