People who now consider themselves to be well-versed in wine and who are somewhat deprecating of the novice’s wine choice would do well to remember the past. Through the gloom of yesteryear will be spied a bottle of Mateus Rosé, Liebfraumilch, Jacob’s Creek or Piat d’Or lurking on a mental shelf. Yes indeed many are guilty of forgetting what their first wine steps were and how easy it is to be condescending.
There is a type of behaviour known as « wine snobbery » which offers to the world a fountain of repression as regards advancing a love of wine and an appreciation of wine. The history of wine is long, perhaps that of beer is longer, and it has for most of its history been the drink of the elite but more and more that of the people. This idea that wine holds some mystique was supported by many of a certain standing, real or imagined.
The wine boom that has happened in the past 25 years is based on simplicity of flavours which has been decried by those who see wine as some mysterious produce of the cosmos. What has happened to wine in the past quarter of a century has been liberating for producer and consumer alike and a change in how wine is perceived. Wine is now a beverage whether people like it or not and it is also known by its grape varieties, a New World habit, more than the Old World habit of using the geographical location as the wine’s sole descriptive.
The consumption of wine is now a worldwide phenomenon and is produced in more than 150 countries, some of it is anecdotal, and has become an integral part of the culinary scene. Although wine production has increased many countries in Europe have experienced a decrease in vineyard area and in production. The New World, a large parish and somewhat unfair as a description, has been responsible for popularising wine and pushing all producers to simplify their approach to the customer, with Australia having been the sharpest operator.
Europe has responded in kind although some countries have been slower than others in responding to the competition from elsewhere. The European approach has been based on the long history of production, and the quality of the soil etc. etc. whereas other countries stripped wine down to varieties, bright labels and simple ideas being communicated to the client. The main idea was that wine could be a beverage and not confined to mealtimes as in Europe. Having been freed from this constraint wine became accepted in general society and it is now seen as okay to have a bottle in the fridge for any occasion and to have a glass of red in place of the more usual beer.
The main reason for this acceptance of wine is that it was part of a lifestyle shift which saw an increase in foreign travel and a greater interest in other countries although the behaviour of chardonnay-fueled hen-parties may belie the cultural inference. In general there is a need to be outdoors and wine is a part of the package that includes decking and barbecues. Another determining factor is that, although men do drink wine, it is women that have been responsible for changing the face of pubs most especially and it is women who buy most wine which means that wine labelling is aimed at women.
The continuing change of lifestyle means that tastes will continue to change and wine forms part of that change as it has broken out of its very cossetted past to now form part of popular culture.