The story of wine from the 80s to now: who drank it better?

Thanks to our brand partner, BWS

Is there ever a time when wine isn’t trending? The answer, my friends, is a simple no. But as agricultural developments take place, and our taste for food changes over time, so too do our preference for a good ol’ glass of grape juice.

What is the story of wine, and how have our tastes changed? These are delicious questions that the people demanded answers to, so we set out to dig up some of the biggest wine trends of the past 30 years.


The raging eighties, where everything was bigger, better and wetter – especially the wine scene. Given that Californian wines exploded in the late seventies and early eighties, Chardonnay, Cali’s most notable grape variety, was everywhere. It became the go-to wine for restaurant goers, and it was suddenly chic to ask for ‘a glass of Chardonnay’ instead of a ‘glass of white.’

On the party scene, champagne was all the rage, seeing this French favourite (that was once reserved only for special occasions) become the choice of girls-about-town in every night club from here to NYC.


"On the party scene, champagne was all the rage." Image: Touchstone Pictures.

On the other end of the sparkling spectrum, we saw the introduction of wine coolers. Much like the music and fashion of the time, the eighties were all about that pop, and wine coolers were the sweet, fizzy friend of young soon-to-be wine lovers.


The Chardonnays of the eighties were bold and heavy in flavour, with vanillas and buttery flavours characterising the vintages of the time. Almost as a reaction to this, the wine connoisseurs of the nineties preferred lighter, more accessible bouquets and flavours.

As the punk and shoegaze took over the music scene, with Nirvana and Slowdive gracing our ears and supermodels painting their lips in darker shades, so too did our preference in wine deepen. Red was the new white, with Merlot quickly becoming the cream of the crop. With its round, fruity flavours that will satisfy almost any tongue, and its versatility of being both appropriate as a dinner and dessert wine, it’s easy to imagine why.

Varieties from Bordeaux were shipped around the world to satisfy both Australian and North American demand, and while the ‘French is best’ label stuck, Australian-made wines began making a name for themselves towards the end of the decade.


"The Chardonnays of the eighties were bold and heavy in flavour." Image: Paramount Pictures.


This was truly the decade for the wines from down under, with Australian and New Zealand wines exploding all over the global wine scene. The Sauvignon Blanc that hails from New Zealand still remains their wine industry’s most lucrative export. My pick of the bunch is the Malborough Sauv Blanc: aromatic, fruity and delicious, you’ll want to drink it with almost anything.

The red vs white debate also took an interesting turn, with rosé making a name for itself during this time. Summer glasses were all tickled pink, referencing Molly Ringwald in the eighties– and hey, 20 years after the fact, it was vintage and cool anyway.


However, the most notable trend from the naughties is the epic rise and fall of Australian wines, driven by the ambition to service overseas demand at the start of the decade that caused a massive oversupply towards the end. But for wine-lovers who came of age in the naughties (myself included) this marked a great time in our low-budget lives: the birth of the cleanskin.

This ingenious solution to liquidate our bounties of grape juice strips high-quality wine of its label and sells it at a price accessible to everyone. It’s a wine lottery where everyone is a winner. Still to this day, it’s hard to find a cleanskin that disappoints.

Rosé made quite a name for itself across this decade. Image: HBO


We’re in a great age of wine, my friends – though, is any time with wine ever disappointing? We’re seeing an explosion of the South American wine scene, with Malbec topping the list as the brightest rising star. Light, fruity Malbecs are perfect for pairing with Mexican food or tomato-based dishes, while the heavier, full-bodied varieties will be your new go-to for Sunday roasts.

Italian wine is having its hot moment abroad – though I would argue there’s no better way to enjoy a steak than with a glass of Chianti, even though Spanish Tempranillo has been known to turn my head every now and then. We also have the Italians to thank for Pinot Grigio, which is the perfect light, crisp white to accompany fish or chicken.


Wine not? Image: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  

But perhaps the wine trend that characterises our time more than any other is that we don’t really care where it comes from or who makes it – we just want it to taste good. And perhaps for it come with a funky label so we’ll be happy to gift to friends on special occasions. Or drink on our own on a Wednesday night.

Whatever the occasion, it never hurts to ask: wine not?

What is your favourite wine at the moment?