Why French Wine Will Never Be as Interesting as American Wine

AmFRIt’s actually been years since I came across someone who honestly wanted to argue the position that the French make better wine than Americans. In fact, the this recent encounter took me by surprise. But, I am happy to say, the discussion, seeming nonsensical at first, clarified something for me:

The French will never have the capacity to produce the kind of interesting wines as Americans can produce.

“American wine is like fruit juice. It’s all varietal. It’s all about sugar and I have not yet had an American wine that is soulful…you know, has the wisdom of time and culture within.”

This was the claim…I swear to God. As I said, I was taken by surprise. It’s one of those statements where you really don’t know where to start. The fruit claim? The thoughtless varietal claim. The sugar thing. And then the “soulful” thing. I sort of felt like I was at a carnival shooting gallery and had been given a shotgun to try to pop balloons.

My interlocutor continued: “Try to compare your Pinots and Chardonnays to the Burgundies. You can’t. Probably because we (yes, he was French) have so much more experience with our land. You need another two hundred years.”

I was still stuck on the “fruit claim” at this point. But then his Burgundy claim struck me and I couldn’t help myself :

“Have you ever tasted a Riesling or a Syrah or a Sauvignon Blanc or a Zinfandel or a Viognier from Burgundy? I don’t think you have. And I don’t think you will in your lifetime. And that’s too bad because it’s quite likely that due to the authoritarian and protectionist regulations the French wine community keeps in place and supports you are missing out on a huge number of wine experiences, many of which would likely delight you. And this is why your country will never have the capacity to produce the kind of interesting wines as Americans can produce.”

My surprise induced stupor hand clearly waned.

“That’s ridiculous. Burgundy is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and it always has been. We know what works.”

“Yes, you know that Pinot Noir works in Burgundy and you know that Pinot Noir works in Burgundy. But you know what I know? I know that Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franch, and Petit Verdot all work in Napa Valley.”

“We are not talking about the same thing, Tom.”

“No, we are not. We are talking about the freedom to experiment and the freedom to create vs. authoritarianism.”

You could argue that the very strict regulations that govern what grapes may be used, what viticultural techniques may be employed and what cellar activities can be deployed before you can put the words “Burgundy” or “Bordeaux” are in fact a guarantee of the sort that provides consumers with confidence in what they are buying. This I wouldn’t deny.

But it’s not a system that encourages dynamic, interesting and provocative winemaking. It’s a system that values and promotes inertia, safety and protection instead. America has its authoritarian and protectionist systems too. No doubt. But where wine is concerned, America’s liberal appellation policies are second to none and provide our winemakers with the kind of freedom not found in most of the Old World winemaking regions.

This is why the French will never have the capacity or opportunity to produce the kind of interesting wines as Americans can produce.

 

Posted In: Uncategorized

Tags:


37 Responses

  1. John Dabney - March 8, 2014

    Well and cogently argued Tom. Fortunately here in Italy while some regions are known for producing specific varietals well there is none of the totalitarian approach so evident in France. There is a great deal of experimentation going on throughout Italy with trying both well known “cosmopolitan” varieties of grape and reviving ancient varieties which had disappeared from the scene.

    I think there may also be an analogy between French winemaking and cuisine the latter also being thoroughly proscriptive without the Italian delight in experimentation.

  2. Bob Henry - March 8, 2014

    Tom,

    Let me deconstruct your blog, by separating your assertions:

    “. . . French Wine Will Never Be as Interesting as American Wine” [headline]

    “. . . the French will never have the capacity or opportunity to produce the kind of interesting wines as Americans can produce.” [closing sentence]

    The descriptive word “interesting” is defined solely by the user. We judge wines through a personal prism of experience that no one else shares. (And this underscores why reviews for the same wine can differ widely. Example: the kerfuffle between Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson over the 2003 Pavie red Bordeaux.)

    The word “capacity” refers to acreage devoted to specific winemaking grapes. Self-evidently, Burgundy has zero capacity to produce and market Riesling if that grape isn’t grown there.

