The setting is Paris, May 24, 1976, and the wines are here, and the judges – eight French, one Brit and one American – are here, as well. And, so the Royal Rumble begins.
To get the true vibe, picture Lions VS. Human’s day at the Roman Coliseum, with the French decidedly being the big cats. Matter of fact the betting line was probably better for the Homo Sapiens in question in ancient Rome.
The sole media attendee from the U.S. was George Taber of Time Magazine, who said everyone had been invited, but expecting a butt-kicking of the Californians, only he accepted.
And now, the Contestants.
In the Red, White and Blue Corner
Chardonnays: 1973 Chateau Montelena, 1974 Chalone Vineyard, 1973 Spring Mountain Vineyard, 1972 Freemark Abbey Winery, 1972 Veedercrest Vineyards and 1973 David Bruce Winery.
Cabernet Sauvignons: 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 1971 Ridge Monte Bello, 1970 Heitz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard, 1972 Clos du Val Winery, 1971 Mayacamas Vineyards, 1969 Freemark Abbey Winery.
And in the Blue, White and Red Corner
Chardonnays AKA White Burgundy: 1973 Roulot Meursault, 1973 1973 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos de Mouches, 1973 Ramonet-Prudhon Batard-Montrachet, 1972 Domaine Laflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles.
Cabernets Sauvignon Bordeaux Blends: 1970 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, 1970 Chateau Haut-Brion, 1970 Chateau Montrose, 1971 Chateau Leoville Les Cases.
The White Wine Winner was the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, with Americans also taking spots 3 and 4. The Red Wine Winner was the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the interest of space, I will not name all the judges but will highlight the most outrageous, and outraged, of their reactions.
Outraged by the fairness of it all, one Odette Kahn, the editor of La Revue du Vin de France having judged the Americans superior, demanded her ballot back.
Suddenly, the aforementioned Mr. Faber was glad he came. When his Time Magazine article ran, Sacre Bleu, did the pooh pooh ever hit the ventilateur.
With a run up of only a few decades the yanks were undeniably in the same league with the Chateau and Domaines with a several hundred year head start.
Even the European wine press, famously heretofore in the pockets of the French wine industry, were forced to give American wines an occasional horn-toot. The wine lists of European restaurants started featuring more than a few California wines, and any objective wine lover anywhere could not be taken seriously if they left U.S.’s best out of their tastings and cellars.
Can’t you just hear “America the Beautiful” ringing in your ears? Next, Part Trois.