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The 1976 Paris Tasting

The 1976 Paris tasting, or Judgment of Paris as it became known, had a revolutionary effect, “like a vinous shot heard round the world.” – Barbara Ensrud, Wall Street Journal

On May 24, 1976, a wine tasting took place in Paris that changed the world’s view of California wines forever. The tasting was the brainchild of Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant who owned an innovative wine shop and adjacent wine school in the center of Paris. Having been recently introduced to California wines, and curious to see how these newcomers would fare against French wines made from the same kind of grapes, he arranged a blind wine tasting in celebration of the American Bicentennial activities in Paris. The French tasters chosen for the event had impeccable professional credentials. Spurrier chose French wines that were first and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies to be matched against California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The tasting was blind, with the identities of the wines concealed and the labels revealed only after the jury of nine tasters had voted its order of preference.

The unthinkable happened. The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was judged the best. The Napa Cabernet had bested four top-ranked Bordeaux, including first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from California bested its French counterparts.

Red Wines Of The 1976 Tasting

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973, Napa Valley (127.5)
Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970 (126)
Château Haut-Brion 1970 (125.5)
Château Montrose 1970 (122)
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ’Mountain Range’ (Montebello) 1971, Santa Cruz Mts. (105.5)
Château Leoville-Las-Cases 1971 (97)
Mayacamas 1971, Napa Valley/Mayacamas Mts. (89.5)
Clos Du Val 1972, Napa Valley (87.5)
Heitz Cellars ’Martha’s Vineyard’ 1970, Napa Valley/St. Helena (84.5)
Freemark Abbey 1969, Napa Valley/Rutherford (78)

White Wines Of The 1976 Tasting

Chateau Montelena 1973, Napa Valley/Calistoga (132)
Meursault-Charmes 1973, Roulot (126.5)
Chalone Vineyards 1974, Monterey County/Soledad (121)
Spring Mountain 1973, Napa Valley/Spring Mountain (104)
Beaune Clos des Mouches 1973, Joseph Drouhin (101)
Freemark Abbey 1972, Napa Valley/Rutherford (100)
Batard-Montrachet 1973, Ramonet-Prudhon (94)
Puligny-Montrachet 1972, Les Pucelles, Domaine Leflaive (89)
Veedercrest 1972, Napa Valley/Mt. Veeder (88)
David Bruce 1973, Santa Cruz Mts. (42)