Monday, 27 October 2014


Not sure what it is? Well this blog is here to explain and hopefully encourage you to go out and try some for yourself.
Crémant - Classy bubbles from France
without the expensive price tag

Once upon a time in the UK we had Champagne. Well, we didn't have it as such but we imported quite a lot of it (we still do) and from the late 1800s on enjoyed it at special occasions as a drink of celebration.. The history and story of Champagne is long and you can read a huge number of books devoted to the subject if you so wish so I don't want to dwell on it too much here.

Seeing the success and popularity of Champagne winemakers in other parts of the world began to make their own versions of fizz including Cava from Spain, Sekt from Germany and more recently sparklers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, California in the USA, and right here at home in blighty (England to anyone not sure).

One name I have missed out of this is Prosecco from Italy. Prosecco is actually made using the 'tank method' (sometimes called Charmat method) where the secondary fermentation, that creates the bubbles, takes place in a tank rather than in the bottle. It has become very popular with supermarkets and wine merchants reporting massive double figure percentage increases in sales over the last few years.

But whilst we have all these sparkling wines from other countries, until very recently we had rarely seen another form of sparkling wine from France made in exactly the same way as Champagne but offering great value for money.

The literal translation of Crémant is 'creamy', the thought being that these wines give you a creamy mouthfeel rather than fizzy. And I think they are going to be become ever more popular, in fact I am sure of it. The rise of Crémant was first reported in the Telegraph by Henry Samuel back in 2010 but the trend continues and with Aldi and Lidl currently giving the big four supermarkets a run for their money their promotion of excellent value Crémants can only lead to a raising of the profile of such sparklers and therefore increased sales. That and this blog of course!

Crémants are available from eight
designated regions
Crémants are made using the 'traditional method' or 'Méthode Champenoise' which as the name suggests is the same as Champagne. There are eight different designated regions for production Crémants d'Alsace, de Bordeaux, de Bourgogne, de Die, du Jura, de Limoux, de Loire and added just this year de Savoie, each with it's own strict guidelines for production as is the French way.

In some regions the same grape varieties are the same as Champagne, namely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but other varieties are also used in certain areas such as Chenin Blanc in the Loire and Pinot Blanc and Riesling in Alsace amongst others. Production is not huge particular compared with Champagne. The biggest producing region is Alsace at about 30 million bottles a year, about one tenth that of Champagne. However
Crémant d'Alsace is the most widely purchased non Champagne sparkling wine in France.

But the important point is that is really rather nice and I for one, would rather drink it than Prosecco if the budget doesn't stretch to a bottle of Champagne or English Sparkling.

Now I know many people are taking to Lidl and Aldi to do your shopping, I am too, so next time you're in Lidl pick up a bottle of  Weiber Crémant d'Alsace at just £7.99 a bottle or in Aldi Pierre Bonnet Crémant de Loire at an even bigger bargain £6.79 a bottle. I promise, you won't regret it.

Do you enjoy my wine blogs? Come and meet me in person. Visit my website or follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds. I would love to organise a tasting event for you.

Until next time. Enjoy your wine.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Château Monconseil-Gazin

Following on from my last blog about the Côtes de Bourg this time I will be taking a more in depth look at an individual winemaker from the nearby Côtes de Blaye. Château Monconseil Gazin is owned by Jean-Michel Baudet and his wife Francoise. Jean-Michel is the 5th generation of his family making wine at the Château.

I should say there is a little bit of self interest here. My parents-in-law Rob and Norma, who are big wine lovers, have been enjoying wine from the Monconseil Gazin estate for some years. Their original knowledge of this particular vineyard came about via an unusual present that Norma bought Rob for a birthday.  The birthday presented entitled Rob to own a row of vines for a year at the estate. Mainly a bit of a fun yes, but it has led to them returning to the vineyard and buying the wines every year since.

