The US produces yearly more than 800 million gallons of wine per year of which more than 85 % is cultivated in California.
The wines from California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys are appreciated with pride and confidence in the domestic market and above all, are respected by consumers and trade around the world.
We have visited the Napa Valley several times and learned to appreciate California wines whenever we stay in the US.
It was not always so.
Not many years ago Americans domestic production consisted predominately of low-cost wine jugs and consumers looked at their own wines with skepticism, considering European wines as superior quality.
There was however a couple of winemakers in California that believed in innovation, striving to produce wines that could challenge the centuries-old French dominance of the upper end of the market.
Then one single event changed all perceptions and the American wine market forever.
As the story goes it was one single man that brought credibility and international acclaim to US wines at home and overseas.
It was Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant based in Paris, dealing mainly with imported American wines, who had the idea of organizing a blind tasting of French and California red and white wines that took place in the French capital in May 1976.
Spurrier, who ran a wine school in Paris, had no difficulty to assemble for the tasting a jury consisting of the best French oenophiles and culinary writers.
The tasting took place at the prestigious at Paris’ Intercontinental Hotel and the result of this seemingly minor event was that it catapulted California’s wine industry to international acclaim.
Much to the surprise and disbelief of the jury of French wine experts, the blind tasting revealed that the California wines would beat the French wines in most categories.
The California wines took the top spots of white wines and first positions against most reputed French reds.
The Paris Blind Tasting was coined by wine connoisseurs as the “Bottle Shock”, an occurrence that had major implications in the way Americans regarded their own wines, changing their habits, and making domestic wine the beverage of preference.
Today the California vineyards are major tourist attractions bringing to the Napa Valley more than 10 million visitors per year.
The myth of French wine superiority was broken forever, while the US wine industry boomed over the years to become the fourth biggest in the world.