|The Judgement of Paris - May 1976|
|Steven Spurrier (centre) in 1976|
|Steven Spurrier - Today|
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|
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 www.gloryofwine.com. 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.
Enjoy your wine. Cheers!