FT Weekend turned 30 last weekend (23/24 May) and Jancis Robinson has written an article about how the wine scene has changed in those 3 decades.
It’s a fascinating insight into how the world looked back in 1985. Among other things, she points out that in 1985 Australia was exporting 2% of its wine abroad. Today that figure is 60%.
In the 1980s Chardonnay was relatively scarce and in some cases had to be rationed.
Robert Parker was virtually unknown in 1985. A year later, Jancis wrote the UK’s first profile about Robert Parker for the Sunday Times detailing the young American wine writer who “devoted his days to tasting up to 100 fine wines, and introduced the concept of scoring these wines out of 100.” This scoring system came to dominate the world of fine wine for the decades to follow. Fast forward 30 years and the next sea change – this is the first year Robert Parker is not scoring the Bordeaux En Primeurs and it remains to be seen what effect we will see from his passing the baton to Neal Martin.
In the early 1990’s the French Paradox was highlighted on CBS’s ’60 minutes’ programme. The paradox being that the French consume larger quantities of red wine but have lower incidents of heart disease than other countries. A perceived health benefit of drinking red wine ensued which lead to increased plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the world as this grape was perceived to be the epitome of French class because of its prevalence in classed growth Bordeaux.
Chardonnay has always a certain status because of the great white wines of Burgundy.
Styles have changed and continue to do so. ‘New World’ wines were more starkly different to ‘Old World’ wines. The fruit was riper so the wines were friendlier and more ready to drink; grape varieties were clearly stated on labels and new world winemakers were scientifically trained and knew how to produce more reliable, consistent, clean and fruity wines. Oak treatment became much more heavy handed and has now come back to a much more balanced and lighter style. Nowadays there is growing support and interest in where wine comes from and how it is grown. The spectrum has broadened from heavy, industrialised, mass-produced wines at one end to ‘natural wines’ at the other. Organically or biodynamically grown wines made with minimal intervention are increasingly common as are lower alcohol levels.
It’s fascinating to think how a wine made from grapes harvested back in 1985 has been sitting patiently in its bottle, developing at its own rate while the world has changed all around it. Jancis listed a few wines that made her top picks from 1985. Sassicaia made the cut. Any takers?
FT Weekend wine articles can be found here