    When one nominates the “noble” winemaking grape varieties, these ascend to the top of the list:

    Whites — Sauvignon Blanc, Chadonnay, Riesling

    Red – Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

    France grows every “noble” grape — and does so superbly.

    I see no basis for “bashing them” as a wine producing nation that limits the cultivation of grapes geographically, based on the concept of “terroir.”

    No French laws prevent a Burgundy winemaker from purchasing contract fruit or land in Alsace and experimenting with Riesling. Purchasing contract fruit or land in Bordeaux and experimenting with Cabernet or Merlot or Cabernet Franc. Or purchasing contract fruit or land in the Rhone Valley and experimenting with Grenache or Syrah.

    Many California vintners own land across multiple appellations — even across state borders (e.g., Oregon and Washington) — to satisfy their urge to experiment.

    The best examples of French Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon eclipse the best examples not just from Napa Valley but from all of North America.

    And the validation of that truth is the marketplace, measured by selling prices of top California and French wines in stores and at auction.

    I am a Californian who is proud of my state’s winemaking achievements.

    But I would be a xenophobic, provincial-minded fool to declare that the best California wines top the best France wines.

    Wishing it were so doesn’t make it so . . .

    ~~ Bob

    • Thomas Pellechia - March 8, 2014

      Well said, Bob.

      My only disagreement is that i would add some noble grapes–maybe from Italy, but like your comment is Franco-centric, I admit to being Italo-centric ;)

      I believe French producers can experiment all they want, but they cannot call the resulting wine by a specific appellation unless they do what the regulations for those names command. I often wish we had that kind of guarantee from the American appellation system.

      Once again, however, I find that this is a non-issue bets left to the picayune ramblings of elitist thinking. Tom, are you running out of ideas? ;)

  3. Thomas Pellechia - March 8, 2014

    “best left” not “bets left.”

  4. Tom Wark - March 8, 2014

    “The word “capacity” refers to acreage devoted to specific winemaking grapes. Self-evidently, Burgundy has zero capacity to produce and market Riesling if that grape isn’t grown there.”

    Bob, in this case “capacity” refers to “inclination” and to a degree “motivation”. Burgundy has more than enough acreage to produce Riesling. They choose not too. And for good reason…the appellation laws would make it difficult to market.

    As for which country produces the BEST examples of Cab, Merlot, Pinot, Chardonnay, etc, I’ll leave the to you.

  5. Tom Wark - March 8, 2014

    Thomas, me running out of ideas? Come now. You know better than that. Now with a son on the way there is even more fodder for ideas. I’m just not sure you’ll get as much out of explorations of the meaning of green poo and how it relates to wine as I will.

    That said, my French golf acquaintance opened the door for this post. And the differences and implications of the more authoritative French approach to appellation-based regulations vs. the more promiscuous and libertarian approach of America strikes me as a subject of real substance.

  6. Douglas Hillstrom - March 8, 2014

    There are three separate arguments being made here.

    First, that American wines are “better” than French wines. Although this is partly a matter of taste, I would agree with Bob. French wines are more consistent and higher in quality.

    The second argument is that American wines are somehow more interesting. This too is subjective, and it somehow implies that “interesting” is superior to “good.” I’ve had plenty of “New California” wines lately, but few of them have been terribly good. A wonderful $12 Beaujolais I had yesterday trounces a good 3/4ths of them in quality, and most definitely on price.

    The third argument is that France overregulates. This is almost certainly the case. Just look at the beleagured Loire winemakers who are trying to save grapes that have practically been legislated out of existence. Or have a word with Olivier Cousin, who is fighting the AOC system.

