The European Take on California Wine

Jun 28th, 2001, 01:18 PM
  #1  
Robin
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
The European Take on California Wine

I was talking with a friend this morning about how many people we know are wine snobs-- brand-conscious, price conscious-- yet are not necessarily true afficionadoes (afficionadi?). We live in California, but my friend described her husband's family in Italy, and how unpretentious they were. They simply consider wine a part of daily living, not a way to demonstrate their sophistication. So it got me thinking-- what is it like for a person from France, Italy or anywhere else in Europe to eat and drink in the US, especially California? Do they like what they find? Are they horrified by prices? Are they insulted by our pretentiousness? Do they snicker behind our backs?

This seemed a reasonable place to ask the question. Does anyone have any experience?
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 02:15 PM
  #2  
Vicki
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
A few years ago, my son and I took a trip to France. We were, of course, amazed by the food in France. The way it was served, the appreciation for the food, including spending a good amount of time enjoying a meal. The fact that in a restaurant, servers don't give you the check before you have even begun the entree, etc.

We were traveling by train and were sitting in one of the closed comparments with a French family and trying valiantly to converse with each other. They spoke very little English - and I spoke college French (and college was many years past). But we did have a conversation and they told me how some day they wanted to visit the United States. I asked them what was the number one thing they wanted to do in the United States and the gentleman answered and said that he wanted to have an American meal. I stated to think about what a typical "American meal" actually was (fried chicken? barbequed ribs? steak? Yankee pot roast? hamburgers?)and imagining what it would be like for a European tourist coming to American to eat in a typically American restaurant. What would their reaction be when they encounter, "Hi, My name is _____ and I'll be your server tonight" - this being said as the server sits down at the table with them (I'm not kidding - this happened to me on Monday evening at an Outback Restaurant - I know that is not fine dining, but it is a typical mainstream American restaurant.) Personally, I don't think that a tourist from Europe would be very impressed with the way that we eat in many restaurants in America - the mentality is to herd them in, herd them out so that you can turn the table over in order to make more money from tips. I've often thought about our French acquaintances - and if they got their American meal - and if they were disappointed.
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 02:27 PM
  #3  
Sheila
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Robin

It's so long since I was in the US (California) it's hard to comment properly, butBR>1. I discovered I hate quorn, and there is an assumption that all vegetarians eat it

2. Breakfast in a diner my first morning was like being in a parallel universe. I loved it. I do not think there could have been another optionpresented- she covered them all

3.Service is great. Food is not.

4. prices are good.

5. I never went anywhere pretentious, but that may be just me.

6. Neither my husband nor I snickered (huffily) Except at the radio. you guys say things on air we would be sued ofr or thrown off the airwaves for. It was fascinating; like watching a car crash.

7 and by the way; Californian zinfandel must be amongst the best red wine in he world. Flying Cigar rules; except when outvoted by Ridge
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 02:47 PM
  #4  
kam
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Our Italian cousins visit us in California quite often. They enjoy all the idiosyncrasies of being here and actually find the "have a nice day" charming where I find it annoying. We tend to take them to "California cuisine" type restaurants, not ever to Italian ones, although they very much enjoyed one dinner in Santa Monica at Valentino. They are fascinated by Mexican/Japanese/Chinese because it is much better than in Italy at least in their opinion. One of them had a great time buying up most of the wine in Napa Valley--couldn't get enough! I love when they come to visit since it allows me to see my life and environment through different (and honest since they're family) eyes. In general, they comment about how very easy and convenient everything is here.They are from near Lucca.
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 03:23 PM
  #5  
sandi
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Vicki, did the French couple ever tell you what the typical "American Meal" might consist of? Also, I'd be interested in reading more about the actual topic, which was Calif. wines....
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 03:43 PM
  #6  
Diane
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Unless one is at a fine dining restaurant, there seems to be an attitude that fast service is good service here in the States. The idea that a group (or even one person) would go into a restaurant and occupy the table for a long period of time does not appear to be the accepted behavior. That's one of the things I enjoy about going to Europe. They concentrate on their food, enjoy their meals and dinner companions/conversation. We are always in a rush to be somewhere else. Such a pity.
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 06:10 PM
  #7  
Bob Brown
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Several years ago I had a friend named Piero, a native Italian, who loved wine. He always claimed that California wines were so inferior that they were not even fit for hog slop.
One day I went to a big wine store in Atlanta and bought the best bottle of Saint Emillon that I could afford.
Then I got a bottle of a very good california wine produced from the same varietal grape. I switched contents and managed to get the cork back in upside down so that the cork screw gouge did not show. And I made sure I did the opening, or re opening. After going through the ritual of letting the wine breathe properly, I poured a glass for Piero out of the St. Emillon bottle which of couse held the California wine.
He bragged extensively on the great quality of the French wines.
I don't think I ever told him because he probably would not have believed me.
Several people were in on the joke, and held their control very well.
So much for the wine snobs, who in general give me a pain because I find them to be little more than arrogant sycophants who don't know a heck of a lot about anything worthwhile.
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 06:39 PM
  #8  
Capo
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Re: "They simply consider wine a part of daily living, not a way to demonstrate their sophistication."

I like that philosophy!
 
