Wines of 1900

Dateline: 01/01/00

As we ring in the new year 1900, it seems only appropriate to go over the fine accomplishments in the world of wine over the past century. We should examine with pride what new leaps in quality have been made, and which vintages have been stellar. In a century that has seen the American Civil War and the revolutions of 1848, the vineyards of the world have been lucky to make it through the century with most of its harm coming from louse and not mankind.

First, France, which dominates the world wine market. Napoleon's wars are long gone, and the vineyards of France are known throughout the world as the finest available. The current Bordeaux vintages are stellar. For those with the ability to get their hands on them, the 1900 vintages of Château Ausone and Château Margaux are really shining. Put these aside for a few years - they'll reward you down the road!

Champagne, of course, is always appropriate at this time of year! There were three Champagne widows who made history in this century. First, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin who took over Clicquot in 1805. It is after her that "La Grande Dame" is named, and of course Veuve Clicquot. The world "Veuve" means "widow". Second, in 1858, Louise Pommery took control of the Pommery winery, at the age of 39 and with two children to care for as well. Almost twenty years later, Mathilde Emile Laurent-Perrier took over Laurent-Perrier and runs it still!

Italy, with its "share-cropping" system, continues to concern itself with quantity over quality. Sadly, as workers are paid by the pound for grapes, the wines tend to be pedestrian and common. It is hoped that someday they might change their system, and produce wines that their fine climate and soil is capable of. Perhaps the new kingdom of Italy, declared in 1861 with Victor Emmanuel as its first king, will see to that!

At the latter part of this century California began to set its sights on growing wine. While wine grapes have been in California for over 100 years (since 1769), the Napa Valley saw vines installed at the founding of the Sonoma Mission in 1823. In 1849 the first Californian wine was shipped to San Francisco. These upstart winemakers believe they might someday rival the vineyards of France.

The biggest disaster to strike winemakers in this century was beyond a doubt the phylloxera plant louse, which struck in the 1860s. In just a few years, this small creature destroyed almost 3/4 of French vines, and hit many other countries just as hard. Luckily, by grafting the local vines onto American rootstock, winery owners were able to keep the louse from completely destroying their valuable plants.

So put on some Schubert, Chopin or Beethoven, pour yourself a glass of fine Champagne, and raise a toast to the coming year 1900. Who knows what this new century will offer us! Perhaps California might put forth some great wines, and maybe the new agricultural areas of the world - Australia and Chile - might offer up a refreshing alternative to our classics!

Wine Regions in History

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.