TIME TO TIE a bow on 1996 and call it a wrap, so here's one last shuffle of papers on my desk, where loose notes scribbled on small slips of paper turn into news items before they fly into the trash can. . . .
The year's top story had noting to do with plane crashes, bomb threats, campaign promises or player strikes, but it did (of course) relate to wine. . . .
My favorite: the discovery that Stone Agers drank wine, with archeologists uncovering evidence in northern Iran's remote Zagros Mountains that wine dates back 7,000 to 7,400 years ago, or 2,000 years earlier than previously believed. . . .
The wine, similar to the Greek wine retsina, wouldn't taste good by our standards but you can only imagine how much it was appreciated by wine bibbers of that time. . . .
THE DISCOVERY "tells us that even so long ago, the earliest villagers were making wine, preserving it from turning to vinegar, and drinking it regularly as part of their diet," said Patrick McGovern, leader of the University of Pennsylvania team that published details of the find in the scientific journal Nature. . . .
The discoveries have "important implications for the origins of viticulture and viniculture, as well as for the development of modern diet, medical practice and society generally," the study concluded. . . .
Runner-up: Life on Mars and the hope that one day we'll find evidence that Martians too drank wine many moons ago. . . .
Closer to now, the tremendous resurgence of Bordeaux, with the popularity of its 1995 vintage, proved just how strong a draw a great vintage can be, with first-growth futures selling for $100 a bottle a year before they're put into bottle. . . .
Of course, it helps that Bordeaux had a dry spell of grand vintages in this decade, with 1990 being the best of the decade so far. . . .
IT ALSO DEMONSTRATES just how unusually great the 1980s were, with stellar years in 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1989 and a pretty good year in 1981. . . .
In California, the 1994 vintage for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel proved monumental and the wine business in general had perhaps its greatest year ever. The '94 Cabernets, coming to market this year, should be sensational, too. . . .
Prices too rose to new highs and one can only wonder whether this will begin to have an impact on sales as wines we like to drink become scarcer and more expensive. . . .
Rising prices should provide golden opportunities for the under-appreciated wines of Australia, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Long Island, the Finger Lakes, Washington and Oregon, not to mention Texas, Ontario and West Virginia. . . .
THE GLOBALIZATION and internationalization of wine came into sharp focus, with many California companies (Kendall-Jackson, Beringer, Mondavi and Fetzer) making big investments in Chile and Robert Mondavi Winery preparing to set up shop in the Languedoc region of France. . . .
The deadline for vintages of the century moved one year closer, too, so it won't be long before you can mail in (or e-mail) your suggestions for the best wines of the past 100 years. . . .
Funny thing is many of you are already making plans for food, wine and travel events on Dec. 31, 1999, Millennium Eve, which isn't all that far away and promises to be one busy night for corkscrews and decanting great wines. . . .
Thanks to those of you who've written, called or e-mailed to compliment, complain, criticize or praise as it is all appreciated by us at Wine Spectator, on-line or off. . . .
Here's wishing your new year is filled with lots of wonderful wine experiences. . . .
Each year I resolve to runand/or walkmore miles, eat more vegetables and try to keep my waist size under my age. From the look of things, I've got a good chance of keeping my resolutions. . . .
How about you?
See you next year. . . .
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