Jun 28th, 2001, 06:45 PM
  #9  
Lisa
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I know I'm suppsoed to talk about European's impressions, but Shiela is right. You can't beat a good California Zin, a varietal that I believe is exclusively American.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 03:56 AM
  #10  
francesca
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I'm American but have lived in Paris 8 yrs. My husband and I love wine and have taken wine appreciation courses here. We spend a lot of time buying wine all over France and keep a very nice wine cellar. We both love California wines and try to bring as much back as (legally) possible each time we visit the US. One sign of how French people might see US wine: my husband and I visited Legal Sea Foods in Boston and I asked him if he wanted to order a nice California wine. He said, "Why not order a local wine instead?", thinking that, like France, the Boston area must have lovely local wines that we should try.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 04:53 AM
  #11  
Julie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I can only speak from my own experience and that is whenever I go back to Venice, I am asked to bring back some bottles of California wine. I know it seems a little like bringing coals to Newcastle, but they thoroughly enjoy them and I couldn't imagine travelling there without taking a few bottles with me now.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 07:08 AM
  #12  
Lesley
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Robin, I find eating in America like eating anywhere else; the good is very good and the bad is ordinary. On my last trip to Las Vegas, I ate the best Italian and Chinese food I think I have ever eaten. I think Californian wines are superb (sometimes they are so spicy that they fight with the food and win...) And anyone who eats out in England would never ever be "horrified" at the prices (that's the reaction I get from American friends who eat out here). The only thing I do find a bit silly is when restaurants use foreign phrases without knowing what they mean, such as "would you like some au jus with your steak?" For a European, eating out in America is like eating out in a foreign country for you; it's different, it's interesting and you put on three stones trying it all.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 07:14 AM
  #13  
Ann
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
It's pretty simple. You can get good food anywhere and bad food anywhere. It may just be easier to find the good food in other countries. Same with wine. Just like there are pretenious people in every country around the world.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 07:15 AM
  #14  
Robin
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks to all for your comments. Francesca's story about "a nice local wine" in Boston brings up a related issue. Here one finds small, local productions treated as "boutique" wines, which is often an excuse to raise prices. Of course some are genuinely wonderful, but where are the "table wines" one sees in Europe? I am in Southern California, therefore not in the heart of the wine country, but I don't dare ask for "the house wine" for fear I'll get something out of a box! I do enjoy California wines, but even here I have begun to feel that imports are better value for money.

I am glad to see, however, that our best wines really are appreciated in Europe. The industry has a right to be proud. I guess I am wondering where the range of selection is-- is it all about economics?
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 07:51 AM
  #15  
Ess
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Very interesting thread, Robin. I think it MUST be all about economics because otherwise why is it that we (in the U.S.) can get such a nice range of affordable foreign wines, while comparably priced American wines are mostly crap? I'm not a wine expert, but it's a subject that I've recently become interested in and I'm trying to educate myself. Here on the east coast, good California wine, for example, is an expensive option compared to the wide range of good foreign wines available at better prices.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 08:16 AM
  #16  
Randy
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I have a number of friends in France. Two of them own vineyards and they feel their French wine is superior.
When it comes to food, I think all my French friends enjoyed eating the food in the US, BUT, all of them, encluding myself, agree that the bread we eat in the US sure could be improved upon.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 08:20 AM
  #17  
mimi taylor
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Robin, the wines of California are rated very good in France and found them on the wine lists at some of the pricier restaurants. We only drank whatever the local wine was as we also always tasted the local cheese, and appertive.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 08:41 AM
  #18  
Robin
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Ess, I wonder if you can confirm something for me: A few years ago I was traveling in the Southeast (the Carolinas, Georgia, etc.) with a "foodie" friend. We ate at nice places most nights, and always ordered wine. We were never just overjoyed with our choices. After several days we finally thought we knew the answer: most wines we tasted were sweeter than what we were used to at home! I can't remember anymore if we were drinking both red and white, but I know this was true of white wines. Since these were good quality wines, we just chalked it up to local taste, but never knew if that was true. You don't say where in the east you live, but do you have any comments?
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 09:07 AM
  #19  
Vicki
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Sandi - we weren't able to converse well enough to get down to what they thought am American meal would consist of.
 
Jun 29th, 2001, 09:32 AM
  #20  
Ess
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Robin, I live in New York on Long Island, though originally I'm from the deep south and have a lot of family in Louisiana and Mississippi. None of them drink wine except for a special evening out (well, except for one aunt we won't discuss here), and then they just drink what's recommended by the restaurant. I can't comment on their taste in wine, but I can tell you that southerners do have an enormous sweet tooth, and that may well have something to do with their preference for sweeter wines. Desserts in the south will make your teeth scream they're so sweet. And unless you want to go into insulin shock I would suggest you order your iced tea unsweetened. I can see how they might not find a particularly dry wine appealing, unless they've become interested in wine per se.

We had a few nice meals in Charleston a couple of years ago that we ordered house wine with, but honestly I can't remember whether they were sweeter than the better house wines we get in New York. Now I'll have to do some investigating! I've never visited Atlanta (except for the airport), but you didn't say where in the southeast you were visiting - perhaps you'll find a more sophisticated taste in wines in some of the larger southern cities?
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:20 PM.