After hearing another person tell me how much better wine was in the day, I had to set pen to paper to set the record straight. First of all, I was collecting and buying for businesses back in the day and even today I taste wines from the 1970s through the 90s on a regular basis. I do feel qualified to comment.
As a whole, wines at any price level adjusted for inflation are consistently better than they have ever been. Sure a perfectly kept bottle of a great wine from an exceptional vintage can stand toe to toe with any current equal, but overall, today’s offerings are less likely to be flawed and more likely to be delicious.
If I am going to make such strong conclusions, I’d better have some whys and wherefores to support them.
Reason 1 | Better knowledge in all areas of turning grapes to wine. Whether making truly cheap or top-end wines, years of excellent science give producers far superior information to apply. Reasons 2 thorough 5 will flesh this out.
Reason 2 | Better grapes. Whether the fruit is meant for inexpensive wines or trophies, growers are selecting the appropriate grape clones, root stocks, watering techniques and more to end up with the right grapes for the wine they will be used for.
Reason 3 | Better winemaking tools are now in play. Vintners have more good options at every phase of the process. From barrels to barrel alternatives, to additives, to timing, to monitoring devices and more, winemakers are in a golden age of resources. Think of it as car racing. If you want to rapidly negotiate a race course, would you rather have a new Corvette or the original 1953 with rudimentary suspension and the engine it came with?
Reason 4 | Better winemaking techniques drive the development of the above tools. Again, research has been the key; a tool is only as effective as the craftsman. And speaking of the winemakers, there many more excellent university programs in both grape growing and winemaking.
Reason 5 | Sharing. There is also a greater sharing of knowledge and tools and hardware. This drives everything because in relation to knowledge sharing, as the Web teaches us, there is far more bad information than good floating around. It is the generous sharing of hows, whys and tools of the trade that counts. This is truly the tide that raises all our boats.
As one who suffered through many a California Chablis that not only had none of the grapes of that region in them, not to mentioned was poorly made, I shout a resounding, “Halleluiah!”