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In Pursuit of California Balance

Clumsy. Overripe. High alcohol. Over oaked. Fruit driven. Massive. Sweet. Made for Mr Parker’s Palate.

The historical stereotype of California wine, like all stereotypes, has a basis in truth. Especially for many Europeans, whose exposure to these wines consist of a lot of industry commentary flavoured by a precious few bottles that make it across the Atlantic and don’t go far towards dispelling the reputation. Even most Americans in the wine business with more than an ounce of perspective will readily admit that American tastes in wine lean towards the bigger, riper, and sweeter end of the spectrum. Both national sales numbers and the tide of 98 point scores from many critics also point to this reality.

Like all stereotypes, however, this characterisation of California wine proves as inadequate as it is unjust in capturing the wide range of wine styles that are made in the state. And as with many such prejudices, there exist a group of crusaders who spend their time trying to demonstrate its fallacy. In the past decade America has seen an increasing number of sommeliers, wine writers, and winemakers increasingly focused on California wines that defy the dominant stereotype….

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This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.