Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Napa Wine Beats French Wine in Blind Tasting?

Must have been a slow news day up in Napa. Because when I saw this headline, I didn't know if I was reading the Onion or the Napa Valley Register. Might have just used the stock "Hometown Boy Makes Good," instead. I'm not complaining about the content of the headline--I have no horses in the Napa vs Bordeaux race--but more about the style of article.

  • In a recent blind tasting, wine trade members and consumers chose M by Michael Mondavi, a limited production cabernet sauvignon, over a selection of Bordeaux wines with an average price of nearly $500 per bottle -- Not mentioned was the fact that the M wine cost $200 a bottle or that it also beat other Napa wines.
  • wine trade members and consumers -- Who, exactly? What were their qualifications?
  • Not mentioned was that the winning wine was a year older than the others--a significant difference.
  • “As cabernet producers around the world improve soft tannin development and produce wines that are more accessible at four or five years of age, these comparisons become more relevant than a generation ago when ‘new world’ wines were seen as having an early tasting advantage over European counterparts needing a decade to show well,” said Greathouse, a Bordeaux importer. --Well, at least noting the difference between the wines is intellectually honest. But still, Napa wines are always going to have more fruit, jam, and alchohol than most Bordeaux.
  • Professional industry members and sommeliers checked samples for integrity and temperature uniformity as well as clean glassware and neutral setting. --- Whew!

I've written before on the perils of blind tasting. Anyway, the reason I get annoyed with these little setups is that they tell you so little and become just these jingoistic little rallying points that obfuscate wider and more interesting questions of wine. I have tasted none of the wines in question, but traditionally I can say that the Bordeaux are not made to be consumed a mere three years after the vintage date, whereas most Napa wines are. We have no idea of the preferences and qualifications of the tasters, so who knows what they were looking for. I'm sure the Napa wines were delcious, but this just tells me nothing.