Was the wine first made? It’s impossible to tell, however; the oldest proof of winemaking goes back 8,000 years ago, from Stone Age villages in the mountains to the south of Tbilisi, Georgia. Whoever made the first wine, whether man or woman or priest, We have a massive debt to them. Some wines are excellent, some are not, and a few — just a few, such as the one that was first introduced are genuinely remarkable. Perhaps they challenge our assumptions regarding the potential of a specific region or grape or region. Maybe they surprise us with a completely new taste or combination of flavors and surprise us with the packaging of the cans. Here are 40 of them that changed the way we think about wine.
Ruinart Rose Champagne (1764)
Do you think that rose is a recent trend? Ruinart was the first house of Champagne (founded in 1729, when the reign of France’s monarch Louis XV first allowed wine to be sold in bottles). Also, it was the first to launch with pink-colored bubbly. It was referred to as Oeil de Perdrix(meaning eye of the partridge, which refers to the color of the wine. It was likely to taste quite different from the crisp, dry Ruinart NV Ruinart The Brut Rosé ($89) available today, and most Champagnes were sweet until 1850. However, it can be considered to have started one of the most dragged-out trends.
Schloss Johannisburg Spatlese (1775)
If you think all Riesling is delicious, thank the German Schloss Johannisberg estate for that. It was at least that of the prince-abbot from Fulda, who was a courier a few weeks late in 1775 and gave the permission to begin picking. After the hyper-ripe grapes were harvested and pressed, delicious Riesling was born – an excellent example is the rosy 2016 Schloss Johannisberg Grunlack Riesling Spatlese ($55).
Veuve Clicquot Champagne (1810)
Without the widow or the Veuve, Clicquot champagne could be sold without a remnant of yeast inside the bottle. Riddling, the process that Barbe-Nicole’s Clicquot developed in the 1800s, eliminates yeast effectively. The result? The mass production of luxury wine, like Clicquot’s ubiquitous warm yellow label NV Clicquot Brut($49).
Ricasoli Chianti Classico (1872)
Wine has been produced within the Chianti region since the beginning of time, but up to 1872, no one had defined what Chianti’s wines should look like. After many years of study Bar, on Ricasoli formulated the first official “recipe” for this classic wine: Sangiovese for its aroma and “a certain vigor in taste,” Canaiolo to soften the taste and white Malvasia, to create a wine that is “lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption.” In 2006, white grapes were not permitted to be included in the Chianti blend. However, the scent of the forest in the 2013 Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ($65) will surely be a hit with the Baron.
Louis Roederer Cristal (1876)
If not for the Russian Czar Alexander II, the first Champagne of prestige would not have been produced. The demands he made to the family of Roederer were easy: top-quality (of course) and sweet (still the most popular style of the time) with gold labels (duh) as well as the crystal clear bottle, which is why it was named Cristal — to be sure there were no bombs within. (The czar’s worries were based on fact: Dynamite, though not inside a champagne bottle, ended up getting him.) Its 2009 bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal Brut ($249) is sophisticated and elegant but not at all sweet and bomb-free.
Inglenook Claret (1889)
Before the famous Judgment was handed down in Paris in 1976, the California wine shocked skeptical people and gained international recognition with gold in 1889 at the Paris World’s Fair. Later on, the reputation of Inglenook would fluctuate, then rise, and then regress again. Still, under the new owner Francis Ford Coppola, quality has grown dramatically, and wineries like the rich, creamy, and delicious 2013 Rubicon ($210) are worthy of their legendary name.
Penfolds Grange (1951)
When Penfolds winemaker Max Schubert created Australia’s most well-known wine, Grange, a Shiraz-based red intended to be aged for decades, much as the top wines of Europe, it was initially utterly rebuffed by Penfolds management. (Schubert had to conceal the 1957-59 vintages to stop the wines from being destroyed.) He would surely be amazed when one bottle of the first ’51 vintage cost nearly five thousand Australian dollars ($41,100). Those looking to save money can buy a second outstanding vintage, including the raunchy 2013 Penfolds Grange, which retails for only (ahem) $800.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (1966)
First vintages of ultimate wine of the first winery to be established at Napa Valley after Prohibition, created by someone more influential in promoting high-quality California wine than anyone else before or after. That’s enough. It’s a good thing. 2015. Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($34) is juicy and polished, bursting with black currants and, fittingly, Napa Valley Cabernet-ish.
Ridge Geyserville (1966)
Ridge’s Geyserville was among the first wines from America that drew attention to “old vines” and what a single vineyard (dating to the 1880s) of diverse black grape varieties could produce. It was marketed as Zinfandel at the beginning of its life, but the wine is an amalgam made of Zin, Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Mourvedre. It would be best if you looked out for the berry-scented 2015. ($40) to enjoy the taste of California’s vinicultural history.
Gaja Sori San Lorenzo (1967)
The message was clear: in the hands of a master winemaker such as Angelo Gaja, Barbaresco’s most outstanding vineyards could be just as distinctive and terroir-specific as those in Burgundy. The 1967 vintage that was the first of this wine was Gaja’s, the first wine made from a single vineyard in Barbaresco and one of the first to be made in the region. The wine of 2013 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo ($475) is dazzlingly fragrant, well-structured, and incredibly enthralling, even after more than 50 years.
The Eyrie Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (1970)
There’s a reason they call David Lett (above) “Papa Pinot.” He and his wife Diana planted one of the very first Pinot Noir estate vineyards within Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1966, and their first wine, which debuted in the year 1970, confirmed their knowledge about the region was right. Today’s valley is considered one of the most prestigious Pinot regions. Eyrie’s delicious 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($37), produced by Jason Lett’s son, is just as delicious as the previous vintage.