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Matt Stamp: We’re in a new era of Napa Cabernet

Napa Valley Cabernet has entered a new era where the focus has shifted from the ‘castle’ to the vineyard, according to master sommelier, Matt Stamp.

Master Sommelier Matt Stamp believes Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook has shown an impressive return to form recently

Speaking to db during a comparative tasting of Napa Cabernets in California last month, Stamp said: “We’re in a new era for Napa Valley Cabernet, which is moving from a Bordeaux model, where the focus is on the ‘castle’ or château, to a Burgundy model that focuses on the vineyards.

“It’s a very exciting time for Napa Cabernet – the region is producing world-class wines and the stylistic differences between the wines are becoming more apparent.

“There are big stylistic differences between mountain Cabernet and valley floor Cabernet in Napa. The diurnal shift in temperatures is felt more strongly on the valley floor.

Matt Stamp believes Napa Cabernet has entered a new era

“Mountain Cabernet meanwhile, tends to be deeper in colour and more tannic, but also has higher acidity, whereas valley floor Cabernets are lusher, broader and more generous in style.”

Stamp, who used to be a sommelier at Thomas Keller’s three Michelin-starred The French Laundry in Yountville and now runs restaurant and wine bar Compline in downtown Napa, said Napa Cabs could be split into traditional and modern styles.

He name-checked Inglenook, Maycamas, Corison and Frog’s Leap as traditional styles of Napa Cabernet with a savoury character “that are made for the cellar”.

“Inglenook has shown an impressive returns to form since 2011, when Francis Ford Coppola hired Philippe Bascaules from Château Margaux as its director of winemaking.

“One of the issues people have with Napa Valley wines is that of price. If you want good value wines then look for estates that have made wine for generations,” Stamp said.

“Plush ripe Cabernets sell, and it’s a style that is more rewarded and practiced in Napa, but some producers are finding a return to freshness is a good thing.

“Wines made with structure in mind are performing better than wines that only focus on mouthfeel, and we’re starting to see a reaction against producers using almost 200% new oak in their Cabs,” he added. Half of the vineyard land planted in the Napa Valley is dedicated to Cabernet.

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