40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris!
Hard to believe that it has been over 40 years since the wine world came undone but here we are! What exactly am I talking about? Well the Judgement of Paris, of course!
The Judgement of Paris was originally a publicity stunt organized by Steven Spurrier. Spurrier, was a British wine merchant working in Paris who started hearing rumblings about wines coming out of California whose quality could rival French wines. Thinking to drum up business for his shop, he staged a blind tasting with all of the top French wine critics pitting French wines against California wines.
No one believed that California stood a chance at outscoring their French counter parts least of all Spurrier. The wines were served blind, meaning that the judges did not know the winery or the country that produced the wines and gave it score with the best being a 20. 10 whites and 10 reds were submitted. When the scores were tallied California had taken not only first place in white wine but also red wine! The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon had run away with the gold.
George Taber, who worked for Time magazine at the time and was the ONLY journalist in attendance because the results were such a give in, later said that one of the judges asked for her score card back. She did not want the world to know that she had given top scores to California wines and not her home country of France.
But why was this a pivotal moment in the wine world? Up until this time French wines were the crème de la crème and California wines were seen as little more than communion wines. With California stealing the golds, it proved to the world that California could make serious wines. It has led to great investment in wineries and vineyards in not only California but also Oregon and Washington.
It was such an epic moment that there are books, movies and Napa Valley tours centered around the wineries that were involved. As a wine lover, I have to say, “Thank you Mr. Spurrier!” without whom we might never have seen such a fast evolution of the wine industry, not just in the USA, but Australia, Argentina and Chile as well.
Credit: Godoy, Maria. “The Judgment of Paris: The blind taste test that decanted the wine world”. www.npr.com May 24, 2016