3D Wines offers an alternative way to
support local vineyards
The gift came from 3D Wines Experience, a well established company offering an opportunity for anyone to support small, family run vineyards. The business was started in 1992 and now offers opportunities to support vineyards in many wine producing areas including most of the main regions of France including Bordeaux, and also vineyards in Tuscany and New Zealand. I believe the opportunity to 'own' vines for a year may have been discontinued but the business is still successful. And it must be working for Château Monconseil Gazin as they are still in the scheme

As with the Côtes de Bourg the Côtes de Blaye is one of the lesser known appellations of Bordeaux producing more simple wines but still with 6600 hectares under vine. Merlot is king, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec also produced. Most wines produced here are blends of the three. The majority of the operations are family affairs and I saw this at first hand on my visit to the Château Monconseil Gazin in July. It was built in around 1500 and soon became an important country seat. Since 1894 five generations of the Baudet family have been making wine although wine has been produced here for many more centuries. It was only in the 1950s that the Gazin parcel of land was added and the Château took the name it is known by today.  The family are celebrating 120 years of history over the weekend of the 20th and 21st September this year.

Touring the cellars
5 fantastic wines are made at Monconseil Gazin
Francoise discussing wines with Rob, Norma & myself
Our visit was unscheduled which was a bit naughty of us (They would prefer you to ring or email ahead if you wish to visit) but Rob and Norma know Francoise so well that there was no problem and soon we were touring the winery and tasting the wines. Five wines are made on the estate and we tried them all. A classic red (Francoise refers to this as the Saturday wine), a grand reserve red (the Sunday wine), a classic white (100% Sauvignon Blanc), a prestige white (Sauv Blanc with 20% Semillon) and finally a rather delicious Rosé that I immediately purchased a case of to bring home. I should add that all the wines were fab and I could have happily drunk the 'Sunday' red every day of the week.
But more important than the details of the wines, Francoise was a fantastic host, speaking perfect English and welcoming us with bundles of enthusiasm for her wines. This is the lovely thing about the wine industry in France. Yes, some of it is very corporate and big business like but much of it isn't. It's about families who are so proud of their produce and they just enjoy sharing that love with you.
As we were leaving we popped our heads into the winery itself and saw Francoise's daughter helping to label the bottles. Francoise  told us she was more interested in horses than wine at the moment but hopefully that will change. I hope so too. So lovely to see a family business being handed from generation to generation. 
If you are ever in France, or indeed in any other wine producing area do go and visit the local vineyard. I am pretty certain you will get a very warm welcome. 

Me with Francoise 

A memento of our visit

Do you enjoy my wine blogs? Come and meet me in person. Visit my website or follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds. I would love to organise a tasting event for you.

Until next time. Enjoy your wine.


Friday, 29 August 2014

Côtes de Bourg

Have you heard of the Côtes de Bourg? Well of course you should have if you read my previous blog! Joking aside unless you are a Bordeaux wine aficionado or have maybe visited the area I doubt it. In fact the Côtes de Bourg is one of the 54 appellations of Bordeaux and possibly one of it's least well known.

It is situated 35 km (22 miles) to the north of Bordeaux on the 'right bank'. In this case right bank means to the east of the Gironde estuary, whereas 'left bank' means to the west. This is actually an important distinction because due to the soil and climate, or 'terroir' as the French like to call it the 'right bank' tends to be Merlot dominated and the 'left' Cabernet Sauvignon.

Trans-Gironde ferry to the Medoc
I holidayed in the area in July and was absolutely fascinated by the wine production there and it's neighbouring appellation the Côtes de Blaye. This area is certainly not one of the glamour parts of the region like the Haut-Medoc or St Emilion. More a workaday region producing wines mostly drunk locally and by the tourists that pass by. The towns of Blaye and Bourg are lovely places to stay and if you want to go and visit the more prestigious wine places St Emilion is just over an hour away by car (We did) and the Haut-Medoc even closer if you catch the Trans-Gironde ferry (We also did) which departs right from the centre of Blaye.

The Côtes de Bourg styles itself 'The Spicy Side of Bordeaux'. Not entirely sure how true that is, after all we are talking mostly Merlot here not spicy Syrah. However the wines do have a slightly more tannic bite.

