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California in pole position yet again

Californian wines have once again beaten their French counterparts in a blind tasting – judged this time by a group set up expressly to challenge the ‘Americanisation’ of taste.

The Grand Jury European is a collective of international wine experts with comprehensive – and lofty – ideals. Its founder Francois Mauss had an epiphany when he saw Parker scores in a Paris wine shop and vowed to start a European tasting panel that ‘would have power over what Europeans buy’.

Its latest tasting – the Judgement of Sauternes – aimed to right the wrongs of Steven Spurrier’s recent Re-Judgment of Paris.

Chairman Francois Mauss declared he was unhappy with Spurrier’s celebratory recreation of the Judgement of Paris tasting in May this year, claiming dual locations and an unfair selection of vintages and tasters discredited the results.

At this month’s tasting all wines were from the 1995 vintage, which Mauss told decanter.com, was ‘an excellent one for California, and a very good one for Bordeaux – chosen to be fair to both, but so we can’t be accused of being biased towards Bordeaux’.

In a tasting that cost US$20,000 to put together, Mauss gathered experts from all over the world, including France, the US, Italy, Spain and the UK. Jurors included regular GJE members such as Neil Beckett and Olivier Poussier, and visiting ‘big beasts’ such as Jeff Leve, a colleague of Robert Parker.

Of the top five chateaux, the first three were Californians. The winner was Abreu followed by Beringer and Pahlmeyer. Of the Bordeaux wines, Valandraud came in at number four, just ahead of Chateau Latour.

Even more surprisingly, when results were separated into scores awarded only by the usual GJE jury, 8 Californians wines came in the top 10.

Xavier Planty of Chateau Guiraud, where the tasting was held, had one theory as to why California won yet again: ‘When tasting wines from your own area, the critical part of your brain is switched on, when tasting from another area, the pleasure part is switched on.’


(All 1995 Vintage)

1 Abreu (Madrona Ranch)

1 Beringer Private Reserve

3 Pahlmeyer Propriatory Red

3 Valandraud

5 Latour

5 Shafer Hillside Select

7 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve

7 Ausone

9 Leoville Les Cases

9 Phelps Insignia

11 Mouton Rothschild

12 Mondavi Reserve

13 Cheval Blanc*

13 Palmer

15 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet

16 Trotonoy

17 Araujo

18 La Jota Anniversary Reserve

18 Le Bon Pasteur

20 Pride Reserve

21 Haut Condissas

22 Spring Mountain

23 Petrus

23 Rollan de By

25 Chateau Montelena

26 Lafite Rothschild

27 Monte Bello Ridge

28 Cheval Blanc*

29 Dominus

30 Colgin

31 Margaux

32 Spotteswoode

33 Le Tertre Roteboeuf

34 Haut Brion

35 La Mission Haut Brion

36 Croix de Labrie

37 Screaming Eagle

38 Harlan Estate

39 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill

* = Two bottles of Cheval-Blanc were served to ‘”study” the tasters’ sensibility.’

Written by Jane Anson

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