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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Judgement of Paris -- Some Little Known Facts

Yesterday's blog post  recognized the 40th anniversary of the Paris tasting that put California on the wine map. Today we'll look at a few details of the event.

The tasting put Bordeaux and Burgundy France up against the upstarts in California. Some things you might not know:

Steve Spurrier

  Mr. Spurrier was an Englishman who owned a wine shop. At the time, of course, it was all about French wines in his store as with most other wine retailers. With the approaching American Bicentennial he thought it might be nice to see how American wines might compare to the world's best.
  He knew little about the wines so he and his wife made a trip to California. Mr. Spurrier visited several wineries in the area purchasing Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon without telling anybody what the wines were for.

In Paris

  The judges were the most prominent wine experts in the country. The French wines were considered the best the country had to offer. The tasting was blind.

The Winning Chardonnay

  A white wine from Napa Valley's Chateau Montelena took first place. All eleven French judges awarded their top score to either Montelena or Chalone Vineyards, a winery located in California's Central Coast area.
  This 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay retailed for $6.50. At a wine auction in 2010 a bottle sold for over $11,000.
  The winemaker was Mike Grgich, a Croatian immigrant who had fled Communism. He later started Napa's Grgich Winery.
   Some of the grapes for the Chardonnay came from Napa, but most were from the Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.

The Winning Cabernet

  Stag's Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won first place for the red wines. It retailed for about six bucks and you could buy a case for $48. The '73 Cab was only their second year of making wine from the vineyard.

George Taber

  Mr. Taber from Time Magazine was the only reporter to cover the tasting event. He wrote a four paragraph story on the results saying, "Not bad for kids from the sticks." But this short article started the whole revolution in New World wines.
   Why only one reporter at the tasting? Everyone considered it a foregone conclusion that the French would win and there would be nothing to write about.

The Movie

  There's  a 2008 movie, Bottle Shock, that very loosely follows what happened with Chateau Montelena leading up to and after the tasting in Paris. Though not very factual, it's entertaining, and it stars Alan Rickman.