Californian wine came of age in 1976 at a blind tasting in Paris which pitted the top Chateau from Bordeaux against some largely unknown wines from the Napa Valley. To everyone surprise and the French wine industry’s mortification, previously unsung Californian producers like Stag’s Leap and Montelana bested Bordeaux icons like Chateaux Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. California has never looked back. Top wines from the Napa Valley fetch hundreds of dollars a bottle, and there are long waiting lists for the tiniest of allocations of the now great Californian names.
But in the last decade or so, something interesting has happened. Californian wines have become a bit more like those from Bordeaux. And Bordeaux has become a bit more Californian-like. That is to say that the top Californian wines have become a little less voluptuously fruity and oaked, and top Bordeaux reds a little fruiter and more rounder. Warmer weather in Bordeaux has played a part in this, but winemakers on both sides of the Atlantic have consciously incorporated some their rivals’ best features into their own winemaking. The winners are neither California nor Bordeaux, but us, the consumer.