What to drink this week
These sweet reds are more than a flash in the pan, advises Harry Eyres
It’s now 40 years since Steven Spurrier’s famous ‘Judgement of Paris’ blind tasting, in which, sensationally, a California Chardonnay—château Montelena 1973— and a California Cabernet—stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973—ended up pipping some of France’s most famous names to the post. To prove this was no flash in the pan, California Cabernets again beat French rivals in subsequent blind tastings held in San Francisco, Paris, Napa and London. These events certainly gave a boost to the Californian wine industry, but you could hardly say that the New World upstarts have definitively upstaged the greats of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Why you should be drinking them
California Cabernets, especially from Napa Valley, can be some of the world’s greatest red wines, with a marvellous, sweet dustiness and lushly layered fruit. The problem is that the wines tend to be excellent and very expensive or, at the more reasonable end, clumsy or somewhat bland. Now, there are encouraging signs of life in the middle of the market.
What to drink
First Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley (below, £12.99 until December 6, then £17.99; www.waitrose. com) has lovely, pure and sweet Cabernet fruit—it’s very good, if not especially complex. Kendall-jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (£20; www.thedrinkshop.com) is sourced from the Stonestreet Estate Vineyard vineyard, Sonoma and impresses with great depth of colour, notes of mint and tobacco on the nose and a long, classy finish. Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2011 (£33.25; www.corking wines.co.uk) has an enticingly complex nose of red fruits, leather, tobacco and spice. There’s lushness, but also profiled length on the palate—simply excellent.