May 25, 2006, - 2:46 pm
California smoked France Wednesday in a cross-continental tasting of wines that have matured in cellars for three decades. The California Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines placed first through fifth, followed by four wines from France’s hallowed Bordeaux region and then another California Cab.
Make that red, white and blue.
The occasion marked the 30th anniversary of “The Judgment of Paris,” a tasting by French and British judges that pitted California against Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignons on May 24, 1976.
In that slosh heard round the world, the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon scored higher than its French counterparts. At the same time, a taste-off of California Chardonnays and Chardonnay-based white Burgundies from France resulted in another stunner when the 1973 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay won.
When writer George M. Taber reported the outcome in Time magazine, California gained instant recognition as a world-class wine region. The French saved face by saying, “Our wines will improve with time. But these California wines will not age well. They will tire quickly, lose their character, lose their balance.”
“Phooey” was the answer from Wednesday’s tastings. Two panels of wine professionals — one in Napa at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, the other at wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd in London — simultaneously evaluated the same 10 wines tasted in the 1976 Paris event.
To oenophiles everywhere, forget the French. It’s time to populate your wine collection with Californian.
Thanks to vigilant, right-thinking reader Ari M. for the tip.
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