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"The Rhone Versus Bordeaux"

  by Fred McMillin


The Contest Defined

Pedronceili There is no question that Bordeaux varietals enjoy more prestige than those of the Rhone Valley. BUT, what if you grow them both in the same area (California) and compare their wines at the same price? In a blind tasting, does a $22 Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux) outscore a $22 Syrah (Rhone)? My panel tasted 10 pair. Here are the results, but first a word about scoring.

The Scoring

We show the winning margin as a percent over the loser's score. If the loser received a total of 100 quality votes and the winner received 110 votes, then the winning margin was 10. The 10 vote margin over 100 is a 10% win.

The Results

Margin District Varietal Price The Wine
2.8% Bordeaux Cabernet
$12 '95 Pedronceili Fay Vineyard (pictured)
4.1% Rhone Petite
$20 '95 Field Stone Reserve
5.3% Rhone Viognier $13 '97 Greenstone
7.5% Rhone Syrah $16 '96 Steel Clear Lake
12.6% Rhone Petite
$18 '96 Argonaut, Sierra Foothills
16.2% Bordeaux Sauvignon
$18 '97 Matanzas Creek Sonoma County
16.6% Bordeaux Cabernet
$15 '96 Clos du Lac Amador County
19.8% Bordeaux Cabernet
$9 '96 Fetzer Valley Oaks
25.9% Bordeaux Cabernet
$22 '94 Burgess Vintage Selection
26.3% Rhone Viognier $18 '97 Smith & Hook Arroyo Seco



Five Rhones and five Bordeauxs won the matches. California Rhone Rangers held their own.

However, the five Rhones won by an average of 11%, while Bordeaux victors won by an average of 16%. So, Bordeaux backers have a shakey claim of victory.


Why weren't there any winners by the greatest white-wine grape in the world, Chardonnay? Answer: When the white-robed Cistercian monks introduced it to France nine centuries ago, they planted their vines in Chablis, Burgundy. Hence, Chardonnay is not a Bordeaux varietal, and so was not elgible for our contest. | WineDay | Annex  

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