Are you going to S.F.? If so, don’t bring me back any wine under $20 bucks*

“All the leaves are brown…and the sky is grey. I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day….” Typical cold, drizzly, sun-goes-down-at-4pm-in-London-late November afternoon and I was walking to the Hoxton in Shoreditch for the  Wine Institute of California’s first official bloggers meetup. We were the guinea pigs of the evening. The Wine Institute of California were unleashing their California benchmark wines on us and the UK. “I’d be safe and warm…. If I was in LA…” My English friends ask me all the time why California wines don’t make it over here. Is it because of the cost? Is it because of taxes? Is it because California, like Australia has flooded the market with cheap and cheerful (I’m talking about you white zin) wine? Is it because we don’t export the truly good wines and British consumers don’t have the exposure to well made and enjoyable California wines? “Stopped off at a church, I saw along the way….Well, I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray….” The benchmark wines were on tasting to show that California can do mid-level (£8 – £15) wines. For a native Californian, all the usual suspects were there: Beringer, Gallo, Fetzer, Kendall-Jackson, Bonterra and a few lesser known (on this side of the pond labels) as well. Most of these wines I steer clear of when I’m home. Why? Well, they’re just not very exciting. Middle of the road, safe, predictable, supermarket wines. They could be from Australia, Chile, anywhere in CA. There was nothing special about most of them except that they were from California. Which is a shame as I know that there are plenty of very good mid-priced wines coming out of CA but nothing ever reaches these shores. Is it because of  price? Possibly. A decent bottle of wine costs around $20 in the States but translated here, once you get past shipping, taxes, etc, it’s more like £20 per bottle. $20 will get you a decent, interesting bottle of wine back home but in the UK £20 better be more than a decent wine. “You know...

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