Monthly Archives: May 2014

More thoughts on Georgia, California and The Tasting of 1976

I so relish this piece for it reminds me of the conversational pleasure of wine. To make or drink fine wine is not to dismantle another person, chateau or palate in an economy of quality. Wine can be a rich, sumptuous call and answer song to sing as anthem to the human experience, a song as neat to hear as it is to sing. This piece is a calm continuation of the words I last put to this page.

An excerpt from the fingers of Steven Spurrier via Berry Brother’s and Rudd Wine Merchants:

People talk about the judgement of Paris as being damaging to French wine: I would say absolutely the opposite. It was a wake-up call to French wine, and what the intelligent people did, rather than complaining that their honour had been besmirched, was they went to California to see what was going on. They saw that their cellars were brand new, there was no dirt on the floor and that they were trying everything modern to make the best possible wine. Back then, that wasn’t so in France.

Everything changed in 1982. It was the first great vintage in Bordeaux after 59; it was the first modern Bordeaux vintage. It also coincided with the rise of Robert Parker, who started his column in 1978. He called 82 exactly right. The combination of Parker and that vintage really changed the rules in Bordeaux – there were high prices and everyone made money. If people make money in Bordeaux the first thing they do if they’re a wine producer, is to invest it either in the vineyard or in the cellar. In the 1960s, the real washout vintages of 63, 66 and 68 had left them all bust; there was no spare money. So 1982 began the economic circumstances where the châteaux had a substantial income which they invested in the best possible way.

Things are changing again in California. A bunch of us went to an incredible tasting based on the book by John Bonne, the wine correspondent for the San Fran Chronicle, called The New California Wine. It turns everything on its head. At this tasting were Chardonnays, Rieslings, Pinot Noirs even a Zinfandel – and yet there was hardly a wine around 15 degrees of alcohol – most were around 12.5. This a young generation of winemakers don’t want to go for ultimate ripeness; they don’t want sunny California in the bottle they want to put their terroirChardonnay and their terroir Pinot Noir. The new California is about wines that express rather than impress – Jancis Robinson said in her introductory speech: “I am very pleased that Steven Spurrier is in the audience because he held the ’76 tasting and, for him, this must be coming back to where it all started.” Back then, those wines were made by small wineries to express rather than impress. In the minds of the intelligent purchasers this puts California back on the map.





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