But it is the scale of production that I want to get across to you. When driving around the area the vineyards seem to go for mile after mile after mile (sorry kilometer, we are in France after all). The total area under vine is just under 4000 hectares producing. The famous Napa Valley of California has only 17,000 hectares of vines and Marlborough in New Zealand 22,000. Not that small then for a region you've never heard of and the wines virtually never come to the UK or much beyond French borders. 85% is sold in France.

Mere statistics do not tell the whole story though. Wine is such a way of life in France that when visiting a wine producing area you cannot escape the seductiveness of it. We visited the small town of Bourg, took lunch, and then visited the Maison du Vin. Most towns in the area have these. These, literally, 'houses of wine' showcase all of the local wines and very often beautifully presented.

 And finally we come to the best thing of all, the wines are so reasonable to buy. Of 134 wines available 91 were under 10 (£8 or $13) many around 6. And remember these 134 wines come from an area that is small outpost of the whole Bordeaux wine spectrum.

Maison du Vin - Bourg

 The following photos were all taken inside the 'Maison du Vin- Bourg'

As you can see from the photographs the Maison was beautiful inside and a pleasure just to wander around admiring the bottles. I should say it was also nice and cool inside on a scorching hot day! More information about the Côtes de Bourg can be found at the tourism website

Next time I shall be recalling my visit to the Chateau Monconseil-Gazin vineyard in the nearby Côtes de Blaye.

Do you enjoy my wine blogs? Come and meet me in person. Visit my website or follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds. I would love to organise a tasting event for you.

Until next time. Enjoy your wine.

Friday, 8 August 2014


I know what you're thinking. Well actually possibly two things. Either, Bordeaux, French wine, Claret, wine of boring old farts and rich bankers or possibly Bordeaux, blimey, big topic for one blog.
Bordeaux - Beautiful city
And home to the greatest wine region in the world

Well, it certainly is a big topic, one that has had thousands of books written about it and I could not possibly do it justice in one of my short blogs. As you may be aware I visited Bordeaux for a holiday last month and this is intended as the first of a series of blog on my time in the region.

Bigger isn't always better - New Zealand wine sales have soared
Bordeaux as a wine producing region is vast, so vast in fact that the amount of wine produced here would rank 10th in the world if Bordeaux was as a country. It produces 675 million litres of wine a year (That is 900 million bottles!). That is 3 times the amount that New Zealand produces.

The comparison with New Zealand is rather apt because 'Kiwi' wine has become very popular in Britain just as sales of French wine have declined in recent years. According to latest Nielsen data 1 in every 5 bottles over £7 is from New Zealand. 

But it wasn't always like that. Bordeaux and England have a long association going back to the 12th century when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, the future King Henry II. Bordeaux was in the control of the British for almost 300 years and it was during the time of Richard the Lionheart, son of Henry and Eleanor that drinking the wines of Bordeaux really took off. Between the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453 and the First World War (1914-1918) Bordeaux boomed and much of the wine was exported to Britain as well as the low countries. The Dutch had a major influence as its engineers drained the marshy and swampy Medoc left bank home of the most famous wine names of the region today.

The classification of the wines was started in 1855. You will often hear me refer to '1855 and all that...' It's a flippant remark and the subject actually deserves a blog all on it's own. Typing 1855 classification into Google gets you over 12 million results. It's actually one of the first things you learn about at wine school, Bordeaux usually being the first region to be covered.

The classification of AOCs (often ACs) or Appellation d'Origine Controlée started in the 1930s and
Bordeaux wine map - All 54 appellations of it
continues to be occasionally modified today. The literal translation is 'controlled designation of origin' and it ensures that to be labelled with a particular are the wine must be made in a certain way with regard to the grape types, maturation period and type of maturation for example.

These stiff rules have become restrictive to the winemakers leading to wine from the new world such as Australia, Chile and the aforementioned New Zealand where there are less restrictions on experimentation becoming popular at the expense of classic Bordeaux 'Claret'.

Just the phrase 'Claret' itself is a British invention. It derives from the French word 'clairet' meaning dark rosé which was the typical style of wine exported to Britain during the 12th - 15th centuries. It is a protected word but I prefer not to use it and you will never see it used on a label.

