Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 3, December 2002   
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Wine's Fashions


 Every time has its fashions and among the fashions of every time, wine has always been one of the many. A preferred drink during moments of social celebrations, such as parties and special days, as well as in every day's life, preferences about wine consumption have always been determined by the fashions of the times. Every epoch of our history has always had and preferred particular kind of wines, as well as particular wine areas, and these preferences have always been renewed in the course of time, indeed, many of these fashions have been capable of resisting the “challenge” of new products, up to now. One of the wines that has been capable of resisting the challenge of time, more than any other else, is the one most of people commonly think of when they have to associate a wine to a celebration or a particular event: sparkling wine or Champagne. However, it must be noticed that consuming sparkling wines in occasion of special and particular events, is actually a sort of “curse” for these wines, as the majority of consumers would never have a sparkling wine or a Champagne, for example, during an ordinary meal. This habit, which had its origin as a particular fashion of French high society that was introduced some centuries ago, gives sure and high profits to wine producers during Christmas time, anyway, it penalizes a product that would surely deserve a better and proper attention in the enogastronomy.


 

 Fashions and habits truly have a strong influence on our choices; if one thinks about ten years ago, the common preference among consumers was for white wines, a fashion which surely was encouraged by commercial interests and that has red wines sales to slow down. Now we have an opposite trend and most of the consumers look for red wines whereas white wine is practically ignored. In this moment every one is talking about red wines, to be more precise, about “great red wines”, about those kind of red wines which are potent, powerful, full bodied, concentrated and thick, so concentrated and thick that one would be tempted to use fork and knife instead of a glass. These wines, surely excellent and potent, according to their structure and body, are capable of fading most of the foods out, therefore a correct and balanced match is pretty hard and binding to do, and as a consequence, these wines are not consumed with foods. If they are not consumed with food, so, with what they are consumed with? In particular moments that does not include foods? Maybe. What frequently happens is that they are considered as wines to talk a lot about but, in reality, few people have them. These wines, also considering the prestige they have, legitimate or forced, because of the rigorous quality processes required to make them, usually have high prices, sometimes justifiable according to their indisputable high quality, and every one knows quality in wine has a high price, sometimes excessive and unjustifiable, they easily become cult wines. Cult! Here it is a new fashion common to the wine subject. A fashion which gave origin to that multitude of “labels drinkers”, who just talk about particular wines, universally considered as excellent, and they surely are indeed, they usually are just capable of recognizing or appreciating their names but not their quality. This “mania” also spreads among the ones who are trying to get into wine and, just not to be considered as incompetent or scarcely informed about the subject, they usually praise their magnificent characteristics and their incomparable qualities; they usually feign a knowledge about those wines they heard a lot about but they never had and probably they will never have.

 Moreover, fashions are, in a sense, the soul of the society of every time and they surely follow the evolution of taste. In ancient times the most drunk wine and the one preferred among consumers was sweet and syrupy, then, also thanks to the improvement of the wine making technologies, the preference was for dry wines, then to sparkling wines and finally to dry wines again. Moreover, there were times where fortified wines, such as Marsala, Jerez (Sherry), Porto, Madeira, were the wines preferred the most, they usually were associated to certain social classes, like what happened to Champagne, which is considered since many centuries as the wine of the high and noble classes and the wine to have during the most refined and elegant occasions.

 Fashions, indeed, are also events imposed by some subjects to the society and they are easily accepted by the majority of people with the false hope and illusion of feeling acceptable and legitimate members of the society they belong to. Every fashion or thing “promises” this recognizability and the legitimization of belonging to a social group, as well as guaranteeing success in the society, a fact that surely is a privilege and make people feel more acceptable. Wine, of course, is no exception, it cannot be as long as we keep this concept as general. Moreover, it should be noticed that the fashions of our modern society are also commercial phenomena which are introduced with the explicit goal of making profits and, the higher the success, the higher the profit. This strategic rule is applicable to most of commercial products, including wine, of course.

 Wine is nowadays a hedonistic good, the necessity of considering it as food is probably gone forever, moreover, in certain cases, wine consumption, the consumption of certain wines, to be precise, represents an opportunity to show off haughty and prestigious behaviors. Wine is drunk for the fun of it, for pleasure, hopefully always consumed with moderation, to satisfy a necessity, not just a necessity for senses, it can also be consumed as a consequence of following a certain fashion. If wine is consumed just to follow a fashion, this very moment's fashion, it is natural to ask ourselves how much real wine is out there and how much wine is made with the only goal of imposing a fashion. Moreover, we should ask ourselves how many people out there have wine with the real and sincere pleasure of tasting and appreciating a product and how many people out there drink wine just because of a fashion. According to a “simple” commercial standpoint, this makes no difference at all, no matter how wine is used or consumed, the commercial goal is surely achieved. Anyway, it should be noticed that a fashion can also pass and can be replaced by new ones, in this case, wine producers who make wine just to satisfy a fashion, could be in big troubles as they will have to adapt their products to these new fashions, in case these new ones are about wine, or merely experience a commercial crisis.

