OF PENDULUMS AND ROLLER COASTERS, 1970–1990
IF A WINE-LOVING RIPVAN WINKLE HAD TASTED THE “MAGIC FLAGON” in 1970 and awakened thirty, not twenty, years later, he certainly would not have been as confused as Irving's Rip, at least not about Zinfandel. Looking back three decades, he'd not be surprised to see the average price of a bottle at $20.00 (about $3.90 in 1970 dollars), nor would he blink at the large number of the highest-priced bottles with alcohol readings of more than 14 percent. But little could he tell from the condition of Zinfandel in the year 2000 about the marvelous swings in popularity and style that California's own varietal had undergone between 1970 and 2000.
The most important American wine facts of the 1970s were the rise in per capita consumption of wine in this country and the explosion of interest in fine table wine, whether from Europe or from California. Together these historic tendencies help to define the modern U. S. wine revolution in its simplest terms. California Zinfandel rode the crest of this revolutionary wave.
For an important segment of the American drinking public, wine was something of a fad in the '70s. Per capita consumption rose continuously throughout the decade but, to the concern of many in the wine industry,