    But even if the regulations are abolished I wouldn’t expect much Riesling in Aloxe-Corton anytime soon… :-)

  7. Dwight Furrow - March 8, 2014

    American wines are interesting because of the rampant experimentation that goes on here. But French wines are interesting precisely because they don’t allow it–because they manage to get diversity out of a few varieties planted in a restricted geographical region. Exploring the various microclimates of Burgundy that give unique expressions of a single grape is fascinating (if you can afford it). Why would we want France to be just another “new world” region producing wines in an international style? As Bob pointed out, the word “interesting” doesn’t have a univocal meaning.

  8. John Kelly - March 8, 2014

    Gee, Tom – I thought clickbait headlines were beneath you ;-) Interesting synchronicity – Morgan Twain-Peterson and Adam Lee were having very much this same discussion on Twitter yesterday.

    I disagree with you. You have confused “interesting” with “novel.” Because Americans think they can plant anything anywhere and make wine out of it, I find many of the efforts that aren’t entirely industrial to be jejune and earnest. And I don’t find that at all interesting.

  9. Joe Jensen - March 8, 2014

    Tom,

    I don’t think I have ever read such a load of crap before in my life.

    There are great and interesting wines from California, Oregon and Washington just as there are great and interesting wines from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Bulfgaria, etc.

    The big difference is you can get anything remotely interesting from California that is less than $20 and that is being generous.

    I can open hundreds of different labels from Europe for under $20 after all importing costs, mark up and retail mark up!

    Sure Europe can be stifled by regulations but they also tend to grow what grows well in their region for excellent prices.

    Ever tried Pinot Noir from Languedoc??? they tend to not be very interesting but you can sure get some fun Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan based wines from Languedoc for $8 to $12 a bottle.

    Is Menage a Trois or Apothic even remotely interesting at those prices?

    There are only a handful of domestic wines that are any good in those price ranges but
    the tend to come from iconoclasts like Patrick Campbell and his REDS blend or are only produced in such small quantities that they don’t get much distribution.

    Lets face reality, the average American drinker doesn’t spend much more that $10 a bottle in the rest of the USA, in Napa that may be different and since that is all you know I guess that is what creates your bubble!

    Cheers,

    Joe

  10. Thomas Pellechia - March 8, 2014

    A twist on the word “interesting.”

    In my tasting room, whenever someone tasted a wine and then said “interesting” I came to understand that it meant he or she did not like the wine.

  11. tom merle - March 8, 2014

    Our non regimented system shines with “Splendid Blendeds” –mixing any types of grapes from anywhere in the US or California or an AVA. And oftentimes the sum is greater than any of the parts. Think ” The Prisoner “–very interesting. Jen Beloz does a nice job of maintaining the Prisoner “house style” originated by David Phinney. The current release is 46% Zinfandel, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon,18% Petite Sirah, 12% Syrah, and a small amount of Charbono. And the winemaker can mix and match however she wants based on the vintage. The French would be befuddled by this.

    • Joe Jensen - March 8, 2014

      The Prisoner is interesting if you like extraction and mega purple.

      I can’t believe people pay big $ for this wine but we Americans love our sugar!

      There are many more interesting blends similar to the Prisoner like Fred Peterson’s
      Zero Manipulation and it’s half the price!

      I almost forgot, Fred has been making that wine for a long time.

  12. Bob Henry - March 8, 2014

    Tom, et. al.:

    A few days ago over on Steve Heimoff’s wine blog, I wrote that the word “interesting” is a “conversational dodge” invoked when you wish to avoid declaring one’s true feelings in a public or private setting.

    (Consider Thomas Pellechia’s cited example of tasting room visitors who say a wine is “interesting” — a euphemism for “I didn’t like it.”)

    Tom, I inferred that the better chosen word for “capacity” was indeed “inclination” — thanks for the clarification.

    I am not a French law land use expert, so I don’t know if a Burgundy producer could grow and market Riesling from that AOC.

    In Alsace, winemakers can experiment with Chardonnay — but they must declassify it all the way down to “Vin de table,” which generally means that neither grape varieties, region of origin or vintage may be identified.

    [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alsace_wine?action=render

    (“Rogue” Italian winemakers can experiment by adopting the IGT — Indicazione geografica tipica — designation).

