Without the pugnacious ‘Underdog’ to root for, literature and cinema would be at a deficit for its greatest muse. There has been no truer Wine Underdog story to date than the breakthrough of American wines into the international wine community.
On May 24th, 1976, nine prominent French judges convened for a blind tasting, meaning all wines presented for judgement would be tasted without any knowledge of their producer, classification or region. The panel consisted of members of the AoC regulatory board, well respected Parisian restaurant owners & sommeliers, and representatives of the Institut Oenologique de France (the Wine Institute of France). This esteemed collective palate was called to force by Steven Spurrier, owner of a small wine shop and a prestigious wine school in Paris, who hoped to change the previously poor perceptions of American wines. He proposed a tasting of epic proportions pitting the young upstart region of Napa Valley against the most revered Grand Crus of Burgundy and coveted first growths of Bordeaux.
Had American journalist George M. Taber not found this to be a fine way to spend an otherwise ‘slow news day’, what became known as “The sip heard around the world” may have slipped by the media and world wine community unnoticed. Taber viewed the event, witnessing the judges’ process and even tasting the entries himself, "It seemed like a non-event: Clearly France would win," he wrote.
The final revelations were far from what would be considered a ‘non-event’, in an unprecedented upset Napa Valley Wines bested the finest wine legacies of both Burgundy and Bordeaux. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and the 1973 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon received the top honors and several of their California colleagues received exceptionally high marks.
It is said that the stunned judges panel struggled to accept what seemed to be an inconceivable turn of events reacting with a visceral disdain. With an immediate understanding of the potential repercussions that these results would carry, Taber published his report in Time Magazine under the now infamous title “The Judgement of Paris”.
This epic upset of David and Goliath proportions certainly changed the way the world viewed Californian wines and opened the proverbial door for the acceptance of the pioneering wines of the New World to compete on the world stage.
Now the fourth largest wine producing region in the world, The United States boasts wine production in all fifty states. And, as the bumper sticker reads… Everything is Bigger in Texas.
Texas Wine Industry Facts:
In 1883 Frank Qualia founded Val Verde Winery at Del Rio. Val Verde is the oldest bonded winery in operation in Texas today.
Texas has eight established ‘American Viticultural Area’s’, with The Texas Hill Country being the second largest in the US.
The Texas Hill Country was ranked the second largest growth for Agritourism in the US.
Texas boasts more than 500 wineries, making it fourth in the US for number of wineries.
As of 2017, the wine industry contributes a $13.1 billion dollar economic impact on the Texas economy
With the pioneering spirit of our oenological forefathers, the modern mavericks of the Texas Wine Industry have found themselves on the well-traveled path of international recognition. Much like the shockwave that rippled across our 1976 wine awareness, Texas wines are turning heads, changing paletes and opening minds world wide.
What is gained from unseating the ‘wine royalty’ on occasion? Insight. Insight, and better wine.
When the controversy after the 1976 wine competition cleared, it allowed the sharing of ideas, knowledge and practices between the premier winemakers and viticulturists of Napa Valley and France. With open arms and adventurous paletes we share the same wonder and learning curve ahead of us for Texas Wine supporters. Buckle up, it is going to be a long and glorious ride to the top.
Sommelier favorites available at Re:Rooted 210
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Jennifer Beckmann and her husband John own the Re:Rooted 210 Urban Winery in Hemisfair