May-24-1976: Judgment of Paris

40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris

Forty years ago a British wine merchant, Steven Spurrier, organized a blind wine tasting in Paris comparing California Cabernet Sauvignons with Bordeauxs and Chardonnays with Burgundies.  The jury of  nine tasters included the creme de la crème of France’s oenophiles, among them Pierre Tari, secretary general of the Association des Grands Crus Classes, and Raymond Olivier, the dean of French culinary writers. Only one member from the jury had ever seriously tasted California wine before.

The results for Red Wine:

  1. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (1973) (USA)
  2. Chateau Mouton Rothschild (1970) (France)

The results for White Wine:

  1. Chateau Montelena (1973) (USA)
  2. Meursault Charmes Roulot (1973) (France)

The results were reported by Time Magazine and it has become viewed as a seminal event for the California wine industry.   Ronn Wiegand, chief wine officer at the online wine merchant “The French monopoly [on fine wines] was crushed permanently.”

From Bloomberg’s The Day California Wines Came of Age:

The Paris tasting almost instantaneously gave California’s boutique wineries credibility, recalls Warren Winiarski, head of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. “Here we had a visible endorsement from [French wine] authorities. People were willing to listen who wouldn’t listen before. We had people calling us to ask where they could get our wines, both from the trade and among consumers.”

Many experts now view the Paris tasting as the key event in the transformation of the California wine industry. Between 1980 and 1990, consultant Motto notes, the number of California wineries tripled, to about 900, as hundreds of ambitious entrepreneurs moved in, bought land and planted vineyards with an eye toward making world-class wines. The economic benefits for the state have been enormous. Even as jug wines have declined in importance, California’s annual production of wine has doubled since 1976, to 157 million cases this year, estimates Jon Fredrikson, a Woodside (Calif.) wine consultant.

Chateau’s Montelena’s rise from obscurity to international acclaim was the subject of the movie “Bottle Shock”.

The participants are celebrating the 40th anniversary of this monumental event and even the Smithsonian Museum of American History is participating in the celebration.

Photo Credit: By 1973_Judgement_of_Paris_Chateau_Montelena.jpg: ayako Mouton_Rothschild_1998.jpg: MPW57 Montrose_Label_1996.jpg: Mike Case French_wine_haut_brion_86.jpg: schuey derivative work: Agne27 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



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