For most of the world’s wine regions, the majority of their exported bottles sell for less than £50 ($64/€58) in the retail market.
Not so California, where for many of its wines, even a producer’s most affordable, you’ll get little change from that outlay.
Such is the region’s reputation for big wines – in style and price – that the trade body which represents California in the UK felt the need to host an event, Essential California, where only wines costing £50 or under were on show.
This was a canny move as there’s plenty on offer in the £20-£50 bracket and the tasting of more than 500 wines was a great way to shine a light on the value that this great state can deliver.
Cabernet Sauvignon remains king in California, and while plenty of Cabs and Bordeaux blends can be found in the below £50 / $50 range, many of the most interesting wines in this price bracket come from Rhône Valley varieties.
‘Rhône Rangers’ is the tag given to Californian reds based around the classic varieties of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and it’s this trio of grapes – alongside the peppery Counoise – which produced some of the most exciting wines of the tasting.
Expressive, bright, often floral and rarely overblown, these approachable reds share the same characteristic ripeness of fruit, lingering spice and inherent savouriness as their French counterparts.
There’s a burgeoning white Rhône scene in California too, where Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc lead the charge and are capable of producing racy, supple wines.