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food & drink

Wine landmarks

Ask any wine lover about the most important events in the history of wine, and it is surprising how the same subjects crop up frequently. On a scale of 1 to 10, and starting with the invention of glass bottles and cork stoppers, this must make 10/10.

The traditional ageing of wine in oak casks? In laboratory tests it has been shown that wine is no worse off for never seeing an oak stave, and clay jars work just as well. If a wood taste is required, chuck in some wood chips. 6/10.

What about the numerous official bodies that enforce rules and regulations on how wine is produced the Consejos Reguladores or Regulatory Boards? It has never been shown that wine produced in countries where there are no regulatory controls is any better or any worse than wine from countries where such organisations are unknown. 3/10.

Does the practice of rating wines by points help or hinder? People love it or hate it. Not all blame can be laid at Robert Parker's (RIP professionally) door, but it is indisputable that the winemaker is at the mercy of the personal taste of the classifier, regardless of how that wine may be considered by the drinking public at large. 5/10.

At the now legendary Judgement of Paris wine event (1976) French experts tasted a selection of Californian and French wines blind. When the labels were unveiled and much to their embarrassment, it became obvious they considered the American upstarts to be better than their own national products. This was the beginning of the end of French domination over all other countries' wines. 8/10.

The downside was that it opened a Pandora's box for the wine forger, who, as a consequence had a much greater potential fake wine portfolio to exploit. 0/10.

Another blind tasting, this time pitching the USA against China, took place at last month's ProWein event. On this occasion top US and Aussie wines were relegated to a lower rung than a Chinese product. A panel of Masters of Wine gave Noble Dragon (贵族龙 ) a higher rating than Penfolds, Mondavi, Jacobs Creek and a few other top names. 0/10.