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United States of America

Winegrowing in the USA dates back to 1770, when monks (who else?) brought viticulture from Mexico to California. Yet it has taken a long time before the world got to know the quality of Californian wine. History is troubled and not without lows (one of them being the Prohibition). A plague like the Phyloxera Vastatrix (a little insect that affects the root system of the vine) is something California hasn't seen the last of, and another type of insect-related disease has already been introduced: Pierce's Disease. This disease is spread by an insect referred to as the "glassy winged sharpshooter". In itself, the bug is harmless to a vine, but it's the bacteria it spreads that do the harm: they clog up the xylem (water conducting vessels) or "veins" of the plant, robbing it of water and killing it within one to five years, depending on the variety. After its discovery, the state of California, a large number of Universities and several scientists have worked together to oppose the threat, but as of yet (2012), no cure has been found.

It was only in the mid-seventies that the world took notice of Californian wine. Stephen Spurrier organised an tasting of top French and Californian wines and much to everybody's surprise the Californians were the best. (This story was told in the film Bottle Shock, in a somewhat dramatised form). The climate in California is ideal for winegrowing, and the USA have always been at the forefront of technology.

Of course California is not the only state where wine is grown: Washington State, Oregon and Long Island are established wine states, and a trail of others is upcoming. But "American wine" is predominantly Californian.

 

The Americans are known for their penchant of making things bigger and better. Winegrowing is no exception: there are wineries that produce more than 100 million bottles per year! But there is a large number of wineries with a more modest production, keeping an eye on quality. We call these boutique wineries.

 

Typical for California is the reliability of the wines: the climate and the cellar technique give wines that are technically OK in most cases, and sometimes even sensational. This goes for supermarket wines and most of all for wines that come from boutique wineries.

Thanks to cool climate zones, Califonia produces excellent wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties. In the past, Chardonnays tended to be (very) oaky, but Californian winemakers have learned that less is more, and the wines are now, most of the times, quite refined.


 

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