By John McLaren, UK Director of the Wine Institute of California –
Some call it evolution, others call it revolution, or maybe it’s just a return to former ways. California’s reputation for producing ‘big’ wines – muscular, broad-shouldered, alcohol-laden varietals reeking of over-extraction and abundant alcohol – which, to rather undermine the hype, to my mind was never entirely justified but was where the headlines and the Parker points lay, may just be due for an overhaul.
One of California’s other assets, aside from its capacity to make some of the greatest wines in the world, is the free-spirited nature of its inhabitants. That creative urge and impetus for innovation which have served it so well. And that has led, in some off-the-beaten track quarters, to a rethink. A rethink on flavour profiles and balance, on lower alcohol and higher acidities, and on what grapes can produce without the addition of colour and tannins; an altogether more ‘natural’ approach to winemaking.
The manifestations of this new approach are not to be found on the high street; or not yet, anyway. These are small, artisanal producers without great tracts of land and vineyards stretching to the horizon, but dealing in small lots, released in hundreds, sometimes dozens, of cases, to find their way to only a chosen few who have the drive to seek them out.
So for any wine business, let alone a restaurant with a smart West End address, to put together a collection of these wines is a joy, and an early opportunity to explore this new world of wine, before the old world of wine is forced to sit up and take notice.