Top 10 defining drinks trends of this century so far

3. The Sideways effect: Pinot Noir

A little over two years after db printed its first issue, a film was released that would change the world of wine. Sideways hit the big screens in the US on 22 October 2004, and, as members of the global wine trade know only too well, the movie featured a memorable scene in which lead character Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, heaps praise on Pinot Noir (having previously expressed his disdain for Merlot). The combination of this eulogy, and the film’s eventual global success, turned Pinot from the preserve of only the most learned wine lover to the most desirable drink of the aspirational consumer.

As a result, within 10 years, db was reporting on a “saturation” for Pinot production in the US, following a 65% rise in acreage between 2006 and 2015 of this single variety in California, making it the fourth most planted grape in the state. But Pinot hadn’t just been embraced in the US, it had been widely planted in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Chile, which has emerged as a major player in affordable Pinot.

Speaking to members of the trade in major wine-importing markets, and right through this decade, it has been clear that one of the most demanded wines in recent history is New World Pinot.

Stylistically, it has changed significantly too, swinging from the lightweight reds of France, particularly the entry-level offerings from its native home of Burgundy, to dark, rather jammy and sometimes spirity wines of hotter climates. These latter types of Pinot are now much harder to find, as winemakers have realised that the appeal of this grape centres on its perfume, softness, and fresh red fruit. With the grape so widely trialled, since the start of the century, certain parts of the New World have become strongly associated with fine, distinctive Pinot, such as coastal Chile (San Antonio/Casablanca), cool-climate Australia (Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula), New Zealand (Central Otago, Martinborough), the US (Sonoma, Oregon), South Africa (Hemel en Aarde/Hermanus). Italy continues to craft pretty Pinots; Germany has emerged as serious player for cherry-scented examples, while new sources are emerging around the globe, such as Japan’s north island of Hokkaido.

Meanwhile, the popularity of Pinot has made top-end Burgundy the most sought-after fine wine for moneyed collectors. Such demand has taken wine’s value to new heights, with an October 2018 auction seeing a single bottle of the world’s most prized Pinot, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s 1945 Romanée-Conti, sell for an astounding US$558,000 (£422,180) at auction. This sum, as we noted at the end of last year, could buy you a one-bedroom flat near Battersea Park in London, an Aston Martin DB11 or a private island in Panama. Such comparisons show the appeal of Pinot.

Toast: Viña Cono Sur, Ocio, Chile (Master medal-winner, Pinot Masters)

One Response to “Top 10 defining drinks trends of this century so far”

  1. Greg Fischer says:

    With green drinks in mind – The most sustainable wine on Earth is Mead. Craft Mead has developed not to be that off tasting syrupy overly sweet wine. With the different varietals of honey we are seeing craft meadmakers make fine mead both dry and sweet. Our Meadery Wild Blossom in Chicago produces the most locally wine made in the city.

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