Already legendary wine tasting, at the initiative of the English wine dealer and experts in French wines Steven Spurrier (* 1941) on May 24, 1976 in Paris. Also known as the "Judgment of Paris", the event is memorable for several reasons. First, no expert had expected this surprising result, secondly there were worldwide discussions and significant effects in the international wine world, and third, because the competition in four stages over a period of thirty years was drawn. The competition has been repeated three times with the original wines; the third and fourth only with the reds. Finally, there was a book about it, the US journalist George M. Taber published in 2006, the approximately 350 -page work "Judgment of Paris: California vs.. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine ". And last but not least, this material was even filmed in 2008 under the title "Bottle Shock" with the director Randall Miller; However, Spurrier was very dissatisfied because of what he thought was partly fictitious details.
It was a competition of wines France and California each with ten red wines and white wines from well-known companies. Spurrier intended to improve the bad image of American wines, but of course still expected a clear victory for the French. The eleven jurors were well-known authorities beyond any doubt or experienced wine critic, That was Pierre Brejoux (Inspector General AOC), Michel Dovaz (Wine Institute of France), Claude Dubois-Millot (Sales Director Gault Millau ), Patricia Gallagher (Académie du Vin), Odette boat (1923-1982, publisher Revue du Vin de France), Raymond Oliver (restaurant Le Grand Vefour), Steven Spurrier, Pierre Tari ( Château Giscours ) Christian Vanneque (Sommelier), Aubert de Villaine ( Domaine de la Romanée-Conti ) and Jean-Claude Vrinat (restaurant Taillevent).
Spurrier had also invited many reporters from well-known newspapers, but only the aforementioned George M. Taber from US Time Magazine was the only one to participate. Hardly anyone doubted the outcome - namely that the French wines would beat the Californian wines in the sense of "Everyone knows that French wines are basically better than Californian and always will be".
The surprise was all the greater. When the result was announced, there was disbelief and embarrassing silence. Some jury members wanted the ballot back so they could rate it again. Likewise, some were denied signing the result. Judge Odette boat Spurrier even accused the manipulation and expressed in the episode very negative about the competition. In any case, the result shook the wine world and led to heated discussions. Especially France was shocked and did not want to accept the "shame". The devastating result was hushed up first and only three months later in the "Le Figaro" about the "laughable event that you can not take seriously" reports.
A serious assessment was questioned, or the argument used that French wines just needed a long time of maturity to develop. But the fact is that at the latest from this time the wine from the United States taken seriously or at least judged differently. Because it meant a crucial turning point regarding the reputation of hitherto often derogatory as Coca-Cola wines designated products. It's no coincidence that just three years later the joint venture Opus One between the wine-growing legends Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988) and Robert Mondavi (1913-2008) was started.
The competition took place according to the rules of a Half blind tasting, The judges knew which wines it was, but not in which bottle or in which glass they are. The rating was based on the 20-point system used in Europe. All white wines were varietal Chardonnays, The im Bordeaux style vinified red wines were (are) from Cabernet Sauvignon dominated. During the tasting, the jurors were absolutely sure that they could distinguish the Old World from the New World by smell, which proved to be wrong. For the "clearly as Californian" identified Chardonnay with "lack of aroma" turned out to be Burgundian Bâtard-Montrachet. For the red wines, there were similar misidentifications with supposedly outstanding French wines, which then turned out to be Californian. For white wine, all eleven judges gave either Chateau Montelena or Chalone Vineyard (both California) the highest score. The result (the average points for the red wines in brackets):
The White Wines (Chardonnay) - 6 Californians, 4 French
The red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon dominates) - 6 Californians, 4 French
Spurrier had been pragmatic in calculating the final numbers per wine. He simply added the individual numbers and divided the sums by nine (his own score and those of Patricia Gallagher were not taken into account). The two economists Orley Ashenfelter and Richard E. Quandt (both professors at Princeton University in New Jersey) again analyzed the result. Among other things, these took into account the intervals between the scores and thus came to a "statistically better and more valid" result. They calculated three groups, with the wines within the groups being statistically indistinguishable and, so to speak, equivalent: 1 and 2, 3 to 9, and 10. The result for the red wines is given above in parenthesis. There were no significant changes, but at least it improves the "French honor" a bit, as Château Montrose is also at the top. In four cases the difference is only one place, in four cases the place number is even identical.
Another very important aspect is the comparison between France (Europe) and California. In California there is usually a balanced one climate before, so that the vines during the growth cycle are exposed to very similar conditions every year. Under the condition of the same vinification, the quality of the wines in the individual years is almost the same. In contrast, in Europe, especially in the colder wine regions such as France (including Germany and Austria) relatively large fluctuations, so that a "good vintage "Plays a much stronger role.
One could now blame the "bad result" of French wines for bad vintages. However, it should be noted that three of the four reds came from 1970 and one from 1971. The "Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux" ranks in 1970 among the "best four vintages of the last 45 years" and 1971 is called "very good". In addition, this was even investigated for the appellations from which the red wines originate: Pessac-Léognan. Pauillac. Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien, Again, similar statements were made over the two years. A "bad vintage" was thus an argument.
In January 1978, a second competition took place in San Francisco 20 months after the Paris tasting. Above all, they wanted to check the argument made by the critics that the French wines would develop better than the Californian ones by maturing. Spurrier flew in from Paris to attend the evaluation, which took place at the Vintners Club. The tasting teams consisted of 99 or 98 professional judges. Although there were some changes in the ranking, but the Californian victory was again not to shake. For both white and red wines, three Californian wines were at the top - a definite result for California (in brackets the place from the first event in 1976):
Compared to the first competition, Domaine Roulot, Joseph Drouhin and Ramonet-Prudhon wines achieved a poorer result:
Compared to the first competition, the wines of Château Montrose, Château Haut-Brion and Château Leoville Las Cases achieved a poorer rank:
For the 10th anniversary in 1986 two competitions were carried out with different tasting teams. Since one had to rightly assume that the white wines had already reached their peak, only the red wines were tasted. An event was from the magazine Wine Spectator carried out in New York, where five Californians were ahead. The second competition was also held in New York by the French Culinary Institute, Steven Spurrier provided support. Here were two Californians at the top (in bracket 1976):
Six judges tasted all ten wines:
French Culinary Institute
Eight judges tasted nine wines, missing Freemark Abbey Winery:
Finally, on May 24, 2006, the 30th anniversary of the memorable competition was celebrated. The fourth and final competition was again organized by Steven Spurrier, with two tasting teams active on both sides of the Atlantic in Napa and London. For example, Michael was in London Broadbent, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson there. The clear result underpins the previous results. The first five places were taken by California wines, the "Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello" was by the way in both tasting teams at the top (in brackets the place of the first competition of 1976):
The results strongly support the fact that wine evaluations usually have no scientific validity, otherwise the results would at best have to be identical or at least very similar. If you were to repeat the competition the next day with the same judges and the same wines, it would not be completely different, but with the highest probability you would get some other rating numbers or, in part, a different ranking. However, this does not change the fact that professional tastings are judged on the basis of objective criteria and the differences in the rating of a tasting rehearsal are relatively small. However, this only applies on the condition that the tasting is carried out by experienced and professional judges. See also below wine review. wine address and wine Events,