WHAT WERE WE THINKING? DRINKING WINE IN THE 80’S AND 90’S
Who doesn’t love Eighties and Nineties nostalgia? Listening to George Michael on a Walkman the size of a house brick, after first spending twenty minutes winding the tape back into the cassette using a pencil, queuing for half an hour to get into a nightclub only to find it three quarters empty (wait, that still happens..), and tearing the edges off dot matrix pinting paper to the warbling serenade of a dial-up modem.
However what we were drinking, like all the best traumatic memories, has been buried deep – and with good reason, watermelon flavoured Mad Dog 220, Diamond White, or if you were feeling cosmopolitan – Diamond Blush, Archers and Lemonade, Passion-fruit Alize and neon blue WKD’s, washed down with a shot of Cinammon flavoured Aftershock. Despite a parade of drinks that, like Freddy Kruger in a Nightmare on Elm Street, continued to haunt your dreams long after, it was wine that came off the worst, and what we were drinking in this dark, dark period was simply criminal.
With a taste that’s part despair, part nail polish remover, Blue nun was the godfather of terrible eighties and nineties plonk. Originally classed as Liebfraumilch, a family of sweet, German wines, it has since been reclassified as a Qualitatswein Bestimmter Anbaugebite, which rolls off the tongue far better than the wine ever did. It was also successfully marketed as a wine you could drink ‘through the entire meal’ removing the pesky need to actually match one with what you were eating – Steak? Blue Nun. Fish? Blue Nun. Prawn Cocktail? Blue Nun! Wow.
Tip for today: That said, there are plenty great quality German Rieslings prized for their sweetness. Try one from the Mosel region of Germany:
- Barracuda: Joseph Drat Bereich Riesling, Mosel, Germany – 55 AED
- MMI & Al Hamra Cellars: Max Ferdinantvon Richter Riesling, Mosel, Germany – 79 AED
- African + Eastern & The Cellars: Dr Ernst Loosen Riesling ‘Dr L’, Mosel, Germany – 81 AED
Originally sold in the earthenware bottles, presumably to prevent drinkers slashing their wrists with broken glass to escape the pain, Black Tower still claims to be the most successful wine brand from Germany. But please note that all-important phrasing – from Germany, not in Germany. Despite this it’s now powering back from obscurity with the marketing slogan – Easy ends the day, which sounds like a poorly contrived suicide note, something you might actually consider if it turned out to be the last bottle left in the house.
Unlike today’s sophisticated and elegant versions, many 80’s and 90’s chardonnays were basically a Sophie’s choice between gargling with a stick of butter, or sucking on a plank. Despite this they were on of the first varieties people felt confident ordering by name. However by the end of the nineties their time had passed, their reputation damaging the varietal to this day.
Tip for today: At The Tasting Class’ private home tastings we often hear “I don’t like Chardonnay”. Only to reveal the wine served on arrival, that everyone loved, was actually a Chardonnay. If you were bit by a bad Chardy 20 years ago, it’s time to try it again.
Here’s a few wines you can find in the UAE:
- Barracuda: Landmark Vineyard Overlook Chardonnay, Sonoma, California – 150 AED
- MMI & Al Hamra Cellars: Cloudy Bay Chardonnay, New Zealand – 199 AED
- African + Eastern & The Cellars: Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay, Australia – 92 AED
- Duty Free: Heitz Cellar Chardonnay, Napa, California – 120 AED
The mediocre dinner-party wine of choice, Mateus Rosé was packaged in an iconic bulb like bottle, it was officially designated as a medium sweet rose, which tells you more about the period’s relationship with sugar than anything else.
Tip for today: Rosé is back and drier than ever! The berry aromas have improved and gone is the sickly sweet sugar taste. Provence rosés are the summer time drink of yachties the world over, and the hot pink rosés from the non-European nations are generally delicious. Try these:
- Barracuda: Chateau Cavalier, Cotes du Provence, France – 70 AED
- MMI & Al Hamra Cellars: Turkey Flat Vineyards, Barossa Valley, Australia – 81 AED
- African + Eastern & The Cellars: Morgonhof Fantail Rosé, South Africa – 50 AED
Le Piat Dor
With its underlying flavour of Strepsils, this one is proof positive that marketers can make us buy pretty much anything they want if they set their mind to it. Originally carrying the rhyming slogan, The French adore Piat Dor, a more honest slogan might have been, the French have absolutely no idea what this stuff is but are really happy the English are buying all of it.
Arguably one of the dirtiest words to come out of the eighties, Lambrusco evokes images of cheap and soulless sugar water with all the charm of licking farm machinery. Not content to scar seventies and eighties alike, the 90’s then gave us its demon offspring, Lambrini, which tasted like your child had secretly poured half a bag of Tate and Lyle into your mouth while you were sleeping. Interestingly Lambrini’s creator proceeded to drink himself to death. Draw whatever connections from that you see fit.
But on the plus side, at least the UK avoided White Zinfandel.
Tip for today: Thankfully, the 21st Century has seen a shift towards quality over quantity at every price point – mostly. Does that mean it’s time to give Lambrusco another try? While it’s not widely available in the UAE there are a few available from Barracuda for about 30 AED, and Al Hamra Cellars in RAK also stock one.
Want to try some wines with us and get some more honest wine opinions? Book a home tasting with The Tasting Class.
This article was first published on British Mums Dubai.