Blind Test Finds NJ Wines Hold Their Own With French Competitors

PRINCETON — The “Judgment of Princeton” wine competition held this past Friday afternoon at Princeton University as part of the four-day American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) conference was a banner day for the New Jersey wine industry.

Although France received the top honor in both the white wine chardonnay and red wine category, New Jersey wines made a terrific showing against their French competitors, so well in fact that the results were basically a statistical tie. In fact, three New Jersey chardonnays placed 2nd through 4th in the competition.

Set up in the same manner as the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” where California wines bested their French counterparts, forever changing the dynamics of the wine industry, a panel of nine judges was assembled to blind taste test a specially selected list of four French wines and six New Jersey wines in each category. The whites had to be 100% chardonnay and the reds came from any of the Bordeaux blend grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and had to be grown in New Jersey. New Jersey wines for the competition were submitted to an informal panel of judges, who then selected the wines for the competition. These judges were not eligible to taste wines at the final competition.

Former journalist George Taber, who covered the 1976 Paris blind tasting- for TIME Magazine and wrote a subsequent book on the “Judgment of Paris,” organized the details of the tasting this past Friday in conjunction with the AAWE. Taber arranged the details to mirror the set-up of the 1976 blind tasting, including the scoring, on a 20 point basis by the judges.

The panel of judges, made up of vineyard owners, international wine critics and journalists, including three from Belgium and France, each sampled 10 wines in a white and red category. New Jersey wine took three out of the top four spots in the white wine category and ranked third highest in the reds.

“The results hardly tell the whole story. The judging was so close that, statistically, there were virtually no significant differences in the rankings. Therefore, if the competition were held again, there is a high probability the rankings would change due to how close the wines were judged,” said Orley C. Ashenfelter, president of the AAWE and a professor of economics at Princeton University.

The “Judgment of Princeton” also showed the tremendous value of New Jersey wines. The 2004 Mouton Rothschild and Haut Brion are wines that can cost upwards of $650 a bottle. While they finished one-two in the red wine category, New Jersey reds costing about five percent of that price received strong scores.

“New Jersey wines can play with the big ones,” said AAWE Vice President Karl Storchmann, who is also Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics and Clinical Professor of Economics at New York University.

Below are the rankings of the Judgment of Princeton

1 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos Mouches 2009 FRA
2 Unionville Chardonnay 2010 NJ
3 Heritage Chardonnay 2010 NJ
4 Silver Decoy “Black Feather” Chardonnay NJ
5 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet FRA
6 tied Bellview Chardonnay 2010 NJ
6 tied Domaine Macr-Antonin Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009 FRA
8 Amalthea Cellars Chardonnay 2008 NJ
9 Ventimiglia Chardonnay 2010 NJ
10 Jean Latour-Labille Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru 2008 FRA

1 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2004 FRA
2 Chateau Haut-Brion 2004 FRA
3 Heritage Estate Reserve BDX 2010 NJ
4 Chateau Montrose 2004 FRA
5 Tomasello Cabernet Sauvignon “Oak Reserve” 2007 NJ
6 Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2004 FRA
7 Bellview Lumiere 2010 NJ
8 Silver Decoy Cabernet Franc 2008 NJ
9 Amalthea Cellars Europa VI 2008 NJ
10 Four JG’s Cabernet Franc 2008 NJ

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