“California Wine”. You hear that phrase all the time, well we do. What does it mean exactly? Well, considering that California has taken the wine industry by storm in the last 30 to 40 years, it usually renders an idea in a wine drinker’s head reminiscent of big fruity wines that are darker and at times, clumsier than their European counterparts. True. Well, it can be true. Like they say, “the only constant that you can rely on is change”, which rings heartily true in the world of wine as well as in life.
A few facts to get us rolling, California is three-quarters of the size of France and accounts for ninety percent of American wine production. There are almost 3,000 wineries in CA (as of 2009) and they are the fourth largest producer of wines in the world. They’re beat by France, Italy, and Spain, respectively. Wow, that’s a lot of wine for one state! Especially if you consider the short history of wine production in California versus some of the very much more established European wine regions. The first CA wine grapes were planted in the 18th century by Spanish Missionaries and the next notable event that put California on the map was when several California wines, both red and white varieties, beat out their French competition at the “Judgement of Paris Wine Competition” in 1976. Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon were tasted side by side, blindly from both California and France and California won in both categories.
Thus began the wildfire-like spreading popularity of the California wines. Often characterized as very fruity, dark, oaky bombs with no grace, many wine drinkers have been raised drinking this style of wine. The long fruit hang times in CA make for a long growing season and rich, concentrated fruit. Compare this to the Old World Style of wines that characterize the French-crafted equivalents. They are recognized as being soft, supple, silky, complex yet delicate. This is a very different experience for a wine-o that’s grown up drinking California wine. It’s like feeding a baby peaches and then offering them carrots. Not that the carrots aren’t delicious in their own right, but the palate isn’t used to the carrots and maybe doesn’t have the patience to realize that the carrots have their own sweet and wonderful flavor just like the peaches they’ve been eating all this time.
Okay, enough about carrots and peaches! What about this dilemma of wine palate? How does one go from one extreme to the other and still learn to appreciate them both? We say practice makes perfect! How does one know what they prefer or even what they’re missing if they don’t get out and experience it? Or make it for that matter! It seems that the winds of change are upon us again and the “Old World” influence is affecting more and more California winemakers; there are wines coming out of California that honor the more delicate style and wine drinkers are happily opening their minds and their lips to the change. Maybe some of those European winemakers will try making up one of those big, fruity, oaky bombs like the Californians do, eh? Maybe they’ll shake up that Old World from the inside out.
So, what we always come back to is that there are so many different style of wine based on everything from region, grape cultivation, varietal, and individual winemaker. The greatest thing about wine, in our humble opinion, is that the variety and the variation is limitless; now we just need to propagate more openness on the side of critics and consumer to push themselves to try more! Wine for us, is about adventure, exploration educating ourselves, and socializing. If this is your motivation, then we think that your wine journey could be endless and exciting! It’s what you make of it. Our lives have truly been made richer by wine; through friends, events, and the relationships that we’ve built.
Go forth, drink, explore! We promise that you won’t be disappointed, cheers!
I couldn’t agree more, there is room for all profiles. I find for me the more I try the more I like….both. Awareness of the variety of what is available allows you to cater to your moods, your food, the situation, whatever suits you. It is fun to try everything, to learn to appreciate much of it. And if wine isn’t fun then it is pretty useless.
Hoot 'n Annie says
Well put, Scott. There’s definitely room for learning more and expanding your palate…and YES, wine should be fun! It’s all about the experience and the adventure. Cheers!
Jeffry Wiesinger says
Wonderful article! Well written & articulated. You guys get it…& I love it! Thank you for all that you do in getting these points out to the masses in a way that is “approachable” to use a wine term:) Love you both! Keep it up.
Hoot 'n Annie says
Thank you, Jeff! We’ll definitely keep on drinking and writing…it’s tough, but we’ll survive. Love you, too!!!