Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Judgment of Paris

I just finished a fascinating book, and wanted to pass along the recommendation. It was entitled, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine

Some backstory: The event was conceived by a British man named Steven Spurrier. He was living in Paris, where he owned a wine shop and had also opened the Academie du Vin, which taught wine-tasting classes. In 1976, after hearing that interesting work was being done in California and that they were making good wines in the French style, he decided to stage a blind tasting in Paris between Napa Valley wines and classic French wines. To everyone's surprise, the California wines won: the 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon placed first among the reds, and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay placed first among the whites.

Though it was a small, unassuming event (only one journalist even bothered to cover it), the impact that this had on the wine world at the time was huge - not because the French had been "brought down" (I don't know if you realize this or not, but they do still make wine in France), but because people began realizing that quality wine could be produced in other areas of the world. Prior to this, while wine was made all over the globe, if you wanted to drink or serve a quality, serious wine, you typically went with the French stuff. This event opened the doors to the global wine industry that we know today.

The Judgment of Paris was written by George Taber, who was the Time magazine writer who covered the Paris tasting. This book is fascinating because not only does it describe the event itself, but it gives a detailed (yet never boring) account of the history of wine production in both countries, as well as the wine-making process and the effect that the tasting had on the wine industry. Taber also tells the histories of the winning wineries, and the stories of the principal players in the production of both wines.

I highly recommend this book. It's an interesting read, and gives some fascinating information into the history of wine in France and in the States, as well as the state of the global wine industry. Pick it up, pour a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy.

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