What you will see is a bewildering array of information including the appellation the wine is from, (See the map opposite) but never the actual grape variety which I am sure is one of the principal reasons why the new world has usurped France and Bordeaux in sales.

I spent most of my week in on holiday in the Cotes de Blaye and Cotes de Bourg. I would guess most of you reading this will not of heard of those areas. It is true that they are not the most well known of the Bordeaux appellations but to actual see the rolling vineyards going on for mile after mile is an awe inspiring sight. In my next blog I will tell you a little more about the Cotes de Bourg.

Enjoying the blog. Why not meet me in person. Visit my website or follow my Facebook or twitter feeds. I would love to organise a tasting event for you.

Until next time, enjoy your wine.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Champagne and Rosés (Part 2)

In part one of my Champagne and Rosés  blog I discussed a theoretical (unless you book one with me! hint) tasting of 8 wines with the above theme. I decided to offer 5 Champagne and sparkling wines followed by 3 rosés. In this second part I must decided on the rosé wines I would serve.

Wine 6
For me only one style comes immediately to mind as a definite and that is Provence Rosé. In recent years it has become an almost trademarked style all of its own. Usually salmon pink and delicate of flavour it makes a perfect aperitif or afternoon drink on the patio.

Rosé wine has been made in the Provence region for 2,600 years and has been influenced by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Gauls, Catalans and Savoyards.

It also uses a motley crew of diverse grape varieties in order of importance (arguably) Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvédre and Grenache. All of which, except perhaps Grenache, are not particularly well known, to the British public at least.

In total Provence has eight wine appellations with AOC designation. The largest is Côtes de Provence. According to the Vins de Provence website Provence is responsible for 6% of total domestic AOC wine production but a whopping 35% of rosé production. This corresponds to 162 million bottles some of which is exported. It is not only Britain and the United States that has had a surge in rosé drinking but even the French themselves as the chart below clearly illustrates. The percentage of rosé wine sold in supermarkets has risen from 10.8% to 29.7% since 1990. I was unable to find similar figures for the UK but the change may be even more extreme.

Bargain Provence Rosé from Aldi

So we will start with a Provence rosé. But where to buy it? Almost anywhere it seems. It can also be a bit of a bargain with this fine example from Aldi at £5.99. Even if you don't believe me Decanter World Wine Awards awarded it a Bronze so definitely not so shabby.

Majestic do a fine line in Provence rosé too, some 13 different offerings ranging from £6.66 (after discount) to £50 for a Double Magnum of the magnificent Aix Rosé. If you do get one and need myself and my wife Louise to join your party to help drink it we would be more than happy to! Just so you know.

Not quite a kick like a mule
but powerful stuff!

Wine 7
Having started with an old world classic perhaps we should look further afield for our second choice. The star grape of Chile is undoubtedly Cabernet Sauvignon, with over 40,000 hectares under vine, about one third of the total area. Most of this is made as red wine ranging in style from light, fruity everydayers to blockbusters made to knock your socks off. But they do make some rosé too. If you like delicate they may not be for you and the colour will certainly be starkly contrasting with our Provence rosé. One worth trying, and currently on offer at Waitrose is Las Mulas Organic Cabernet Rosé. It is full of dark berry flavours and has a good bit of poke too. Great on its own or with food.

Wine 8
And now to our final wine. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will have read about this one before but I enjoyed it so much I feel I would like to include it here. Rosé wine can be made in three different ways remembering the golden rule that the colour in wine comes only from its skins meaning that rosé and red wine can only be made by the use, at some point, of red or black grapes. The first method of production is simply by leaving the skins in contact with the juice for a period of time, anything from hours to a few days and then discarding the skins. The second method, and you would of thought easiest, is simply blending white and red wines together. This does not actually produce great results and is not widely used in quality wine regions. The final method is the saignee or bleeding off method where a percentage of the wine is literally 'bled' off to be vinified separately as rosé. In some quarters this is seen as controversial but Andrew Margan of Margan wines actually calls his rosé by the method to make clear how it is produced. I wrote a whole blog on this wine recently and you can read that if you wish but I think it makes a great third wine in our trio of rosés. It is the darkest of the three and almost
Margan Saignée Rosé
tastes like a red wine but without any harsh or bitter tannins that often put rosé drinkers off trying red wines. Check it out. It is available from a favourite wine merchants of mine Tanners Wines.