    “As for which country produces the BEST examples of Cab, Merlot, Pinot, Chardonnay, etc, I’ll leave the to you.”

    I’m not the arbiter of that judgment. The marketplace is. And the global marketplace has voted with its collective wallet, and assigned the highest selling prices for these “noble” grape wines to France.

    (The one exception: the crown for Riesling goes to Germany.)

    ~~ Bob

  13. Thomas Pellechia - March 8, 2014

    I prefer a system that allows experimentation as well as regulates use of appellation nomenclature, as it is in Europe. When the appellation appears on the label, the consumer has a general guidepost of what to expect.

    The American system allows experimentation, sure, but it offers no guidance whatsoever. The appellation on the label, leaves consumers with no idea concerning the wine style, especially with that allowable 25% portion of the blend into a varietal wine.

    But these things are left to preference and determine nothing when it comes to which country produces the best or more “interesting” wines. That attitude is just another form of nationalism, and we know what nationalism produces.

  14. Tom Wark - March 8, 2014

    Joe said:

    “I don’t think I have ever read such a load of crap before in my life.”

    Really, Joe? Ever?

    “Lets face reality, the average American drinker doesn’t spend much more that $10 a bottle in the rest of the USA, in Napa that may be different and since that is all you know I guess that is what creates your bubble!”

    Joe, what do you think the odds are that all I know is Napa Valley? Given that I’ve lived in Sonoma, been married to a French woman and been to that country at least 20 times, given that I’ve traveled to taste wine in Washington, Oregon, Italy and given that I judge wine competitions….what are the odds that all I know are Napa wines?

    It’s a tiring bit of rhetoric and frankly it’s unusual that it shows up in the comments section of this blog.

  15. Bob Henry - March 9, 2014

    I have the distinct privilege of living in Los Angeles (the largest retail market for fine wine in the U.S.).

    And the distinct pleasure of consulting on wine lists for retail stores and restaurants. Likewise the pleasure of serving as a wine judge. And the pleasure of organizing some of the most prestigious wine cellars in Los Angeles for their collector owners.

    All of which garner me invitations to wine industry trade tastings — and private tastings hosted by collectors. Supplemented by my own tastings.

    The BEST Pinot Noir I ever tasted was a 1985 Henri Jayer. The BEST Merlot I ever tasted was a coin toss between 1989 and 1990 Petrus. The BEST Cabernet Franc I ever tasted was a 1990 Cheval Blanc. The BEST (mostly) Cabernet I ever tasted was a 1959 Lafite. The best sparkling wine I ever tasted was a 1985 Salon. (i’m still making up my mind on the “best” Chardonnay and the “best” Riesling. But the former will definitely be from Burgundy. And the latter from Germany.)

    But the trend is unmistakable: the French are the best exemplars of these grape varieties.

    Even the “cult” California winery owners and winemakers agree: their motivation has been to spare no effort to make wines equal to their French counterparts.

    (I know many of them. Ask them what their most cherished wines in their collections are. Ask them what wines most enthrall them when drinking. Answer: French wines.)

    Napa shouldn’t “ape” French wines. It should embrace its own “terroir” and make California wines that are every bit as good as French wines — simply different.

  16. Two Shepherds, William Allen - March 10, 2014

    Afraid I agree with many of the others, and disagree with this post overall, though the person you were speaking with was a bit extreme as well.

    Good and bad wines come from all over the world, and even as a California winemaker, I buy far more French wines then US.

    I don’t want the US to adopt a system like the French at this point, but your point that all those CAN grow in Napa, doesn’t necessary mean they should, especially until the bulk of Napa winemakers make some changes to vinification methods. Any chance of expressing ‘terroir’ is generally wiped out by winemaking approaches. (Not unique to Napa obviously, but in my opinion most rampant there.)

    We have proven repeatedly, Syrah and Viognier being two examples close to my heart, that just because we CAN plant anywhere, doesn’t always mean we should.

