Styles in the wine world seem to change as often as styles in the world of fashion. Cabernet Sauvignon went from savory and elegant to plump and alcoholic and is now trending back toward savory and elegant, seeming to follow the trend from sagging to skinny jeans. The butter bomb Chardonnays of the early 2000s are as popular today as bell bottoms. Moscato, all the rage a few years ago, appears to be receding in popularity replaced by rosé as the go-to refresher. Somms who went gaga over wines from Jura recently now find natural wines more appealing.
Why such fascination with change?
One could argue that it’s the industry driving change ratcheting up profits by making people want something new. But it seems obvious that these changes in the wine world aren’t initiated by large companies who tend to follow trends, not set them. It wasn’t Gallo that first cut back the oak and malolactic fermentation when making Chardonnay or that started pushing out the dry rosé as everyone’s favorite porch pounder.
Alternatively, one might argue that everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of what’s cool and will jump on anything that seems new just to be perceived as “with it”. There is surely some truth in that but it doesn’t explain why being perceived as “with it” has acquired such cultural importance.
I think fashions change because in matters of taste we crave difference. We are insatiable when it comes to avoiding boredom; through constant differentiation we slay the demon of monotony.
Perhaps this is just the curse of modernity but I doubt it. People in the past may have been more satisfied with tradition because they had fewer resources to create change.
At any rate, if there is there a limit on how much change we can accommodate we’re about to discover what that limit is. And we have changes in style to mark that acceleration.