There was a second wave of migration, to the New World, under the European empires of the 16th-19th centuries - by the early 18th century South Africa was exporting Constantia to Europe, made with muscat grapes that originated in Egypt. Subsequent immigrants have brought their native wines and grapes wherever they have gone - the Italian influence on Argentine and Californian winemaking is particular noteworthy. Wines from Portugal and Madeira were fortified to survive journeys across the world, and left their mark on wines in the colonies that aped their style and were named after them.
The phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century also had a big influence, destroying traditional field blends of indigenous grapes in vineyards, which were often replaced by monocultures of fashionable grapes such as the Bordeaux varieties - grafted, of course, onto rootstocks from North America. Vignerons faced a stark choice, either adopt the new techniques, or choose another profession. Phylloxera was the stimulus for the development of a new infrastructure of government breeding programmes and exchange of plant material and techniques.
After the Second World War, a number of countries developed bland wines for the export market, with an emphasis on uniformity and branding, such as Mateus Rose and Blue Nun. These were welcomed by a mass market - and the multiple retailers who served them - and those same factors have helped similar brands to gain more power, although changes in fashion mean that the names have changed. The modern equivalents come from industrial irrigated vineyards in the New World, in regions such as Murray Darling in southern Australia and Worcester in South Africa. Such moves reflect changes in the general scale of food production in industrialised countries.
Another aspect of this is the rise of varietal labelling, which has made the big companies less tolerant of blends of obscure grapes, instead preferring to market 'big name' varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah (Shiraz), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.
The Judgment of Paris in 1976 and subsequent wine competitions helped winemakers throughout the New World realize that they could make wines equal to the very best produced anywhere in the world as well educating some markets about the potential of wine outside Europe. This process was much easier in some countries like the United Kingdom, with little indigenous production and a centuries-old tradition of importing wine from around the world, than it was in other countries. Further competitions brought to international attention other great wines from around the world, some of which like Penfolds Grange had already been made for decades.
Another influence is that of the wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. among consumers in the United States. His approval can make a massive difference to sales of a wine in the United States, and some winemakers in some parts of the world have been accused of chasing this market by changing their wines to suit his personal taste. This effect is the main subject of the documentary film Mondovino. His points system is influential, particularly among retailers as a substitute for staff training.
Many of the early flying winemakers were Australians who had been educated in modern techniques, and used the fact that their autumn was six months ahead of the Northern Hemisphere to 'moonlight' when things were quiet at home. They have had some dramatic success in improving the quality of Old World wines, particularly in the South of France and in the former Communist countries.
However one of the most influential flying winemakers is now a Frenchman, Michel Rolland from Pomerol who advises over 100 wineries in 13 countries but has probably had most influence on the chateaux around his home. He favours a style similar to that liked by Parker, so is also criticised by Mondovino.
In Europe, there is renewed interest in heritage wines, particularly by the new democracies in Eastern Europe where wine can be a statement of national identity. A particularly good example is seen in Eger in Hungary, where the local Bull's Blood wine has seen a steady infusion of foreign grapes such as Blaufrankisch in the 18th century, the Bordeaux varieties after phylloxera struck, and Zweigelt under communism. This is now being reversed with substantial new planting of the traditional Kadarka variety - which itself was brought from Serbia by the Turkish invasion of the 16th century. Another example is Domaine Gauby, who in 2000 turned their back on a big, Parker-friendly style for their flagship Muntada wine, in favour of a more traditionally French style.
Abadia Retuerta, Seleccion Especial, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon (Spain) 2006, $21.(FOOD)(WINE)(Column)
Nov 11, 2009; Byline: Paul Lukacs, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES The globalization of wine and winemaking certainly has its downside. In many...