    And the French CAN plant (and do) other varieties, and do things that void a AOC labelling.
    Northern Rhone winemakers have great syrah releases whose vines are too young, or at the wrong elevation, that simply are de-classified. Some new edgy producers are labeling wine as table wine on purpose even, bucking the system. Power to them, love the bold move, but I still think while the AOC system could use some improvements, and missed a few things (its thought that Syrah’s perfect planting spot would be parts of Burgundy) hundreds of years have gone into learning what does well, and I for one am grateful for it, and love the various regions of the Northern Rhone, whose syrah’s are all clearly different & distinctive, and worth being divided into Cote Rotie, Cornas etc.

    Additionally as others pointed out, many winemakers own vineyards in multiple regions/AOCs, and for those who want the wild west, the Languedoc-Roussillon, fit the bill.

    I am not sure if you wrote this for reactions for hits, if you have a more New World palate, or just feeling extra patriotic these days, but to say
    “This is why the French will never have the capacity or opportunity to produce the kind of interesting wines as Americans can produce.” is in my opinion one of the most off base proclamations I have seen you write in awhile.

    cheers

    William

  17. Philippe Larche - March 10, 2014

    That was indeed some kind of French bashing, Tom. Was that necessary ? Hmmm, not sure… Any country in the world today has the capacity to make good/nice/great wines. Some better than others. Our AOC system is what makes French wines different from others. But we don’t feel superior to others because of that system. And we’d love to have more supple regulations. Too much bureaucracy kills the system. We’re all tired of that. And we lose market shares because people don’t understand our labels. But this is also what makes our wines unique, and respectful of their terroir and identity. We should protect that,…although more alternative choices would be welcome as well…
    But I don’t think we’d love to have Zinfandel planted in Bordeaux any time soon.
    Cheers,
    Philippe

  18. Egmont Labadie - March 10, 2014

    Well…I would say the two of you should keep calm and drink a good glass of wine together!
    For sure your French counterpart missed several important episodes of the evolution of American wines. But on the other hand I think you shouldn’t be so negative with French wines, there’s plenty of innovation in the vineyard even if it’s not about varietals. Please don’t let yourself get disturbed by what some ignorant people say…Keep the good positive spirit!
    (I must say I am a Frenchman too. I must testify that the people who stick to these kind old fashioned contempt for American wines (or any other origin) are fortunately becoming less numerous every day here in France!)
    Cheers ;-)

  19. Bob Henry - March 10, 2014

    Tom, et. al.:

    A news report that might have escaped the attention of wine professionals and wine enthusiasts, and which gives some credence to the concept of “terroir”:

    “Sequencing Study Lifts Veil on Wine’s Microbial Terroir”

    Link: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/printable_news.lasso?id=10762&table=news

    “Microbes May Add Special Something to Wines”

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/science/microbes-may-explain-some-of-the-mysteries-of-terroir-and-wine.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print

    ~~ Bob

  20. Afternoon Brief, Mar. 10 : WIN Advisor - March 10, 2014

    […] Why French Wine Will Never Be as Interesting as American Wine […]

  21. Keith - March 10, 2014

    As long as a producer is trying to be interesting while trying to get the wine on the market ASAP and sold and will be drank before any is really ready, I will likely pass. Too much food processing technology and new additions to the additive list so the wines can be just the right color, extraction, and fruit character. Over loaded fruit character (and often very over ripe) does not make good wine(IMHO), if I want that I will mix fruit juice with vodka. Wine making methods used seem to be concentrated on getting the wine out the door and sold and drank with expediency and made so poorly they have to be made in operating room sterility to remain palatable for the short time they are bottled. Too many bean counters and MBA’s in the business to make good wines in the USA except where the occasional craftsman still owns a winery. There is an excess of loss of balance in wine that does not make them interesting here as the pH and acidity has been taken to the limits of softness with no ability for the wine to improve. Of course the influence of Rolland and his over reaching style hasn’t done much benefit over there or anywhere. I hope the pendulum swings back from the over processed, over sterile approach to a balance of doing what is enough. As others have indicated I usually find something interesting in a French wine (or Italian or Spanish) before an American wine, which is supremely disturbing to this American who makes wine. Makes me sad when it doesn’t have to be. Wine is more than turning inventory, being an entertainment venue, and a lifestyle. If these are the goal then the wines will likely not really be interesting. Too much corporate mentality as well as scientific mentality has entered the wine world to the point of redefining quality to fit their model.

