Tuesday, October 13, 2009

En Vin Verite

If you have any interest at all in wine, you should really read some of the several excellent books and articles, or the also excellent documentary, about the 1976 Judgement of Paris.

If you have no interest in wine, you probably have no idea of the significance of that even; but perhaps you'll enjoy a story about the French being hoist on their own petard of arrogance and snobbery.

The judgment of Paris, in this case (it also refers to an earlier event in fine art), refers to a blind tasting of French and California wines, conducted in France in 1976.

It was expected by everyone, especially the organizer of the event; that the French would win handily. Even the U.S. vintners were sure the French would win; if only due to chauvinism and cheating (it was fully expected by the California vintners that the "blind test" would not be).

Instead, a California chardonnay ( Chateau Montelena) was the unanimous top choice of whites by all the judges, and a California Cabernet (Stags Leap) the top choice of reds (though only just edging out the next two French wines).

Prior to this result (and the famous George Tabor Time Magazine article documenting it, and linked up above), very few in the wine world took California wines... or for that matter, any wines not from France... seriously.


Well, in every significant blind tasting since, American wines (mostly California, but some from Washington or Oregon) have beaten French wines.

Every time.

Not only that, but worldwide, California wines outsell French wines by as much as 8 to 1 in some years (French wine, because of the climate, tends to be strongly vintage dependent. Better California wines tend to be much more consistent), and have in general outsold French wines every year since 1982.

Funny thing though: I think the best of Oregon and Washington, and even the best of Chile and Australia; are now better than the best of the same varietals, out of either France OR California.

At any rate, I just watched a dramatization of the events surrounding the Judgement, called "Bottle Shock", and starring... everyone really (seriously, almost every role is a name, or a familiar face).

I know that the movie wasn't very true to the real events, but I enjoyed it very much. I especially enjoyed the performances of Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman (honestly, it's rare I don't like Rickman)... and I didn't absolutely hate Chris "Captain Kirk Jr." Pine.

I won't call it a great movie, but it was fun; and if you like wine, worth watching.