Steven Spurrier, The Instigator

Remember the 2008 comedy-drama film Bottle Shock? With Alan Wiseman in the title role? No? Can't blame you - it's a long time ago, and the movie wasn't that great. The real true story is far more exciting. A classic tug of war between Old World wines vs New World wines, France vs the US.


'The Judgement of Paris' rocked the wine world. The unthinkable had happened at a blind tasting on May 24th 1976, in Paris. It catapulted the Californian wines into the wine orbit.

Sadly on March 9th this year Steven Spurrier, the instigator of
'The Judgement of Paris' died at the age of 79. His biography: "A Life in Wine" is a really good read. He was not terribly impressed with the movie. More 'Bull than Bottle Shock' was his take on it.

He had chosen 10 white wines, all Chardonnay (6 from California & 4 Burgundian) and 10 red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, predominately (6 Californian & 4 from Bordeaux) and presented them to some eminent French tasters. After the blind tasting, the shocking census weighted heavily towards the Californian wines.

A sometimes not so friendly rivalry for dominance, importance, and kudos began. Often played out with a good dose of traditional arrogance on one side and serious money on the other.

I still remember heated conversations and slightly unbalanced tastings among friends in Germany. The tastings were hampered by the unavailability of top Californian wines in Germany at the time, but it was all great fun, and we felt part of something really big. We were on the road of discovery and exploration. It opened up a whole new wine world.
We started talking about international grape varieties as wines from Chile, Argentina, Australia and of course New Zealand arrived on continental shores and wine merchants shelves. In Italy, the Super Tuscan's made their mark.

Now our wine world is bigger and more exciting than ever, and it stated all on May 24th 1976, thanks to Steven Spurrier, a francophile Englishman, and the 'Judgement of Paris'

Today, 45 years later, the old 'continental' world is gently rocking the boat in England. Several prestigious French Champagne Houses buying large chunks of 'English Pastures Green' on the chalky ridges of the Downs in Kent and planting grapes to make champagne. A peaceful payback or invasion? This was just before Brexit. Let's sit back, have a glass or two of wine and watch this space.

Ulrike x

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