  22. 37 years in this business - March 10, 2014

    This is a disgusting blog. A headline was deliberately submitted with no qualifications (French wine will never be as interesting as American wine), and when rightly called out by your readership, you ran for cover under the ‘Oops, I meant in the lower price points’ shelter. You either did this intentionally to get attention (in which case you should not be published) or you suffer from extreme lack of critical thinking skills (in which case you should not be published). Flawed thinking = flawed premise = great controversy = more readership = gutter mentality of the internet. Afternoon Brief does itself a disservice by publishing your work.

  23. Tom Wark - March 10, 2014

    “This is a disgusting blog.”

    Is it the greenish/yellow tint in the masthead that makes it disgusting?

    “A headline was deliberately submitted with no qualifications (French wine will never be as interesting as American wine), and when rightly called out by your readership, you ran for cover under the ‘Oops, I meant in the lower price points’ shelter.”

    Dear 37-Years-In-the-Business,

    I’m going to request that you read more closely, particularly the comments section. Then, when you notice that I’ve done nothing of the sort that you accuse me of, you’ll have the option of correcting yourself, apologizing or just writing “whoops”. Any of these will do.
    —————————-

    Keith:

    You wrote:
    ” Too many bean counters and MBA’s in the business to make good wines in the USA except where the occasional craftsman still owns a winery. ”

    It turns out that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of America’s 8,000+ wineries are privately owned, and are not part of a corporate structure.
    —————————————————–

    Phillippe:

    You wrote:
    “That was indeed some kind of French bashing, Tom. Was that necessary ? Hmmm, not sure… Any country in the world today has the capacity to make good/nice/great wines. Some better than others. Our AOC system is what makes French wines different from others.”

    I hope you’ll note, I’ve made no comment, positive or negative about he quality of French wine. So, I’m not “bashing” anything, except for the the various French AOC regulations that punish innovation. The fact that the French have been planting Chardonnay almost exclusively in Burgundy for many, many years, surely gives Burgundian winemakers a good sense of how to plant Chardonnay in Burgundy. However, Because of the AOC regulations, there are many tense of wines from Burgundy that you’ll never taste because there is so little financial motivation to plant those varieties. In America, there is no inherent punishment for planting whatever one likes in whatever appellation they choose. This is why one can find great Chardonnay, Riesling, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and a number of other varietals from Napa. The same can be said for the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Monterey, etc, etc, etc.
    ———————————-

    William,

    You wrote:
    ““ ‘This is why the French will never have the capacity or opportunity to produce the kind of interesting wines as Americans can produce.’ is in my opinion one of the most off base proclamations I have seen you write in awhile.”

    You clearly haven’t read me in a long while. I can make off base proclamations on a regular basis.
    ——————————–

    Bob:

    You wrote:
    “But the trend is unmistakable: the French are the best exemplars of these grape varieties.”

    I think a more accurate statement would be “The French are the best exemplars of these grape varieties according to my palate”.

  24. Bob Henry - March 11, 2014

    Tom,

    I would no more wish to cross swords with you on your blog, than I would with Zorro.

    And that is why I “qualified” my comment in the body of my text.

    Me said: “But the trend is unmistakable: the French are the best exemplars of these grape varieties.”

    He said: “I think a more accurate statement would be ‘The French are the best exemplars of these grape varieties according to my palate.’ ”

    The marketplace has arrived at that “best exemplar” judgment, not my palate.

