California, Food, Napa Valley, North Ame L'Ortolan
It is generally well known that both continents have regions capable of producing wine, but we find again the sheer extent of range in style is largely unknown.
It is believed here have been grapes for winemaking of the same breed as Europe in South America since the 16th century. Winemakers have visited France particularly and exported vines and ideas since the 18th century so there is no doubt in anybody's mind about the heritage and potential of this massive area.
We have generally come to believe that this is the 'go to' area for good value, recognisable wines that are easy to find and even easier to drink. These producers have been able to combine lower costs with vast vineyards and a more flexible approach than in Europe, say, to adapt to the market and essentially produce wine styles to order.
There are of course many estates striving for much higher quality and individuality and it's no accident that many top names in France have launched projects there. The resulting wines are often superb but more expensive and until quite recently were difficult to sell, such was the strength of belief that countries like Chile only made wine for the supermarkets.
The picture is quite different in North America, with many areas outside of California producing wine such as Oregon, Washington State and Virginia producing excellent wines that are rarely seen on the market because so little is known even of their existence.
North America has, and still uses, it's own breeds of grapes for winemaking but it is generally accepted that the introduced European variety makes the best quality of all. It was this very trade that nearly wiped out wine in Europe, an insect called phylloxera that American vines are immune to that came across in vine cuttings and destroyed huge swathes of vineyards.
The very top boutique estates of California often only make very small amounts of wine available for export as their production is tiny to start with, with much already allocated to private clients. Prices are often high, and styles have tended towards impressing critics and judges with power & body rather than appealing to Sommeliers looking for more 'food friendliness' so are less likely to appear on restaurant wine lists.
Stephen Nisbet, SommelierWednesday 26th September 2012, 7.00pm - Americas Wine Tasting Dinner At our September wine tasting dinner, dedicated to the Americas, Stephen will aim to show that there are superb wines from highly respected growers that do make it across the pond to be ideal matches with fine cuisine. £95 per person including a glass of wine and canapés on arrival and a delicious four course dinner with matched wines. A minimum of five wines will be served over the course of the evening.