Drink me

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - THE CUT - Hamish An­der­son

Har­lan Estate makes won­der­ful wine. I have drunk it on only a few oc­ca­sions, be­cause it is wine I need the largesse of oth­ers to en­joy: you’ll do well to find a bot­tle be­low £500. A ridicu­lous sum of money to pay, maybe, but that’s sim­ply the laws of sup­ply and de­mand.

Cal­i­for­nia chal­lenges our view of value, which we too of­ten as­sume means cheap. It pro­duces, and sells to the UK, vast amounts of cheap wine; in my view some of the worst-value bot­tles on our shelves. If you want to spend £5-6, Spain, Italy or France can de­liver much more. Cal­i­for­nia’s sweet spot is £20 and up­wards, es­pe­cially if you are a fan of the clas­sic fine wines of France: Bur­gundy, Bordeaux or the Rhône.

Re­cently, there has been a shift in style. Once, lovers of finely tuned, mid-weight chardon­nay from Bur­gundy found lit­tle to en­joy in Cal­i­for­nia’s but­tery, pow­er­house ver­sions. Now, through a com­bi­na­tion of vine­yard se­lec­tion, pick­ing dates and changes in the win­ery, many of its wines taste far more Euro­pean in style, while re­tain­ing a dis­tinct char­ac­ter. I rec­om­mend them to bur­gundy drinkers who’ve been left be­hind by the re­gion’s re­cent price rises. Be­tween £20 and £50, Cal­i­for­nia is pro­duc­ing world-class pinot noir and chardon­nay, and at good value, too.

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