Alcohol 1980-2000 (World-Wide Review of Major Events)

The history of alcohol 1980-2000 will be familiar to many people. These alcohol and drinking events occurred in the decades following 1980.

Perhaps you remember Billy Beer. Or either watching or hearing about 60 Minutes’ report of the French Paradox. Perhaps you remember when the federal government forced all states to establish .08 as the maximum legal BAC for driving. If so, this might be a sentimental journey.

  This is Part of a Series

Alcohol in Antiquity.

Greeks and Romans: Alcohol

Alcohol in the Middle Ages.

The Renaissance: Alcohol

Alcohol in the 17th Century.

The 18th Century and Alcohol.  

Alcohol in the 19th Century.

Alcohol in the Early 20th Century.

The Mid-20th Century and Alcohol.  

Alcohol 1980-2000

Alcohol 1980-2000

Early 1980s

An overabundance of Shiraz in Australia led to a government program to uproot the vines.1 Ironically, increased popularity of Shiraz has led to its being the most widely planted grape in the country.


  • Most of what would later become the source of world famous Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s Marlborough area, was still mostly covered by sheep-grazing.2
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was established to reduce alcohol-related highway deaths.3
  • Scotland enacted the Criminal Justice Act of 1980. It bans taking alcoholic beverages into sports grounds and restricted carrying alcohol on public transportation associated with sports.4  


The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce launched Vinexpo. It has become a major event in the wine and spirits industry.5


  • The European Union (EU) introduced crisis distillation for use in emergencies caused by excess production of wine. But it operated in 22 of the 26 years between its introduction and 2008.6
  • A boom in French wine began. It was caused by several things. One was an outstanding vintage in Bordeaux. Another was the powerful influence of wine critic Robert Parker. He declared it the “vintage of the century.” A third was a strong U.S. dollar. Several great vintages that decade helped maintain the boom.7  
    MADD’s founder, Candy Lightner, later left the organization. She complained that it had became increasingly anti-alcohol rather than simply anti-drunk-driving. “It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned,” she said. “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”65


The story of the now-famous Cloudy Bay winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. It began when David Hohnen first tasted Sauvignon Blanc produced there. “With the first sip, he was stunned. The wine was like nothing he had ever experienced. Its taste exploded in his mouth and demanded attention.” He soon began producing his own at Cloudy Bay.8


The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was passed in the U.S.9


A handful of Austria’s 40,000 wine producers artificially sweetened their wine by adding diethylene glycol. News organizations around the world mistook the additive for anti-freeze. So they claimed that Austrian wine was poisoned. In reality, the additive was less toxic than the alcohol in the wine. But the so-called scandal harmed sales.10 It might well be argued that the real scandal was that news media were so careless and irresponsible. They ended up harming many, many innocent people.


On the tenth anniversary of the historic Judgment of Paris wine competition, two replications were conducted with the red wines. (It was assumed that the whites would all be well past their prime.) Those were the French Cullinary Institute and the Wine Spectator blind tastings. In both competitions, the CA wines aged better and increased their rankings.11


“Until 1987, it was illegal to age, bottle, and ship port from anywhere but Vila Nova de Gaia. The goal was to prevent the wine from suffering from the ‘Douro burn.’ It’s caused by the high summer temperatures in the Upper douro. Today, air conditioning makes it possible to prevent the burn….”


  • A bill was passed in the U.S. requiring a health and safety warning on all alcoholic beverage containers.12
  • Ontario began  the Canadian name of origin system called Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).13


  • The Beer Orders were passed in the UK. Their purpose was to end the system of “tied houses” operated by large brewers.14
  • Dr. Stanton Peele published his highly influential book, Diseasing of America: Addiction treatment Out of Control.
  • Iceland lifted its ban on the production or importation of beer. It had existed for almost eighty years.15
  • After the fall of the Soviet Union it began a transition to a market economy. As a result, many vineyards were uprooted and devoted to other crops. This greatly reduced wine production.16


  • Kosovo’s wine industry collapsed as Yugoslavia disintegrated in the 1990s. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed by war.17
  • “[I]n the mid-1990s came roaring out of Bordeaux’s St.-Emilion the garagists. A group of innovative and irreverent winemakers who were not satisfied to just do things the way they had always been done.” They produced very concentrated and deeply flavored in small quantities. They were favored by critic Robert Parker. That got them very high prices.18
  • “The worldwide area given to grape cultivation declined by 10 percent in the 1990s. That drop-off was almost exclusively in Europe.”19

alcohol in recent1990

British Columbia started the Canadian named origin system. It’s called Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).20


  • The U.S. Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 was passed. It requires alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees . Those were in aviation, trucking, railroads, mass transit, and pipelines industries.21
  • alcohol in recent decadesThe Nov 17, 1991, edition of the US TV program, 60 Minutes. It was on the French Paradox. The program showed the health benefits of drinking red wine in moderation. But white wine, beer and spirits have similar health benefits.22  
  • Denmark was prohibited by the European Union from producing wine. That was because of the “European wine lake” of over-production.23
  • The Loi Evin, which prohibited the advertising of alcoholic beverages, was passed in France.24


  • Law 164, known as Goria’s law, was passed. It strengthens Italy’s DOC legislation passed in 1963.25
  • Thailand lifted its ban on the production of wine.

