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2nd Wine Challenge Muniain Williams – France v. New World – January 26th, 2019

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

On the 26th day of the month of January in our cold and snowy Winter of 2019 the 2nd Muniain – Williams Wine Challenge was held. We tasted a number of French varietals comparing New World versus French bottlings.

For this specific event, the following sommeliers were carefully selected: Eliot Kennedy, Bob Clark, Barbara McCloskey, Kate Radkoff, Fred Evans, Carlos Camacho, Robin Thurston, Antonio Cortés, Russ Maiers, Ralph Vituccio, Lori Cortés, Maria F. Cubas, José Muniain and Sarah Williams.

And the result waaaaas ................................... France 3.5 - New World 3.5. A perfect tie!

List of Wines Tasted

The qualifiers to that result are:

a) The New World wines had significantly lower price but they stood the challenge!

b) We did not have any French nationals in the tasting, able to defend their cause, and we, in the New World, tend to have our taste buds a little bit biased towards our kind of wines. The exception was Carlos that consistently gave higher scores to the French ones, even when the Chilean wine was at play!

A couple of curiosities:

1 - The winner was the most expensive wine. That confirms the refined taste of our sommeliers, and that generally price correlates with quality. That was Emmanuel Darnoud 2015, a Syrah from Crozes Hermitage and vineyards like these:

Images from and

Crozes Hermitage terrain is so slopped that in many cases grapes must be harvested by hand. The soil is glacial alluvia containing stones that keep the heat from the day and irradiate it at night, helping with the ripening process.

Crozes-Hermitage is located in the upper Rhône Valley. Upper right in this map, surrounding the very best Hermitage appellation.

Upper Rhône is best know for its Shiraz (Syrah), which they often call Hermitage. The typical Rhône blend of Grenache-Syrah-Mourdèvre (and sometimes Cinsault) is produced in the lower Rhône. During one of my visits while I was living in Marseille I asked a vintner from the lower Rhône why Shiraz was only a lesser partner in their blend, compared to the majoritary Grenache. He explained that Grenache was more resistant to the winds. The Mistral would often rip the bunches of Shiraz grapes from their vines.

2 -The very new Pacific Rim Gewurstraminer, our lowest priced wine, was rated above the centuries-old and Worldwide recognized Trimbach. There are jewells (bargains) out there to be discovered. And some, in my opinion, are in the Newest World of Washington State. See below the pictures of these two vineyards. You may ask yourself, which one would you prefer to visit:

Images from and

And there was a tie in the best sommelier of the night contest between Bob, Ralph, Sarah and José with 10 wines right out of 14.

José, author of the picture and organizer of the event, and Sarah, at the bottom, offered us their great hospitality and food. Thank you for the great evening!

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