This blog has only scratched the surface of what is available as rosé wine continues to become more and more popular. Please do let me know your particular favourites. That is all for now. I will return with a series of blogs about my visit to the Bordeaux region this July.

In the meantime, enjoy your wine and don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook or better still book me for a tasting event. More detail at my website


Friday, 11 July 2014

Champagne and Rosés (Part 1)

Have you ever wondered if the tv producers had a title for the show before they thought about the content? Well this blog is a bit like that. Title first, what to write second. The phrase came to me about 3 months ago when I was trying to think of some ideas for hen party wine tastings and its stuck with me ever since. In my wide experience of wine I can't believe I've never seen it used before in a wine context. It's such a clever pun I'm rather proud of it.
Sort of!
If you are looking for an alternative hen event then I think my Champagne and rosés tasting would make a great party. Most ladies I've met love fizz and they love rosé too. Combine them for a perfect evening. It doesn't even need to be a hen party. Get in touch. Plug over! But what combination and styles of wine would you choose?

My tastings normally take the form of 8 wines so we will work on getting together 8 wines for this theoretical tasting, 5 Champagnes and 3 rosés. In part 1 of this blog I will discuss those 5 Champagnes. I use Champagne as a title only in the loosest form. Yes, there will be Champagne but not all as there is so many different types of fizz it is a shame not to include some other styles. Boo you say and I say I do have a budget to work to you know.

Wine Number 1
I think the tasting should start with a simple house Champagne made by one of the countless co-operatives in the region. There are many, many to choose from but one of the better ones I have tried is Antoine de Clevecy from Sainsbury's, currently £20 but I have seen it cheaper. It gets off to a great start and everyone's taste buds tingling with the bubbles from the fizz.

Wine Number 2
English Sparkling Wine
For my second wine lets stay home. In England we make some jolly good sparkling wine, some say Merret (see my earlier blog) using the same 'traditional method' as in Champagne. If you've never tried it why the hell not as I have been banging on about it for ages. Joking aside if you are not in the UK it is not likely you will come across it. But if you are in the UK proceed immediately to your wine merchants or Waitrose or Marks & Spencers or The English Wine Shop (online) and get some Chapel Down, Denbies, Gusbourne Estate, Camel Valley, Ridgeview, Bolney Estate, Halfpenny Green (near me), Three Choirs or one of several other winemakers making great fizz.

Even Tesco are in on the secret and in my research I found this lovely review by 'ohbeeone' of the Chapel Down Classic Cuvee at their website.

Point 1. It is not Champagne. Point 2. It is a wonderful sparkling wine. Light fragrant. Not at all thin or sharp. Surprisingly long and horribly moreish. These people make great wines. I have always tended to avoid English Sparkling as it is relatively expensive, so why not have the real thing. This was a mistake. The wine is not an imitation.

Wine Number 3
I am thinking a Cava from Spain, again made using traditional method. There is an argument for Prosecco from Italy which is very popular at the moment. I am not a huge fan of Prosecco but I would serve that first if you were to include it as it tends to be a touch sweeter due to its tank (sometimes called Charmat) method of production.

Wonderful Cava from Freixenet...
....or from Codorniu
For me Cava is one of the worlds great wines but is massively overshadowed by Champagne even though it can be absolutely delicious. The two dominating brands are Freixenet and Codorniu and they make a
number of different styles and are widely available not to mention great value. I am constantly amazed that they do not get more attention.

Wine Number 4
Wine number 4 should be either a 'blanc de blancs' or 'blanc de noirs' Champagne just as a point of difference. As the name suggests these are Champagnes made entirely from white grapes (white of whites) which are made entirely from Chardonnay or from black grapes (white of blacks) which are made from a combination of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
How about some 1998 Krug Blanc de Noirs.
Available for £1695 (a bottle not a case!)

A Blanc de Noirs we could try is Pierre Darcy from Asda. It is a bargain at £17 and has a distinct biscuity flavour. For a Chardonnay only Champagne check out Sainsbury's own which is made by Duval-Leroy.

