I was thinking – a dangerous thing for sure – and pondering the now storied results of the Judgment of Paris and the thirty-year anniversary rematch. Both times, California wines handily won. In 1976, Napa wines won. In 2006, Santa Cruz Mountains (1971 Ridge Monte Bello) won. So what is significant about the 1971 victory? Because California wines “can’t age” according to the French.
Of course France didn’t let a little thing like a couple of tastings in any way dampen their perhaps overblown opinion of themselves. Okay. Their *confidence.* They still consider themselves kings of the (wine) world, and, after all, it was just a tasting of Cabernet and Chardonnay. There’s still the rest of Burgundy and Bordeaux, the Rhone, the Loire, Alsace, blah blah blah. California (or American wines period) still could not stand up to the French overall. Two wines don’t count.
Or do they?
This is where my thought process took me. Just stay with me here.
New York State wines are known for their stellar whites. Their Rieslings, for instance, have been favorably compared to those in Alsace.
Oregon and Pinot Noir are practically a marriage. Their leaner style of Pinot has, like New York whites, been compared to those of Burgundy. Washington State has become a force in Cabernets, Rieslings, Merlot, and Syrah.
California has it all. But maybe – just maybe – some of the other regions in the U.S. may do some varietals just a tad bit better. Or not. But that’s not my point.
What if all of the major regions got together, tasted through their wines, and challenged France to a huge, major-league taste off? Can the cool-climate Syrahs grown here compete with the best of Northern Rhone? Can the Rhone Rangers bring it to Chateauneuf de Pape? We already know that the white Burgundies can’t compete against the best that California has to offer, but what about Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Gamay, Semillon, and others?
Maybe it’s too much to dream that the various AVAs, especially considering their competitiveness, could get together and challenge France again, this time with grapes other than Cabernet and Chardonnay. If you’re growing or vinifying quality French varietals, you already qualify. Now let’s compare our best to theirs. Not that it would make any difference as far as the French are concerned. They’ve worked too hard over the centuries to have an upstart punk like the United States take them down. But what if the big guns in Washington, Oregon, California, and New York got together to issue the challenge? Wouldn’t that be great!
I’m not saying that we’d automatically win. At least, not win everything. I’m not even sure that France would accept such a challenge. They’ve been burned a few times already, and they’re not about to risk taking a thrashing on their other grapes as well. But unless we issue the request for a throwdown, how would we know?
Like I said. Just thinkin’.
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