Sunday, 24 May 2020, marked the 44th anniversary of the revolutionary Judgement of Paris blind tasting. Twenty wines of French and American origin were tasted blind by 11 judges, and contrary to what many believed would happen, two American wines reigned supreme.
In 1976 Steven Spurrier was a British wine merchant with a wine shop in Paris and the only private wine school in France. As a lot of California winemakers passed through his doors trying to sell their wines to the French, he realised that a lot of these wines were actually quite good.
His business partner, Patricia Galagher, came up with the idea to host a tasting of Californian and French wines in honour of the American Revolution, in an attempt to raise awareness of American wines while paying homage to the history of cooperation between these two countries.
The tasting was organised and the who’s-who of sommeliers and wine influencers (of the time) in France were invited. It was about a week or two before the event that Spurrier decided to host a blind tasting. This, according to him, to ensure that anti-Californian prejudice could be minimised.
There were six California Chardonnay contenders and four white Burgundies in the white wine lineup. The red wines consisted of six California Cabernet Sauvignons and four top-quality reds from Bordeaux.
Contrary to what everyone believed would happen, two Californian wines were the top-rated wines; Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay.
Although this was a seemingly insignificant event, with only one journalist (George Taber) showing up, 44 years later we are still talking and learning about it.
The Judgement of Paris event is commonly hailed as the turning point in the American wine industry; this is what put American wines on the map.
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