Wine culture

Reflections and influences of wine on mass culture

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In a previous blog entry focused on films in which wine plays a central role or is a subtext, we talked about the famous film Sideways. One of its main characters, wine lover Miles (played by Paul Giamatti) is passionate about Californian Pinot Noir. 

Following the film’s release in 2004, sales of this wine variety grew by 16% per year. It was an unprecedented boom. Wine bars and restaurants in the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties multiplied their clientele, in a sort of oenophile gold rush. Appellations such as Santa Maria Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Arroyo Grande, Ballard Canyon or Los Olivos burst through the door into the minds of American wine consumers. Such is the power of cinema.

The history of wine could be written through the mirror that the product and its universe of consumption have had in society and in the mass media. A general overview reveals some of the key moments in the relationship between wine and mass culture. Naturally, most of these episodes take place in the United States, which is always more advanced in terms of image, marketing and mass media.

 

Among hippies and dandies

In the 1960s, long-standing beliefs were challenged and new forms of culture emerged. This was also the case in wine, with key figures such as Robert Mondavi, who pioneered a new chapter of modernity, expansion and the search for the authentic identity of the vineyards in California. An elegant dandy in the mecca of the hippy movement.

The Judgment of Paris

Based in Paris, Steven Spurrier was a wine merchant who in 1976 came up with a somewhat crazy idea to bring new dynamism to his shop: a blind tasting of French and Californian wines of the same style and variety, essentially Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. With a prestigious jury of winemakers, sommeliers, critics and academics, the tasting resulted in the surprising victory of California, which thus entered forever into the Olympus of great wines. Known as the Judgment of Paris, the event triggered a revolution in the world of wine. Its influence continues to this day and over the last four decades it has sparked countless discussions and even a film.

 

The wine advocate

Of course, this is Robert Parker. Who else has played such a decisive role in shaping the world”s taste over three decades? Despite the growing emergence of new reviewers, the publication bearing his name continues to stand out. It is a symbol of an era and its relevance goes beyond the strict boundaries of the wine trade.

 

Series that didn’t talk about wine. Or did they?

The onset of the 21st century coincided with the success of two seminal television series: Sex and the City and Friends. Although they had nothing to do with wine, they presented us with a very appealing relationship scenario and showcased the vibrant popularity of bars, pubs and nightlife that characterizes the global city in recent years. In the face of current and future health crises, will we recover that carefree spirit?

 

Social Media

Means of expression, networking and communication tool… Social media are beyond specific definitions. Nowadays they seem to be everything, a big catch-all to publicise a brand but also to be drowned in the overabundance of stimuli. Image-based platforms such as Instagram have democratised the public perception of wine, sometimes at the cost of standardising and trivialising it. Surely, we have not yet learned how to handle them.

 

Wine Folly

Madeline Puckette, founder of the blog Wine Folly, has been able to handle them. She represents the most refreshing, sharp and insightful face of wine on the Internet. Contents in her site range from the most entertaining to the most educational. Perhaps her star item is the maps of wine regions around the world, which combine the off and online spheres -in other words, tradition with contemporary communication. Ultimately, she has managed to reach out to consumerist wine lovers in the hipster scene.

 

Robert Mondavi clad in a cork jacket (photo by Jock McDonald)

 

Photo taken by Bella Spurrier at the tasting of what became known as the Judgment of Paris (1976)

 

Bar and cocktail culture in Sex and the City

 

Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly’s founder

 

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