    And the “assay” test is a wine’s selling price in the market.

    Take each one of those named “noble” grape varieties. Not one California wine tops the selling price of its French counterpart.

    Indeed, the yawning gap in selling prices of the best exemplars of California and French wines is breathtaking.

    (“Outlier” example: this past November, a single case of 1978 DRC red Burgundy sold at auction in Hong Kong for almost $500,000. Source: http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2013/11/world-record-breaking-price-pushes-drc-ceiling-higher)

    Do the “cult” California Cab producers think they make better wines than their French counterparts?

    Ask them — if you are friendly with any of them . . . or on their mailing lists.

    In their heart of hearts (if they are not self-delusional), the answer is an unqualified “No.”

    And to their credit, the Californians continue to strive to close the gap.

    If you wish to wear the cloak of “authority figure” on this subject, then reveal your bona fides on this subject.

    Tell us about your own breadth and depth of experience tasting the top wine of French.

    Be specific: producers and grape varieties and vintages.

    And also tell us how conversant you are with the top wines of California.

    Likewise be specific: producers and grape varieties and vintages.

    Here’s a small chronicle of my experience — supplemented by attending countless winetastings hosted by other collectors in Los Angeles, and attending wine industry trade tastings in Los Angeles:

    http://www.kirktech.com/bob_henry/

    “The best is the enemy of the good.” California wine is very, very good. But not as yet the best.

    ~~ Bob

  25. Bob Henry - March 11, 2014

    Erratum.

    Tell us about your own breadth and depth of experience tasting the top wine of FRANCE.

  26. Why American Wine Will Never Be As Interesting As French Wine | - March 11, 2014

    […] http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/03/french-wine-will-never-interesting-american-wine/ […]

  27. tom merle - March 11, 2014

    Bob,

    You seem to be having an argument with some other Tom; certainly not Tom Wark who wasn”t discussing the ‘best’ wines, but the most interesting wines, wines that fall outside the normal case of wines, as it were. What collectors buy at auction mostly reflects the phenomenon of conspicuours consumption. But whatever the motivation, pulling the highest price at auctions is completely irrelevant to the post and the comments.

  28. Keith - March 11, 2014

    As for no bean counter and MBA effects, those types of wines advocated by them is what most universities are teaching. It is systemic and wha tis promoted as good. It started out with more modern methods, but they go to far and the wines made in a manner as being good are those in the 10% so everyone follows suit. Peynaud went just a little too far and Rolland definitely and UC Davis treins as if they are food producers and sanitize the heck out of everything to the nth degree. Their old lab they had apparently was saturated with TCA from all the chlorine they used over the years from what I heard. I’m by no means organic or biodynamic, I just prefer traditional styling in a wine that takes a little time and has complexity and isn’t one dimensional fruit bomb style winemaking. If you call a few different fruit flavors interesting, then I guess that is fine as a base towards using the grapes to make something better in the future.

  29. Bob Henry - March 11, 2014

    To Tom Merle:

    I quote from the lead sentence of the piece:

    “It’s actually been years since I came across someone who honestly wanted to argue the position that the French make BETTER wine than Americans.” [CAPITALIZATION added for emphasis. -- Bob]

    Can’t get much clearer than Tom’s own words.

    As for your comment:

    “. . . pulling the highest price at auctions is completely irrelevant to the post and the comments.”

    I don’t need to cite the highest price paid to date for a red Burgundy — that’s why I labeled it an “outlier.”

    Launch Wine-Searcher and plug in any number of brands of First Growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundies.

    The trend is unmistakable: these French wines command higher prices in the marketplace because consumers around the world have “voted with their wallet” and decided these are the “best” extant.

    ~~ Bob

  30. Tom Wark - March 11, 2014

    Bob,

    Actually, it could get a heck of a lot clearer than that. I could have written, “Let me tell you why American wine is better than French”. Or I could have written, “American wine is better than French.” Or I could have written, “We all know that American wine is better than French”.

