Englishman Thomas Hardy was in jail in Australia. He had
arrived in Australia 14 years after it was founded, and
now had been arrested in the heat of the Victoria gold rush
for digging without a miner's license. So, he abandoned
the shovel, turned to supplying the miners, planted the
vine, and became Australia's most important wine pioneer.
In 1883 he came to
check out California competition. He concluded that Australia
need not worry about California competing successfully with
Australia for the European wine market. The "vines are
too young...they are planted in land too rich to give anything
but poor wine"...and there is a market of 50 million
in the United States that has yet to be developed. However,
as to the future he wrote, "I have no doubt that there
is a great future before the vine-growers and wine-makers
of California. They can produce every class of wine required
by the world in some part or another [of the state.]"
A century later it seems that "great future" has
arrived. In our last blind tasting, we paired nine California
wines with equally-priced wines from five other countries.
For example, a $13 California Cabernet Sauvignon was matched
against a $13 Australian Cab. Here are the winners; we'll
omit the losers.
The Results of California VS Imports (10 tasters)
||Winery, Vintage & Country
||Argentina, Mariposa, '97
|| France, Vichon, '96
||Renaissance, No. Yuba, '95
||Cakebread, Napa Vly., '97
||Herzog, Monterey County, '97
||France, Fortant Rsrv., '96
||France, Fortant Rsrv., '96
|| Steele, DuPratt
Mendo., '95 (pictured)
||Grgich Hills, Napa Vly., '96
Bargains—Imports won the two lowest-price matches. California
had small crops in 1995 and 1996. This provided an opening
for low-cost imports. Will they now fade away as California
yields have come back?
Bargain hunters will be glad to know that at a recent International
Symposium coordinated by Brown-Miller Communications, the
experts concluded the new imports are here to stay. A featured
speaker was Philippe Giraudon, development director of Fortant
de France; his wines come from the Languedoc region. Since
the district produces one third of all French wines, he
feels he has plenty for the U.S.A.
Viva la France—Three of the four winning imports were
from France. Philippe certainly would be happy to know that
all three were from the Languedoc (lahn-guh-doc), and two
were his Fortant Reserves.
that a century ago English-born Thomas Hardy predicted that
California had the potential to "produce every class
of wine required by the world." Today, what foreign
country most appreciates California wine? Answer: The leading
importer of Golden State wines is none other than the U.K..
And they are growing fast; 1997 figures were 33% higher
than the prior year's.
Best of Tasting—The winner was Jedediah
Steele's DuPratt Vineyard Pinot Noir (pictured),
which just edged out Mike Grgich's latest super-Chardonnay.