CA Wine Market ~ Past & Future

Sometimes it seems wines just stay the same, as consumer preferences cycle through predictable patterns.

Historical Wine Background

     When one considers something as venerable as wine, two generations seems rather paltry. Forty years isn’t very old for a vine, and it’s nothing but a quick glance compared to the 5,000 years human beings have been seriously turning grapes into commerce. Nevertheless, the knowledge base of humankind has advanced rapidly since 1970, and wine is no different.
     It may be helpful to set the stage. In the early 1960’s there were only a few hundred U.S. troops in Viet Nam, and they were still called “advisors.” At that time nearly half the wine consumed in America was called “Port” and/or “Sherry.” JFK and his dazzling wife were in the White House and setting fashion around the world. Zinfandel was the most widely planted “premium” wine grape in California. The Civil Rights marches in Mississippi and Alabama were just beginning to happening, and 60% of the grapes crushed in CA for white wine were Thompson Seedless. Pills for birth control were about to come on to the market, and Robert Mondavi, although just turning 50, was still employed as a salesman for his family’s winery, Charles Krug. Women still went to college to get an ‘Mrs.’ degree, and you could buy a 1,200 sq. ft. cottage on a half acre in St. Helena for $30,000. Of course if you lived in St. Helena, you’d have to drive to San Francisco to get a good restaurant meal. The 280 freeway down the Peninsula from San Francisco had not been built yet, but South Bay wineries like Paul Masson, Almaden, and Mirassou were prestige players on the national scene. Seven years later, in the late 1960’s, while Jimi Hendricks and Janis Joplin were setting the tone musically, Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy was hailed by the New York Times as particularly noteworthy amongst international wine competitors because it was sound, clean, reliable, and reasonably priced.

Consumer Wine Style Preferences

     Yeah, things have changed.
     But I’ve changed too. Sometimes it is hard to say the wines or the marketplace have really changed more dramatically than my own preferences and opportunities have…

     To read this post in its entirety, including commentary about changing wine styles and the importance of future markets, visit the Stanford Wine Blog.