Four Decades: 1976–1985 Page 3

Bordeaux Gets Back In the Picture

1982 Bordeaux bottles
Courtesy of Zachys Wine Auctions
A selection of top 1982 Bordeaux bottlings

It might be hard to imagine today, but with the exception of serious collectors, Bordeaux wasn't of particular interest to American wine drinkers of the early 1980s. The U.S. import market was dominated by Italian wines, led by sparkling brands like Riunite and Cella, and Chiantis like Folonari. Bordeaux hadn't had a truly great vintage since 1961, and the 1970s had been an almost unmitgated disaster in terms of quality.

Then came France's summer of 1982. Bordeaux's vineyards thrived over the unusually hot August and September months, and yielded a huge crop of exceptionally ripe grapes—some argued too ripe: The wines they made were heralded as California-style reds.

Californian or not, the vintage was hugely popular when the young wines began to hit the market in 1984. And they've proved ageworthy as well—1982 Bordeaux have witnessed some of the greatest gains at auction in the modern winemaking era. Château Margaux Margaux 1982, for example, released at $38, recently sold for $774 at auction, while Château Le Pin Pomerol '82, $23 a bottle on release, brought $9,800 in 2015.

Beaujolais Nouveau Arrives

The Concorde delivers the 1984 Nouveau to Seattle.
Barry Sweet/AP Photo
The Concorde delivers the 1984 Nouveau to Seattle.

Georges Duboeuf, an enterprising young vintner in the ho-hum region of Beaujolais, helped drum up excitement for the "first wine of the vintage," a fruity party wine, by throwing terrific parties. Soon, Beaujolais Nouveau parties, in mid-November, were a hit across France. Could they become a major fête around the world?

In 1982, Duboeuf hatched the idea with importer Bill Deutsch, and soon cries of "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!" could be heard from New York to San Francisco to Tokyo. After popping the first bottles in Paris, Duboeuf (and soon others) would escort the first case of the new wine to Manhattan via Concorde, arriving in time for the midnight countdown. One year, he spirited the wine in a Nissan 300ZX to the Plaza Hotel, greeted by Ivana Trump; another, the first case was hoisted to the top of the World Trade Center. But the rich and famous gradually stopped showing up, and 2015 would be the last vintage before Dubouef and Deutsch parted ways.

Chart of California and U.S. winery growth from 1976 to 1985

Wineries of the Rich and Famous

Sting performs with the Police in 1983
Phil Dent/Redferns/Getty Images
Sting performing with the Police in 1983

Sting: By the 1983 release of the album Synchronicity, English band the Police were being called "the biggest rock band in the world," and the single "Every Breath You Take" topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks, earning a Grammy for Song of the Year and affirming New Wave as the sound of the early '80s. In 1997, former lead singer Sting, with his wife, Trudie Styler, would buy fixer-upper Tuscan estate Il Palagio as a place to unwind. In 2004 Sting purchased 520 neighboring acres, working with experts to refurbish his vineyard holdings, and beginning to release wines commercially with the 2007 vintage. Today, Il Palagio makes Sangiovese-based wines called Sister Moon, When We Dance, and Message in a Bottle.

Francis Ford Coppola  on the set of the film Apocalypse Now in 1979
Photos 12/Alamy Stock Photo
The director on the set of Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola: The mid-1970s were a good time to be Francis Ford Coppola. In 1974, Coppola won the Academy Award for Best Picture and a financial windfall from The Godfather Part II. Intrigued by the idea of being a gentleman vintner, he purchased 1,500 acres of the historic Inglenook Estate; soon, he'd count Robert Mondavi as a dining companion. But the initial releases of his Niebaum-Coppola wines were difficult, and the stress of directing 1979's Apocalypse Now put Coppola on the edge, mentally and financially. But in 1995, he would acquire the historic Inglenook chateau itself and, finally, in 2011, the rights to the Inglenook name.

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi with Steve Cropper in back performing with The Blues Brothers in 1980.
Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images
The Blues Brothers on stage in 1980

The Blues Brothers: Entertainers John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as frontmen Jake and Elwood Blues debuted their musical act on Saturday Night Live. After a hit 1980 Blues Brothers movie, Aykroyd became the man to call in Hollywood comedy with the 1984 smash Ghostbusters. In 2005, Aykroyd would launch the Discovery Series of wines from the Niagara Peninsula VQA (he is Canadian), which has grown to encompass a range of styles from Cabernet to barrel-aged ice wine.

Four Decades: 1976–1985 Page 3