Story by Charles Fredy
Like other fashions, wines come and go. Yet some seem never to go out of style. For example, a great bottle of champagne is always a welcome gift or companion to a celebration. Its seductive flavor and mystique create an atmosphere of effervescence before the cork is even popped. A fine champagne will have consistent quality and versatility with food, but what also keeps it eternally in fashion is its relative scarcity. The region where quality champagne grapes can be grown is very small, and producers who are committed to excellence are willing to cellar the wine for many years.
Classic wines in general—such as Napa cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscan and Piedmont reds—have proven dependable selections, which is why they are always in demand.
Then there are the hot new entries from New Zealand, Argentina, Spain, and the up-and-coming wines of Chile and South Africa. For these wines, it is all about value; when a wine more than delivers quality for the price, word spreads like wildfire. New Zealand sauvignon blanc became hugely popular as people discovered how drinkable it is, how well it pairs with everyday meals—and how much more reasonably it’s priced than other high-quality wines in its category. Argentina and Spain have benefited from the soft economy—customers can “trade down” to these wines without sacrificing flavor, complexity or quality. Chilean and South African wines are just fun to experiment with, and the quality is rising every day.
Seasons influence fashions in wine, just as they do in apparel. Prosecco, a dry sparkling Italian wine, was a very cool choice for the summer. It has just a touch of sweetness and a fresh, fruity aroma that makes it appealing with chicken or fish. It’s easy to drink, has refreshing bubbles, and is a great value for the money.
Sometimes a wine goes in or out of style for no better reason than novelty—and what kind of press it gets. The 2004 movie Sideways managed to crush that old darling merlot, but lit a huge fire under pinot noir. It was a different story with Australian shiraz: the glut of inferior reds that hit the market spoiled the party for many other, more solid offerings, even taking syrah down with it.
Ultimately, the taste you rely on should be your own. If you love adventure, you’ll be happy to know that new wineries and developing countries are bringing exciting new offerings into plentiful supply, and even old standbys are coming up with new tricks to keep us intrigued. If you prefer the tried and true, plenty of classics provide consistent quality, year after year.
Fashion prediction: Keep your eye on the wines of Austria, Germany and Southern France. Domestically, pay attention to what Oregon and Washington are turning out. Mendocino, Lake County and Paso Robles are also making some really nice wines.
These wines are always a hit on my fashion parade:
- Billecart-Salmon, Brut Rose, Mareuil-Sur-Ay, Champagne, France, N.V.
- Zardetto, Prosecco, Veneto, Italy, N.V
- Kistler, Chardonnay, Sonoma Mountain, California, 2009
- Calera, Pinot Noir, Ryan Vineyard, Mt. Harlan, California, 2008
- Far Niente, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2007
- Isole e Olena, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, 2008
- Domaine Michel Gros, Vosne Romanee, Clos de Reas, 1er Cru, Burgundy, France, 2007
- Chateau Rauzen-Segla, 2nd Cru, Margaux, Bordeaux, France, 2005