Most assuredly this will be the last installment on this subject and we can then put the historic tasting of May 24th of '76 to rest for good. In order to do that though we need to tie up some loose ends and because so much of my blogging is not thought out ahead of time, I hope my digressions about wine tastings in general and the abuse of wine in distribution channels have been helpful as they relate to the event of '76. But let's get back to history class one more time...
I have said that thirty years ago the wine culture was completely different from today in that Europe was the center of attention and California was no more than an outpost and not seriously accepted as competitive with French wine quality in any way. To put it another way, every big American city wine expert of the time would aver that the finest wines in the world come from France and perhaps California made decent ordinary wines but nothing more than that and certainly nothing that could be called "fine". Those same experts after the '76 tasting would no doubt give California more credit but still not the dignity of the accomplishment because we all knew there must have been some unknown reason for the absurd tasting results. Or so we thought.
The repeated tastings that followed with their similar results could be explained away just as the '76 tasting could because we all knew the fix was in, that is, until the thirty year anniversary tasting in 2006 when the California Cabs should have failed because of their age, but didn't. So are California wines really better than French? According to the expert tasters of these tastings, yes they are!
We have already distinguished the differences between the two wine styles: the French are lighter and drier, winier and longer, and more food-friendly; the Californians are more forward, jammier, and opulent, and they may also be somewhat less dry, making them a better stand-alone cocktail wine. But because we eat a leaner cuisine than the French, our domestic wines marry quite well with our meals, thank you, just as the French do theirs. So, are our wines actually better than the French?
I think you know where I am going with this. You can't over simplify wine appreciation this way. This wine lover prefers the European lighter, winier style while still accepting the judgment of Paris that California Cabernets were better than the French. I think George M. Taber, the Time magazine reporter at the tasting and the author of the book, "Judgment of Paris", said the tasting made wine experts of the time "re-examine convictions that were little more than myths taken on trust". We go forward from there.
Tomorrow, Friday July 6th from 5 to 7pm, we will taste an assortment of domestic reds and whites that are respectable examples in their own right. On Tuesday July 10th, again from 5 to 7pm, we will be tasting superior Argentine Malbecs and more from high altitude Andes vineyards as presented here by the importers. Please join us for both of these tastings.