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Judgment of Paris (1976)

A blind tasting held in Paris on 24 May 1976 created a new chapter in the history of California wines, and established California as a world-class wine producing region. The famed ‘Judgment of Paris’ (named after the Greek mythology) was organized by the late Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant, consultant and writer. At the blind tasting, California wines were pitched against top French wines by a judging panel of 11 oenophiles including one English (Steven Spurrier), one American and nine French. In the white wine category, California Chardonnays were placed against Burgundy Chardonnays, and California Cabernet Sauvignon against classified growth Bordeaux in the red wine category. The results were a shock to the judging panel as California wines ranked the highest in both categories, winning over the French wines. The California wines that won at the tasting were Chateau Montelena 1973 and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973.

 

TIME magazine reporter George Taber wrote an exclusive piece on this event because he was the only journalist to attend as no one else placed importance on California wines back then. Reported in TIME Magazine on June 7, 1976: ‘

 

More often, the panel was confused. “Ah, back to France!” exclaimed Oliver [one judge] after sipping a 1972 Chardonnay from the Napa Valley. “That is definitely California. It has no nose,” said another judge—after downing a Batard Montrachet ’73 [from France].’

The Unknown Became Famous in a Day

 

Behind the bottles, winemakers have dedicated their best efforts and committed themselves to producing high-caliber California wines. Warren Winiarski and Miljenko “Mike” Grgich made significant contributions to the wines that won at the Paris tasting. Mike Grgich was the winemaker responsible for the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay and Warren Winiarski for the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Both have been winemakers at Robert Mondavi Winery prior to making the unprecedented wines - Winiarski from 1966 to 1968 and Grgich from 1968 to 1972. The results sent a shock wave through the international wine community, and the controversy was instantaneous. With the tasting’s results, there was a rush to buy land, plant vineyards, and open wineries in California, especially in Napa Valley. By 1980 the number of wineries in the state had finally risen to the level of the 1880s. It had taken a century for the industry to regain its prominence after decades of challenges and setbacks. The event was later memorialized in the largely fictional movie Bottle Shock released in 2008.

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Steven Spurrier (middle), Patricia Gallagher (left) who worked for Spurrier, and French judge Odette Kahn (right).
Wine Institute Records, UC Davis Library.

巴黎審判(1976)

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1976年5月24日於法國巴黎舉行的一場盲品酒會為加州酒歷史寫下新篇章,確立了加州的世界級產區地位。被稱為「巴黎審判」(引用古希臘神話),這場品酒會由已故的英國酒商兼顧問及作家Steven Spurrier主辦。評審團由11位品酒專家組成,包括一位英國人(Steven Spurrier)、一位美國人及九位法國人,他們需要盲品美國酒及頂級法國酒,並作出評分。白酒類別是加州白酒對法國布垠地白酒;紅酒類別則是加州赤霞珠跟法國列級波爾多紅酒的比併。賽果出人意表,震驚評審團,白酒及紅酒類別均是加州酒獲勝,那分別是Chateau Montelena 1973及Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973。

 

當年的加州酒不被重視,《時代》雜誌記者George Taber是唯一抽空出席品酒會的傳媒,於是他的報導成了獨家新聞。1976年6月7日的文章這樣報導: 「很多時,評審團都感到迷茫。Oliver[其中一位評審]呷了一口來自Napa Valley的1972年Chardonnay:『哎呀!回到法國!』;另一位評審在品嚐了一口[法國的]Batard Montrachet ’73後說:『沒香氣的。』」

一夜成名

 

釀酒師在美酒背後功不可沒,他們全情投入並付出努力釀造出高質的加州酒。Warren Winiarski及Miljenko “Mike” Grgich為釀造巴黎盲品酒會出勝的葡萄酒作出重大貢獻,Mike Grgich主責釀造Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay,Warren Winiarski 則釀造了Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon。在釀造這兩款史無前例的佳釀之前,他們都曾在Robert Mondavi Winery當釀酒師 – Winiarski的任期是從1966年至1968年,Grgich則在1968年至1972年間。

 

令人驚訝的結果於不久之後便傳至國際酒界,旋即引起哄動,更帶來在加州買地種植葡萄的熱潮,新酒莊湧現,尤以Napa Valley最顯著。到了1980年,加州的酒莊數目終於上升至1880年代的水平。經過整整一個世紀,加州酒業才可以從過去數十年的挑戰與倒退走出來,重振聲譽。這場歷史性的事件日後成了2008年上映的電影《醇酒醋男》( Bottle Shock )的故事主線,雖然戲裡的情節多為虛構,但它記下了那光輝一頁。

Pouring of wines for the judges at the Paris tasting held at InterContinental Hotel.
Wine Institute Records, UC Davis Library.

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