Preferences in wine are much more about fashion than most vintners know — or are prepared to acknowledge. There are many reasons for it. If you are a producer in Burgundy, Bordeaux or Champagne — or in a part of the world whose climate and soils are best suited to the cultivars that are planted in such places — there is not a lot you can do about suddenly changing preferences. You also would not like to concede that an unexpected sales boom could be the result of a trend entirely beyond your control. In the 1980s, chardonnay was all the rage worldwide. Then the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) movement launched its offensive and sales plummeted. Instead a whole generation of wine drinkers focused on sauvignon blanc, convinced that the crisp acidity was a sign of sophistication ("Chardonnays are all so oaky and sweet," they said). Growers stopped planting the great white Burgundy variety, choosing instead cultivars that tracked the fashion for unoaked whites. Before most of them realise...

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