Executive wine editor Lettie Teague shares 30 top trends, most influential wineries and cellar-worthy bottles from the past three decades.

October 17, 2011

1979
Meadowood Napa Valley opens as the first luxury resort in California’s Napa Valley, presaging the development of the region into a first-class tourist destination.
1980

Willi’s wine bar opens in Paris. Although wine bars are ubiquitous today, Willi’s was a revolutionary concept at the time: a place to sell interesting wine by the glass and bottle.Photo © Quentin Bacon

1981
The Napa Valley Wine Auction (which was renamed as Auction Napa Valley in 2005) debuts as a small local charity auction. It soon becomes synonymous with the excesses and high prices of Napa wines (and the Napa lifestyle) in the 1980s and ’90s.
1982

Arguably the most important modern vintage of Bordeaux. The 1982 vintage made people who had never collected wine before want to buy Bordeaux, and it also made Robert M. Parker, Jr., the most famous wine critic in the world after he declared it “a great Bordeaux vintage” when virtually no other critics did. (And, of course, Parker was later proven right.)Photo © Brad Trent

1982
Americans embrace Chardonnay. Also—not coincidentally—this is the first year that Kendall-Jackson produces its Vintner’s Reserve, a slightly sweet bottling that comes to define Chardonnay for American wine drinkers.
1983

The first Washington-state wine appellation is created. Before this, the state was barely recognized as a source of grapes, let alone as having the potential to make the world-class wine it does today.Photo Courtesy of Pepper Bridge Winery

1984
Gallo introduces the wine cooler Bartles & Jaymes, and it becomes one of the most successful wine campaigns on television.
1985
Diethylene glycol, which is used in some kinds of antifreeze, is found in bottles of Austrian wine, which ruins the reputation of all Austrian wine for years.
1985

Sassicaia is awarded 100 points by wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.—a first for these fancifully named Tuscan wines made from nontraditional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The age of Super-Tuscans officially begins.Illustration © Stina Wirsén

1985
Cloudy Bay produces its first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc, resulting in an almost insatiable global demand for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
1988
Domaine Drouhin Oregon, the outpost of the famous Burgundy producer Joseph Drouhin, produces its first vintage of Pinot Noir, helping establish the legitimacy of Oregon Pinot Noir.
1990
The most famous wine in Australia, Penfolds Grange Hermitage, loses part of its name and becomes Penfolds Grange to avoid a lawsuit. Hermitage is a famous wine-growing appellation in France’s northern Rhône Valley, and France banned the sale of wines that use the name despite not being from the region.
1990

Micro-oxygenation is created in France as a means of combating the fierce tannins in wine. Today, it’s a widely used method, particularly in Bordeaux.Photo © Quentin Bacon

1991
Château Valandraud, one of the first so-called garagiste wines, is created in St-Émilion. The term garagiste was coined to describe winemakers in the region, most of whom owned no vineyards, making superconcentrated, modern-style wines in such small quantities that they could be produced in a garage. Many new St-Émilion garagiste wines appear and are given high scores by wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.; a buying frenzy ensues.
1992

First vintage of Screaming Eagle, the first true super-cult California Cabernet. (The release price of the 1992 vintage: $50; the release price of the 2008 vintage: $500. On the open market, the current vintage immediately costs six times as much.)Photo © Kang Kim

1994
Apartheid ends in South Africa, paving the way for the exportation of South African wine and the de-nationalization of the South African wine business
1994
Morrell & Company, a wine retailer based in New York City, holds the first public wine auction in Manhattan. Soon after, several wine auction houses open in New York (Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Acker Merrall & Condit, Zachys) as well as in other major cities like Los Angeles.
1996

The question of where the most “American” of grapes, Zinfandel, comes from is definitively settled by University of California Davis professor Carole Meredith, who determines that the Croatian grape Plavac Mali is its genetic parent.Illustration © Stina Wirsén

2001
The first quality wine is issued under screw cap in New Zealand; today, more than 90 percent of New Zealand wines are bottled under screw cap, as are 70 percent of Australian wines and a growing percentage worldwide.
2002

The Argentine peso is devalued. This compels Argentine winemakers, who previously sold almost all their wines domestically, to export their products. The world subsequently falls for Argentina’s star grape, Malbec.Photo © Gregor Halenda

2003
A summer heat wave in Europe devastates many vineyards in France, Spain and Portugal (and incites a more urgent discussion among winemakers about global warming), but it also inspires some winemakers—most notably Champagne producers—to take a closer look at growing grapes in parts of England.
2004

The movie Sideways debuts, convincing wine drinkers all over America to forsake Merlot in favor of Pinot Noir.Photo © Kang Kim

2004
The Naples Winter Wine Festival becomes the highest-grossing charity wine auction in the country by raising more than $6.6 million—surpassing Auction Napa Valley for the first time.
2005
The United States Supreme Court rules on the laws regulating wine shipments between states, making it much easier for wineries to sell directly to customers. Thirty-five states currently permit direct shipping.
2007
William Koch files a lawsuit against fellow collector Hardy Rodenstock over very old bottles of wine Koch purchased that he alleges are fake. Koch goes on to file additional lawsuits against auction houses, and the problem of counterfeit wines becomes a prime topic of conversation among wine collectors everywhere.
2008
Hong Kong eliminates duties on imported wines, and a New York-based wine-auction house opens there. Hong Kong solidifies its position as the most important wine market in Asia, and may well someday become the most important wine market in the world.

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