 Wine is having a very special moment and there is a lot of interest for it, there is a renewed interest among consumers, including young consumers, they finally and fortunately are looking for quality instead of quantity in alcoholic beverages and this is too a result of a fashion, the fashion of our time. This is certainly good and positive for the proper revaluation of enology and of wine producers; the investments they are making for the wine industry are surely high and this should be an investment that must, inevitably and justly, make profits. We sincerely wish this profit to continue in future and the huge investments made for wine in this time are in favor of wine instead of just sustaining a fashion. Our hope, and probably the hope of all wine lovers, is that the opportunity offered by this fashion and by this renewed interest will be turned into something profitable, not just for economic profits of the moment, but also, and above all, to spread and promote the culture of the conscious and proper consumption of wine. A fashion can pass and can be replaced by other fashions, the richness of a culture can surely be transformed into something else, but it is harder to replace a culture than a simple fashion. This is a great opportunity offered to wine producers and to the ones who work in the wine business, this should be a serious opportunity for pondering and for understanding that it is a moment where a serious and proper investment about wine culture and quality is what we should make the most, we have to work hard in order to have everyone understand this. The high risk of wine getting back to what it was twenty years ago, where most of people were uninterested in it and the quality of wine was pretty mediocre, is a probability that could happen again in case we are just sustaining a mere fashion. Honest collaboration among the ones who make wine and the ones who work and believe in spreading wine culture, last but not the least, the ones who love wine, is truly essential; a collaboration that must lead to the consolidation and the confirmation of the success of this moment, to turn this success into a cultural patrimony and richness of people, of us all.

 



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 3, December 2002   
Wine's FashionsWine's Fashions MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 2, November 2002 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 4, January 2003

MailBox


 In this column are published our reader's mail. If you have any comment or any question or just want to express your opinion about wine, send your letters to our editorial.

 

I am regular reader of DiWineTaste since the first issue and I am sending you my congratulations for your job, the columns are very interesting and comprehensive, I sincerely wish you will keep on working this way. In November's issue I read Petit Verdot grape is used in wines from Bordeaux and this is what I knew too. Recently I had a wine made in Latium (Italy) and this wine was made with Petit Verdot grape; this made me think about what I read in your magazine: honestly I did not know Petit Verdot was cultivated in my region as well. Are there any other areas in Italy where Petit Verdot is cultivated?
Cristina Gaudenzi -- Roma (Italy)
Dear Ms. Gaudenzi, thank you so much for your appreciation about DiWineTaste, we are glad to know our publication is interesting to you and we will certainly do our best in order to continue our job this way. Petit Verdot is, like you rightly said, a grape typically used in some Bordeaux wines and recently there is a renewed interest for this grape among wine producers, not only French producers. Petit Verdot is mainly used in Bordeaux wines in order to add taste, color and a good quantity of tannins. When this grape is used alone to make wine, without using any other grape, Petit Verdot is capable of giving wines having good body, very colored and with spicy and peppery aromas, they are pretty tannic and alcoholic as well. In Italy, besides what you already knew, Petit Verdot is cultivated, although in little quantities, in Latium as well as in Alto Adige, Trentino, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. This grape is also cultivated elsewhere in the world, particularly in Chile and California.



I noticed bottles of Champagne are usually thicker than bottles used for still wines, of course, because of the internal pressure. I would like to ask you how much is the pressure which develops inside of a bottle of Champagne?
József Szilágyi -- Szeged (Hungary)
The internal pressure in a bottle of Champagne is usually of about 6 atmospheres (85.34 psi) and this is true for sparkling wines made with “classic method” as well. Internal pressure is originated by a “secondary fermentation”, which takes place in the bottle, and its purpose it to transform the sugar contained in the so-called “liqueur de tirage” into alcohol and, as a byproduct, carbon dioxide which in turn, as being trapped in the bottle, raises the internal pressure up to about 6 atmospheres. Technically speaking, 4 grams of sugar (about 0.14 oz.) dissolved in the “liqueur de tirage” develops about one atmosphere (about 14.2 psi), therefore the total quantity of sugar needed to have 6 atmospheres is 24 grams. (0.84 oz.)



As “Nouveaux” wines are about to be released in the market, a friend of mine and I did not agree about the serving temperature of these wines. I think, as they are red wines, they should be served at a temperature of at least 16° C (60° F), whereas my friend says these wines can be served at lower temperatures. Who is right?
Lorraine Hartshorne -- Brisbane (Australia)
We are very sorry to contradict your opinion, but your friend is right. Nouveaux wines, because of the particular wine making technology used to make them, the so-called “carbonic maceration”, do not have high quantities of tannins and are pretty aromatic; a couple of conditions that would suggest a low serving temperature, just like for white wines. Concerning this subject, we can suggest you reading the report about “serving temperature” published on DiWineTaste's issue 1, October 2002.



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