The US has the highest national minimum legal drinking age in the world.49  It also has the strictest youth drinking laws in the Western World.50


  • Portugal began creating a number of wine routes to promote wine tourism.26
  • Thailand’s first winery was established.27


  • Finland joined the EU. It had to lift its monopoly on alcohol production, importing and wholesaling. The government monopoly on retailing, Alko, continues to operate.28
  • The EU signed a trade agreement with Australia. Itgiving its wines preferential tariff treatment. This was because Australia agreed to abolish use of generic European wine names such as Burgundy and Champagne.29


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Naltrexone for the treatment of alcoholism.30


Sherry (also called Jerez or Xeres) obtained exclusive legal right in the EU for the use of that name.31


Vietnam outlawed the advertising of alcoholic beverages.32

alcohol in recent1998

  • The popularity and prestige of Penfolds Grange had continued to grow. “The highest price ever paid for a bottle of Grange was $46,080, which went for a six-liter bottle of the 1998 vintage.”33
  • The Road to Recovery survey was published. It showed that a substantial proportion of doctors in the US reject the disease theory of alcoholism.34


alcohol in recent
Robert M. Parker, Jr.

The French president made wine critic Robert Parker a knight in the Legion d’Honneur. That’s France’s highest award. He called him the “most followed and influential critic of French wines in the world.”35  He was and remains the most influential wine critic of wine in the world.


  • The U.S. Congress required states to establish a maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for operating motor vehicles of 0.08 (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood). It was under the threatened loss of federal highway funds for failure to comply with the law.36
  • Between 1950 and 2000, per capita annual wine consumption fell 60% in France. It dropped 45% in Italy, about one-third in both Portugal and Spain, and about one-quarter in Germany.37


Alcohol 1980-2000 saw continuing change. We can expect even more change in the future. It should be fascinating to watch




1 Faith, N. Australia’s Liquid Gold.

2 Nachel. M. Beer for Dummies, p. 265.

3 MADD. History of MADD.

4 Plant, M. The United kingdom. In: Heath, Dwight B., editor. Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Pp. 289-299. P. 292.

5 History and strategy. Vineexpo website.

6 Gately, I. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, p. 476.

7 Taber, G. Judgment of Paris, p. 276.

8 Taber, pp. 244-247.

9 The National Minimum Legal Drinking Age Act of 1984.

10 Stevenson, T. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, p. 388.

11 Historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 and Other Significant Competitions.

12 Deaver, E. History and implications of the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1988. J Sub Use, 2(4), 234-237.

13 Esteicher, S. Wine from Neolithic Times to the 21st Century, p. 145. Good coverage of alcohol in recent years.

14 Warwick, M. Beer – The Ties that Bind. Warwick Econ Res Papers, No. 930.

15 Asmundsson, G. Iceland. In: Heath. Pp. 117-127. P. 119.

16 Robinson, J. The Oxford Companion to Wine, p. 597.

17 Tabak, N., and Hugh-Jones, R. Kosovo’s Wines Flowing Again. October 28, 2011. BBC News website.

18 Taber, p. 279.

19 Taber, p. 235.

20 Esteicher, ibid.

21  Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991. DOT website at

22 CBS News website at

23 Brabart. M. Denmark’s Wine Challenge. June 28, 2012. BBC News website.

24 Stevenson, p. 59

25 Stevenson,  pp. 263-264.

26 Charters, S. Wine and Society, p. 290.

27 Stevenson, p. 618

28 Charters, p. 282.

29 Charters., pp. 288-289.

30 U.S. FDA website.

31 Stevenson,  p. 321.

32 Stevenson,  p. 618.

33 Taber, p. 251.

34 The Road to Recovery.

35 Taber, p. 239.

36 Morris, J. Clinton Signs Tougher Drunken Driving Law. October 23, 2000. website.

37 Lukacs, P. Inventing Wine, p. 233.


At this point you know more about alcohol 1980-2000 than most people.

Know of any items that should be added to this list? If so, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. And thank you for your help!