Wine Number 5
Our final 'Champagne' should definitely be from one of the Grandes Marque houses, the 24 member association of the best known names for quality in Champagne. If money was no object then definitely Cristal made by Louis Roederer, Krug or a Ruinart would be fantastic. Sadly in a normal tasting my budget cannot stretch to those heady heights (unless of course someone would like me to) Canard-Duchene is great, as is Laurent Perrier and Piper Heidseick but my Champagne of choice would be Pol Roger, favourite of Sir Winston Churchill. It is a really fine Champagne with brioche aromas and a dry apple and mineral flavour. Delicious!

Pol Roger White Foil -
My Grand Marque Champagne of Choice
And that completes Part 1 of my Champagne and Rosés blog. In part 2 I have the difficult task of finding 3 rosé wines to complete the tasting. If you would like enjoy this tasting with your friends and me to host it or would like to organise any other kind of wine tasting please do get in touch.

In the meantime please see my website for more information and follow me on both Twitter and Facebook.

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ships and Champagne

HMS Queen Elizabeth
In light of the launch of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest ever war ship produced in Britain being launched today I wondered about the origins of breaking Champagne on a ship as it is launched.

Of course that tradition was broken when Islay Malt Whisky from the Bowmore Distillery was used instead. A nice touch  as this was the first ever distillery Her Majesty had visited in an official capacity. I also wonder if there was a political element to this as the Scottish Referendum looms ever closer.
Her Majesty the Queen launches the ship of her own name
with a breaking of malt whisky

Anyway, enough about politics and whisky (that would be a good name for a blog, anyone?) you're here about wine. The tradition of wine with ship launch is thought to have originated after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century when the religious element was removed and military figures or members of the monarchy would do the christening honours.

Originally this took the form of the 'standing cup' ceremony where the presiding official would drink from a large goblet made of precious metal (often silver) then throw the remaining liquid over the ship before throwing the 'cup' to one lucky bystander. As the Royal Navy became ever larger in the 17th century this practice began to become expensive and was replaced by the practice of breaking bottles of wine much as we see today.

But Why Champagne?
The christening of ships in the U.S.A borrowed much of the British tradition. In 1797 the USS Constitution included the breaking of a bottle of Madeira and the practice of breaking bottles was a regular feature but the liquid of choice varied from water to bourbon to brandy. The first time Champagne was used was the launch of the USS Maine in 1890. Queen Victoria launched the HMS Royal Arthur in 1891 Champagne was smashed against it as has happened pretty much ever since. Champagne has always been thought of as an aristocratic drink, especially in the 19th century, and of celebration.

Have you ever tried to smash a bottle of Champagne? No, me neither. Why would you? It's expensive enough. Due to the pressure in the bottle the glass has to be heavier and thicker than still wine. And it takes some smashing. A bit of a worry then when a failure to break is thought to bring bad luck to any ship where that happens. Need an example?
Duchess of Cornwall at the Christening
of MS Queen Victoria
At the Champagne failed to break at the Christening of the MS Queen Victoria in 2007 presided by the Duchess of Cornwall the cruise ship was beset with problems of viral illness amongst its passengers. A similar thing happened to model Eva Herzigova when she launched the Costa Concordia in 2004. The fate of that ship was rather more unfortunate with the death of 32 passengers in 2012.
Ill fated Costa Concordia

In order to prevent a situation where the Champagne fails to break cruise lines in particular score the glass of the bottle to weaken it ensuring it breaks on impact and preventing any bad luck or at the very least bad publicity.

That is all for now. I will return with another blog soon. Thanks for reading. If you would like to meet me in person and home is in the UK why not book an event with me. More information can be found at my website Maybe you need an excuse for a party involving some great wines. Or come to one of my events. Do get in touch.

You can also follow me on Twitter or on Facebook

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Judgement of Paris

Never heard of it. No, me neither until relatively recently. Is it a book, a film or a major political happening in France? It's none of those, well actually that is not strictly true as it is a film and a book (written after the event), but a film of a different name.