    You see, it could be a lot clearer.

    Let me urge you to re-read this blog post. Then read the comments I’ve posted here. I think if you do that you’ll come to understand one of two things: 1) I’m not writing about whose wine is better or 2) you believe I’m lying.

  31. Bob Henry - March 11, 2014

    Tom,

    I accept that you genuinely believe what you wrote — consequently, I do not “imply” (and no one should “infer” from my comments) that lying is at issue here. Never crossed my mind.

    We are dealing in the realm of personal opinion here, and each individual is entitled to his or her own wine preference.

    But as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan sagely observed:

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

    If upon reconsideration you conclude that your intro sentence does not properly convey your intent, then I invite you to redraft it. (Everyone can use a good editor — starting with me.)

    Who makes the “better” wines and who makes the more “interesting” wines are two separate questions. So let’s not conflate them.

    Citing the wisdom of “value investing” guru Benjamin Graham . . .

    “… in the short run, the market is like a voting machine — tallying up which firms are popular and unpopular. But in the long run, the market is like a weighing machine — assessing the substance of a company. ” [Substitute the word "wine" or "winery" for "company" and the sentiment still rings true.]

    . . . I submit that the marketplace has voted and weighed in favor of the French in addressing the first question.

    The second question — what’s more “interesting” — is and always will remain a personal and idiosyncratic judgment.

    (By way of example, if you like “orange” wines — such as the controversial Scholium Project wines — who am I to second guess you? Whatever floats your boat: it’s your palate and your vote of the wallet. Enjoy!)

    As I wrote above, I’m not looking to cross swords with you.

    But as the late astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist Carl Sagan observed:

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Suggesting that “the French [don't] make better wine than Americans” is an extraordinary claim.

    My evidence: the marketplace.

    ~~ Bob

    (A personal aside: My teachers — the Jesuits at Santa Clara University — loved a good Socratic debate. I do too.)

  32. Bob Henry - March 11, 2014

    Tom,

    I’ll spot you this: the French are more than happy to concede that the Americans make BETTER wine . . . from these grapes:

    “Winemakers Protect Outlawed Vines : The Grapes of Wrath”

    Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/25/business/worldbusiness/25iht-wbwine_ed3_.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    ~~ Bob

  33. Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, National Wine Week, Las Vegas Wine Happenings, French versus Amrican – Really? | Talk-A-Vino - March 12, 2014

    […] intended only to attract instant, but short living publicity. In his post, which you can find here, it seems that Mr. Wark got upset over someone else’ opinion about French wines being more […]

  34. harga yamaha r15 surabaya - March 17, 2014

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for harga yamaha r15 2014

  35. Bob Henry - April 21, 2014

    Tom,

    An epilogue.

    Just came across a quote that underscores my earlier observation about California winery owners and the most “revered” wines in their collections. (Hint: think French.)

    Excerpt from a Decanter magazine interview with Don Bryant of Bryant Family Vineyard:

    Question: “If you weren’t making wine in Napa Valley, where would you want to make wine?”

    Answer: “Oh boy. I have a hard time saying any place else in the United States because Napa is the best place. IF WE’RE TALKING ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, IT WOULD HAVE TO BE BORDEAUX. MY FAVORITE WINE IS CHATEAU LATOUR — it makes me mad that I can’t say Bryant. I also like Bettina [their red Bordeaux blend] . But for me, THE 1982 LATOUR IS THE BEST WINE EVER MADE.”

    [CAPITALIZATION used for emphasis. -- Bob]

    (Source: http://www.decanter.com/people-and-places/interviews/530737/interview-don-bryant-of-bryant-family-vineyard)

    Credit goes to Don for his humility in identifying Bordeaux as his exemplar for world class quality in Cabernet Sauvignon. And hiring Michel Rolland from Bordeaux as his wine consultant.

    ~~ Bob


Leave a Reply


× eight = twenty four