Already legendary wine tasting, on the initiative of the English wine dealer and experts in French wine Steven Spurrier (* 1941) took place in Paris on May 24, 1976. The event, also known as the "Judgment of Paris" (Paris Wine Jury), is memorable for several reasons. Firstly, no expert had expected this surprising result, secondly, there were worldwide discussions and significant effects in the international wine world, and thirdly, because the competition took four stages over a period of thirty years. The competition has been repeated three times with the original wines; the third and fourth only with the red wines. Finally, there was also a book about it, in 2006 the US journalist George M. Taber published the 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 with the details, which he believed to be partially fictitious.
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 the French to win clearly. The eleven jurors were well-known authorities who were 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, editor Revue du Vin de France), Raymond Oliver (Le Grand Vefour restaurant), 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 George M. Taber from US Time Magazine mentioned above was the only one to attend. Hardly anyone doubted the outcome - namely that the French plants would clearly beat the California wines in the sense of "Everyone knows that French wines are principally better than California and always will be".
The surprise was all the greater. When the result was announced, there was disbelief and embarrassed silence. Some jury members wanted the voting slip back so that they could evaluate again. Some also refused to sign the result. The judge Odette boat Spurrier even accused the manipulation and subsequently expressed very negative comments about the competition. In any case, the result shook the wine world and subsequently led to heated discussions. France in particular was shocked and did not want to accept the “shame”. The devastating result was first kept silent and only three months later in "Le Figaro" was it reported about the "laughable event that one could not take seriously".
A serious assessment was questioned, or the argument used that French wines would take a long time to mature in order to develop. The fact is, however, that the wine from the United States was taken seriously or at least judged differently. Because it meant a crucial turning point in terms of the reputation that was often derogatory until then Coca-Cola wines designated products. It is far from a coincidence that the joint venture was just three years later 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 one Half blind tasting, The judges knew what the wines were, but not what bottle or glass they were in. The evaluation was carried out according to the 20-point system common in Europe. All white wines were pure Chardonnays, The in Bordeaux style vinified red wines were (are) from Cabernet Sauvignon dominated. During the tasting, the judges were absolutely certain that the smell of the Old World and the New World could already be distinguished, which turned out to be wrong. Because the "clearly identified as Californian" Chardonnay with "lack of aroma" turned out to be Burgundian Bâtard-Montrachet. Red wines had similar misidentifications with supposedly outstanding French wines, which then turned out to be Californian. In the case of white wine, all eleven judges gave either Chateau Montelena or Chalone Vineyard (both California) the highest number of points. 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 rating and that 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) analyzed the result again. Among other things, these also took into account the intervals between the ratings and thus came to a “statistically better and more valid” result. They calculated three groups, with the wines within the groups not being statistically distinguishable and to be regarded as equivalent, so to speak: 1 and 2, 3 to 9, and 10. The result for the red wines is given in parentheses above. This did not result in any significant changes, but at least the "French honor" is somewhat improved, as Château Montrose is now 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 to consider when comparing France (Europe) and California. California is usually balanced climate before, so that the vines during the growth cycle exposed to very similar conditions every year. Assuming the same vinification, the quality of the wines is almost the same in each year. In contrast, there are relatively large fluctuations in Europe, especially in the colder wine-growing regions such as France (also Germany and Austria), so that a “good vintage “Plays a much stronger role.
One could now blame bad vintages for the "bad result" of French wines. However, it should be noted that three of the four red wines came from 1970 and one from 1971. In 1970, the “Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux” ranked among the “best four years of the past 45 years” and 1971 was described as “very good”. In addition, this was even investigated for the appellations from which the red wines come: Pessac-Léognan. Pauillac. Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien, Here too, similar statements were made over the two years. A "bad year" was therefore not an argument.
In January 1978, a second competition took place in San Francisco, 20 months after the Paris tasting. Above all, the aim was to test the critics' argument that French wines would develop better than Californian ones when they matured. Spurrier flew in from Paris to take part in the evaluation that took place in the Vintners Club. The tasting teams consisted of 99 and 98 professional judges. There were some changes in the ranking, but again the California victory could not be shaken. In terms of white and red wines, three Californian wines were at the top - a clear result for California (in brackets the place from the first competition in 1976):
Compared to the first competition, the wines from Domaine Roulot, Joseph Drouhin and Ramonet-Prudhon achieved a poorer result:
Compared to the first competition, the wines from Château Montrose, Château Haut-Brion and Château Leoville Las Cases achieved a poorer result:
To mark the 10th anniversary, two competitions were held in 1986 with different tasting teams. Since one had to rightly assume that the white wines had already peaked, only the red wines were tasted. One competition was from the magazine Wine Spectator carried out in New York, with five Californians in front. The second competition was held by the French Culinary Institute in New York, Steven Spurrier provided support. Here were two Californians at the top (in brackets 1976):
Six judges tasted all ten wines:
French Culinary Institute
Eight judges tasted nine wines, Freemark Abbey Winery was missing:
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. Michael was in London, for example Broadbent, Hugh Johnson and jancis Robinson there. The clear result once again substantiated the previous results. The first five places went to Californian wines, the "Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello" was top of both tasting teams (in brackets the place of the first competition from 1976):
The results confirm relatively clearly that wine ratings are generally not scientifically valid, otherwise the results would have to be identical or at least very similar at best. If the competition were repeated the next day with the same judges and the same wines, the results would not be completely different, but it would most likely result in slightly different ratings or, in part, a different ranking. However, this does not change the fact that professional tastings are judged according to objective criteria and the evaluation differences when tastings are repeated are relatively small. However, this only applies if the tasting is carried out by experienced and professional judges. See also under wine review. wine address and wine Events,