The Judgement of Paris - May 1976
It is one of the most important happenings in the modern world of wine. On the 24th May 1976 wine merchant, now Consultant Editor of Decanter magazine, Steven Spurrier, organised in Paris, a blind tasting where French judges scored the best and most prestigious Bordeaux red wines and Burgundy Chardonnay against Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays from California.

Steven Spurrier (centre) in 1976 
Steven Spurrier - Today
The results stunned the judges and sent a seismic shock through the wine world and can be seen as year zero in terms of new world regions competing with the traditional old wine regions, in particularly the classic French regions.

Prior to that time the French had the monopoly on 'fine' wines and that reputation went around the world. Serious wine drinkers drank Bordeaux or Claret, as we British used to call it, and Burgundy.To take advantage of the USA's bicentennial celebrations Spurrier, then only 34 and running a wine school in Paris, decided to organise a blind tasting with the great and the good of the French wine world to do the judging. To this day, he thinks that he had rigged it for the French to win. But they didn't and the wine world changed forever.

Chateau Montelena 1973 - 1st place Chardonnay
The eleven judges, nine of them French plus Spurrier and Patricia Gallagher (American) of L'Acadamie de Vin tasted the whites first, four Burgundies and six Chardonnay from California. The judges scored the wines out of 20 and the scores were averaged. Amazingly California wines occupied four of the top 6 places including the prestigious 1st place going to the Chateau Montelena.

1.Chateau Montelena 1973   USA
2.Meursault Charmes Roulot 1973  France
3.Chalone Vineyard 1974  USA
4.Spring Mountain Vineyard 1973  USA
5.Beaune Clos des Mouches Joseph Drouhin 1973  France
6.Freemark Abbey Winery 1972  USA
7.Batard-Montrachet Ramonet-Prudhon 1973  France
8.Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles Domaine Leflaive 1972  France
9.Veedercrest Vineyards 1972  USA
10.David Bruce Winery 1973  USA

Stag's Leap 1973 - 1st place red
After the whites came the all important reds, seen as more important. Spurrier knew that Chateau Montelena had won the white tasting and was so desperate for the French to win on the reds he even told the judges so they could mark accordingly. Four Grand Cru Bordeaux against six Californian Cabernets. Despite blatant marking down of the wines that the judges definitely thought were Californian amazingly the USA won again with Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973 coming out on top.

1.Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973  USA
2.Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970  France
3.Château Montrose 1970  France
4.Château Haut-Brion 1970  France
5.Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971  USA 
6.Château Leoville Las Cases 1971  France
7.Heitz Wine Cellars Martha's Vineyard 1970  USA
8.Clos Du Val Winery 1972  USA
9.Mayacamas Vineyards 1971  USA
10.Freemark Abbey Winery 1969  USA

On hearing the results the French wine industry was horrified and Spurrier was shunned in French wine circles for a time for the damage he had done to their industry. 

The story of the event may not have become so well known had it not been for George Taber, the sole journalist that attended the event who wrote a four paragraph piece for Time magazine. When news of the event reached back to California the effect was electrifying. Where once it made only cheap 'jug' wines now many new people were ready to invest, in particular in Napa Valley which has become the most prestigious of all Californias' wine regions. 

The tourist trade has followed with visits to wineries becoming an important part of the tourism landscape of California. Reruns of 'The Judgement of Paris' have occurred repeatedly since 1976 with the USA wines continuing to win on a regular basis. And the Californian wine industry goes from strength to strength thanks to films like Sideways and the film that tells the story of that day Bottle Shock

But I think there is a lesson here for English wines too. Our English Sparkling Wine has done very well in competitions in the last few years, competing very well against Champagnes. What we need next is a momentous event such as 'The Judgement of Paris'. Over the next few years wine tourism in England and Wales is going to become a big but a little booster such as 'The Judgement of Paris' would be very nice indeed.

That is all for now. I will return with another blog soon. Thanks for reading. If you would like to meet me in person and home is in the UK why not book an event with me. More information can be found at my website Maybe you need an excuse for a party involving some lovely wines. Or you might like to come to one of my events. Do get in touch.

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 Enjoy your wine. Cheers!