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Uncorked: France versus California

Published:  18 January, 2007

Well, the long-awaited re-run of the now legendary Judgement of Paris tasting threw up another victory for California. And I think it is fair to say that Ridge's victory surprised most in the trade.

The conventional wisdom was that the classic French wines would show better after 30-odd years.

The various pre-event machinations that have subsequently come to light, such as the sourcing of the wine and the switch in venue from Waddesdon Manor, owned by the British branch of the Rothschild family, due to alleged pressure from the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, owner of Mouton, hardly puts France, and Bordeaux in particular, in a very positive light.

Arguably more worrying for our Gallic friends, is the likelihood that California is going to overtake France in the AC Nielsen GB off-trade stakes within the next year or so, based on current trends.

France may still dominate the on-trade, but the off-trade represents approximately 80% of total sales and provides the bulk of earning for the majority of French producers.

The French may well be aghast that they have once again come second to the Californians in a tasting of fine wines, but, in truth, the reputations of France's top chteaux are unlikely to have been even slightly dented.

Of far more concern is winning back those mainstream consumers it has lost to its trans-Atlantic competitor.

Christian Davis