Can American Wine Compare to the French?

carousel_wineSome may inquire as to why a chef or restaurant would choose to serve or carry American wines over the French versions which many consider to be the best. In reality, American wines have continuously stood up to the test against French wines proving to be just as good as and many times better than its French versions.

The American Wine Industry began to get attention in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s, Americans were producing wine that could compete with the French who had been the number 1 wine producers throughout history. Even though American wine was comparable to that of the French, the world still did not accept that any wines could be better than those produced in France.

In 1976, a British wine merchant initiated a tasting competition, called the Judgment of Paris, between America, particularly California and the Napa Valley, and the best wine making regions of France including Bordeaux and Burgundy. The two grapes compared in the competition where: chardonnay (white) and cabernet (red).

Although it was a risk, the American wine producers decided to accept the challenge because they truly wanted to know where there wines stood against the French versions. The competition was to be a blind taste test with a full French judging panel so this would be a true test of the Americans’ product. In my opinion, it would have been foolish for them to not accept the challenge as it would have been considered a concession to France. Also it was a chance to show and prove once and for all that American wines were to be taken seriously.

Wines are typically judged based on color, aroma, and taste. To the worlds surprise and France’s dismay, the two winning wines were both American and from the Napa Valley: the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (white) and the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (red). This win led to the American Wine Industry becoming more credible, particularly that of California and the Napa Valley. These results have been repeated in later tastings keeping American wine at the forefront of the industry.


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