OFM began publishing in what now feels like a decisively different era for wine. It was a time when a very particular style of winemaking was approaching its peak – a style that, with hindsight, seems very much in keeping with the credit-fuelled pre-2008 economic boom: big, brash, loud, crafted from a limited set of well-known grape varieties in expensive, toasty French oak barrels.
This was a style designed to please the axis of powerful American critics led by Robert Parker and the glossy Wine Spectator magazine. Its origins were in California and Australia, but the lure of a 100-point score, particularly from Parker, led winemakers all over the world to adopt the same recipe, often from the same small set of consultant winemakers.
The Parkerised style, as it came to be known, always had its critics. But the reaction against it became a kind of cause célèbre for a growing number of small producers as the 2000s wore on. Borrowing the language of the anti-globalisation and slow-food movements, they spoke up for local traditions, local grape varieties, and the vinous buzzword of the past decade: terroir.
The resistance was vividly displayed in American filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter’s wonky but watchable 2004 documentary Mondovino. And by the 2010s its influence had entered the mainstream decisively just as Parker’s waned: the past decade has seen a heartening rise of the small scale, with winemakers more concerned with drinkability and elegance than massive sweet flavour, as well as a boom in natural wine fairs and bars, and, in this country, the dramatic growth of small independent wine merchants.
That’s not the whole story of the past 17 years, of course. The craze for prosecco brought sparkling wine into the mainstream, and we’ve been drinking much more rosé too, with the noughties fad for sweet and luminous Californian blush wines (white zinfandel et al) replaced by a taste for dry, pale Provence pinks. When it comes to red and white, shiraz and chardonnay have been eclipsed by malbec and sauvignon blanc as the nation’s favourite grape varieties, while the arrival of the German discounters has driven down the price many of us expect to pay for wine in a very different, very austere, very Brexity era.
Six of the best
Lapierre Raisins Gaulois
France 2016 (from £12.99, buonvino.co.uk; josephbarneswines.com; thesolentcellar.co.uk; vinovero.co.uk)
The emergence of the lo-fi organic winemaking of the natural wine movement has been the big vinous story in OFM’s lifespan. Made by the son of late natural wine pioneer Marcel Lapierre, this vibrant, vital Beaujolais is characteristically, joyously thirst-quenching.
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, New Zealand 2017 From £13.50, thewinesociety.com, bbr.com
Already a firm favourite with British drinkers back in 2001, New Zealand sauvignon blanc has since become the nation’s favourite dry white. Dog Point’s example is a lucid reminder why: exhilaratingly verdant, citrus-racy and mineral.
Casa Belfi Colfondo Prosecco 2016
Italy From £15, tannico.co.uk; josephbarneswines.com
Prosecco was the single most successful wine style of the past decade: the Brits now drink a third of the Italian fizz’s annual production each year. With its fuller palate and notes of sourdough bread and ripe pear, Casa Belfi’s example is a cut above the norm.
Lidl Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Italy 2015 (£3.99, Lidl)
Even in 2001, the days of the £3.99 wine seemed numbered. That they still exist in 2018 is largely due to the post-crash emergence of Lidl and Aldi on the wine scene. Most of the sub-£4 stuff is undrinkable, but this tangy, juicy rosso a very worthy exception.
Baily & Baily Clare Valley Riesling
Australia 2015 (£8.49, Waitrose)
Australia became the biggest supplier of wine to the UK in the early days of OFM. It’s remained there ever since, but the wines are much more diverse, this laser-guided dry riesling with its incisive limey tang offering just one side of modern Oz.
Riccitelli Hey Malbec, Mendoza
Argentina 2016 (£12.99, or £10.99 as part of a mixed case of six, majestic.co.uk)
Not only has malbec from Argentina established itself as one of the UK’s favourite red grape varieties since 2001, it’s also vastly improved, with, in this case, young gun Matias Riccitelli bringing real purity of black fruit and perfumed succulence.
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