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TIME’s Board of Oenologists: Showdown in the Battle of the Bottles

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TIME’s Board of Oenologists

IN wines as in art, taste is largely a matter of taste: one person’s wine may be another’s vinegar. Yet there are at least some widely accepted standards of excellence. To help determine the relative merits of some select wines, TIME’s editors gathered connoisseurs of food, drink and other good things in life for a battle of the bottles. The TIME Board of Oenologists met in Manhattan for a comparative tasting of 16 wines—four from France and twelve from California. The board members:

FRANK SCHOONMAKER, dealer in imported wines, author (Encyclopedia of Wine, The Wines of Germany), and consultant to Almadén Vineyards, Inc.

DANNY KAYE, entertainer, oenophilist and gourmet cook.

JAMES BEARD, syndicated newspaper food columnist and author of The James Beard Cookbook, James Beard’s American Cookery, Cook It Outdoors and Menus for Entertaining.

GAEL GREENE, restaurant critic for New York magazine and author of Bite, a guide to dining out.

ALEXIS LICHINE, author of Wines of France, Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits and owner of the Château Prieure-Lichine vineyard in Bordeaux.

HORTENSE CALISHER, novelist (The New Yorkers, Standard Dreaming), autobiographer (Herself), and wine lover.

SAM AARON, president of Manhattan’s big wine importing and retailing firm of Sherry-Lehmann, Inc., and consultant for the Time-Life book, Wines and Spirits.

ROBERT BALZER, food and beverage editor of Holiday, wine critic of the Los Angeles Times, editor of a private gourmet newsletter and author of California’s Best Wines.

The wines were evaluated on a 20-point scale originated at the Department of Viticulture and Enology of the University of California at Davis. The board’s criteria included such characteristics as flavor, bouquet, body, color, and acidity.

The tasting was divided into two parts. In the first, four pairs of French wines and California wines of comparable price and similar grape variety were pitted against each other. The board was not told which wines were French and which American—and several of them could not always discern the difference. In the second tasting, the board evaluated eight California wines. Here are the results; prices cited are those common in New York City:

FIRST TEST: French v. California

Origin Price Score

Max: 20


Ecu Royal Country White (a blend from several regions) F $3.69* 14.2

Gallo Chablis Blanc C 2.45* 12.9

Puligny-Montrachet 1968 (Burgundy) F 3.99 14.1

Beaulieu Pinot Chardonnay 1967 C 4.15 13.7


Louis Martini Mt. Zinfandel 1968 C 2.45 12.0

Louis Latour Beaujolais 1970 F 3.28 10.1

R. Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon ’69 C 4.92 13.1

Chateau Lafon-Rochet 1969 F 4.99 12.1

SECOND TEST -California only

Price Score

Max: 20


Mirassou Chenin Blanc 1970 $2.95 14.7

Inglenook Johannisberg Riesling 1971 3.45 14.3

Freemark Abbey Pinot Chardonnay 1969 8.65 13.4

R. Mondavi Chardonnay 1969 4.92 12.3


The Christian Brothers Gamay Noir 2.85 14.6

Gallo Hearty Burgundy 1.25 14.4

Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon 1969 3.82 14.0

Mirassou Petite Sirah 1969 3.19 12.3

*Half gallon

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