Must be that Turnpike terroir. In a recent blind taste test, wines produced in New Jersey—yes, that New Jersey, the state just east of Pennsylvania—held their own when matched up against whites and reds from France, some of which are priced at $650 per bottle.
In 1976, TIME reported on the “Judgment of Paris,” a blind-test showdown pitting wines from France against those produced in the U.S.’s most celebrated wine-producing state, California. The results at the time were shocking, with experts giving top honors to California.
Over the past weekend, an event based on the initial matchup was held, and upon first glance it would have seemed to be a lopsided battle—a true David-vs-Goliath (or perhaps Snooki-vs.-Napoleon) contest. And the results may seem even more shocking.
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In the “Judgment of Princeton,” so named because the tasting was held in Princeton, N.J., nine judges blind taste-tested 10 reds and 10 whites—some from France, some from the great wine-making state of New Jersey. Just so you don’t think the deck was stacked—this is the state that brought us “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” after all—the judges weren’t all Jersey boys. The panel consisted of wine critics, vineyard owners, and wine journalists from a mix of France, Belgium, and the U.S.
The highest ratings in both the red and white categories went to French wines—respectively, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2004 (which costs roughly $300 a bottle, according to a quick online search) and Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos Mouches 2009 (between $70 and $90). But three of the top-rated four whites just so happened to come from the state that’s given us Springsteen, Bon Jovi, “Jersey Shore,” and those unimaginative “What exit?” jokes I’ve heard my entire life. The second-place finisher among whites was a 2010 Chardonnay from Unionville Vineyards, which usually prices bottles in the $10 to $15 range.
Among reds, New Jersey wines landed in the #3 and #5 spots, but, as Tyler Cowen’s blog notes, “both French judges preferred NJ red wines over the counterparts from Bordeaux.” Gotta love that.
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What’s more, the overall results have basically been deemed a tie. Per NJToday:
“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 [American Association of Wine Economists] and a professor of economics at Princeton University.
Karl Storchmann, AAWE vice president, chimed in with his comment: “New Jersey wines can play with the big ones.” Clearly, both of these refined gentlemen need lessons from a true Jerseyite as to how to properly talk smack.
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Suggestion for a followup competition: Jersey diners vs. French bistros. What’ll it be — escargot or taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a roll?
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.