This year marks the 40th anniversary of the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition. It was a moment that forever changed the world’s view of California wines, and ultimately, wine as a whole. This revolution in wine was pioneered by one man – Steven Spurrier.
In 1976, Spurrier was an English wine merchant running a private wine school in Paris, France called L’Academie du Vin. He also owned an innovative wine shop, Les Caves de la Madeleine, which was one of the few shops to encourage its clients to taste the wine before agreeing to purchase an entire bottle. After being introduced to California wines, he became curious about how they would perform against favorited French wines. With that, the blind tasting saw life.
Spurrier hand-selected nine French wine experts and four French wines. Simply put, the best of the best. However, as with any blind tasting, the identities of the bottles were concealed, the labels waiting to be revealed until after all judges had made their decisions. The judges sipped, swished, spat and after some deliberation, cast their votes. Then something remarkable happened.
The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon bested the best. A California wine, unknown to the world, towered over four top-ranked French wines. Like a pop heard round the world, the tasting quickly became known as the Judgment of Paris. It singlehandedly ended the ideology that wines from outside Europe were nothing short of swill, and put California wines on the map.
It was on that day, May 24, 1976, that Stag’s Leap made history. Not just for their vineyard, but for Napa Valley and the entire American wine industry. For that, we raise a glass.