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Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,340 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History houses, amid its illustrious artifacts, two bottles of wine: a 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. These are the wines that won at the now-famous Paris Tasting in 1976, where a panel of top French wine experts compared some of France's most famous wines with a new ge ...more
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Published June 30th 2011 by Tantor Media (first published 2005)
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The actual May 1976 blind tasting in Paris of French & California wines takes up little of this book- which makes sense given that is was very low-key event. Spurrier meant to introduce what he thought were intriguing wines (Californians) to a handful of notable French palates. The blind tasting was meant to be a bit of a tease, a lark. He had no idea his 2 hr tasting would unleash a revolution in the wine industry.

What I loved about this book were the stories of young men who arrived from
The Napa Valley is one of the most important wine regions in the world, and it's true that the wine is bottled poetry. But back before it had enough street cred that convinced suckers like me to spend $40 for a few measly 2-ounce pours, it had to convince the French that California could make more than cloying sweet wines and jugs of wine made with the vile but prolific Alicante Bouschet grape (side note: I've only grape as a low percentage blender in Ridge wines, but I really want to try it in ...more
Jun 22, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You have to read this book in Sips not Gulps! Also helps if you are interested in wine, wineries, and wine making. The book came out in 2005, but is mostly about the revolution of wine making in the mid 1970's. We visited my husband's brother in Napa California in 1978(?) and visted the Mondavi, Sterling, Beringer and Christian Brothers wineries (amongst others). This really makes the book interesting to me.

Some interesting (to me) asides:

(circa 1968), Dr. Gerald Ivancie, a Denver peridontal sur
Sep 06, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1976, a Paris-based British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organized a blind tasting of California and French wines in honor of the American bicentennial. Since his motive was publicity for his wine shop, he was disappointed when only one journalist, George Taber of "Time," accepted his invitation to attend. Although the judges were all French, an American red and white both won - a 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay - and Taber had a story that turned into a sen ...more
George Taber has proved that he has an extensive knowledge about wine and its history. However, this extremely detailed info dump is only really necessary unless you are preparing to answer jeopardy questions about the topic. I recommend the "Accidental Connoisseur" by Lawrence Osbourne instead if you want an enjoyable book about wine and don't want to learn everything about it.
Margaret Sankey
Nov 30, 2015 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1976 (extremely symbolic as well for the bicentennial) marked the year the the California wine industry made a significant beachhead into Europe, winning a blind tasting conducted by the snobbiest critics in France. Taber's engaging portrait of the eccentric winemakers, the promoters and the horrified French protectionists is a nice addition to food history.
May 31, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that the movie Bottle Shock was supposedly based on. In fact the movie had very little in common with the book, aside from the names of a few of the people involved and the underlying premise of a blind taste test of red and white wines in Paris, some originating from wineries in California and others from well-known French vintners. None of the characterizations of people common to both book and movie (chiefly Steve Spurrier and Jim Barrett) match, and Bo Barrett, around whom t ...more
This book is really three books interwoven into one.

The first part, and the reason I decided to read the book, is about the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting. I saw the movie "Bottle Shock" and thought that it would be fun to read book upon which it was based. (Be forewarned, the movie took a lot of liberties with the story and the similarities are few.) This part of the book is highly engrossing. It's hard to believe that a wine tasting covered by a single journalist (George Taber from Time Magazine) ha
Oct 15, 2012 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I picked this up thinking it would be dry and boring and put me to sleep, but what a pleasant surprise. Actually a revelation! I got to 100 pages without sleeping before I got too tired to continue and even then I didn't want to put it down.

I could have never imagined that a book on wine could be so enjoyable but what makes the difference I think is that Taber tells a story about people instead of the product, and what happens is that you become very involved in these peoples' quest to make
This was a fun and interesting read. I enjoy wine very much but don't pretend to know much about it, although I do have some personal experience working at a vineyard and a winery as a kid. I don't think a reader needs to be a wine aficionado to enjoy this book at all, but there are sections that will be more interesting to those readers who do know a little bit about the process of wine-making than to those who do not know anything. This book is so much more than "just" wine,'s wri ...more
Sep 14, 2011 Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never thought I would be so enthralled by a wine tasting and it's effects on the wine world. I was also surprised at how much this book is story of perseverance by the winemakers in California. I decided to read this book because of the movie Bottle Shock. It is much better than the movie. Aside from the fact that events in the movie are highly dramatized, the book offers much more content and gives you the full story. The detailed history of California wines in the first part of the book, makes ...more
Apr 06, 2016 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a good book in here, but infortunately the author couldn't find it. This book needed a strong editor to better shape the story. Too many meandering details that don't seem to build to a strong story. The subject is fascinating and I love the upstart hippish Californians who muddle their way to creating a great product. Add to that the pleasure of sticking it to the snobby French wine testers. The French wine world sounds like a very tradition bound, inbred business. And it's great to kno ...more
Jun 12, 2012 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall this was a good book about the history of wines in California. There were parts that could be a bit dry but not too bad. It was interesting to read about the different influences from other countries that helped in developing the California wines.

If you have any interest in wine and the art of creating wine then you will enjoy this book.
Aug 28, 2011 Ananya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just isn't for me - a very long and biographical account of all of the folks who started up the wine business in California, namely Napa Valley. It's really more of a textbook than a fun read... but perfect for anyone who wants every single detail of how American wine came onto the world scene!
Oct 03, 2016 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much like the movie "Stripes," this book should've ended before it actually did. I enjoyed the chronology and exploration of the wineries that had entries in the competition, but the text after that felt like a turgid afterthought.
Overall, if you're a wine lover, this is worth a read.
Apr 18, 2012 Laure rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book but I would recommend it only for someone who is truly a wine enthusiast and connoisseur as the author covers a lot of wine history, different varietals, terroirs, etc. It got too technical and in-depth for me and so got a bit tedious.
More of an info dump about the step-by-step process of making wine...over and over again, repeated with each winery Taber brings up. Tedious and ultimately boring. For the hardcore only, otherwise you're going to need a couple bottles of wine just to make it to the end.
Sep 07, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great history of wine making in both France and California, especially of those wines featured in the 1976 tasting.
Nov 15, 2016 brettlikesbooks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brettlikesbooks
california upstart underdogs vs french heavy-hitter favorites + watershed in wine & its ripple effects
Edie Light
Dec 28, 2016 Edie Light rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of the CA wine industry and its must current founding fathers. Also shows how an innocent game can have huge ramifications. I would recommend this book to all of my wine friends.
Giuseppe Sepe
Nov 16, 2016 Giuseppe Sepe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We Could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kind, but doubtless as good. - THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1808
Carlos Niezen
Jan 20, 2017 Carlos Niezen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muy entretenido!!
Nov 18, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book. Great history of the Napa valley wine development.
Martin Houser
Since I was vaguely aware of this compelling story, I immediately picked this up when I saw it on amazon. Very good, detailed account of the surprise success of California over France. I enjoyed that aspect of it, the clash of cultures and personalities involved. While I enjoy my wine I am not that great an aficionado, so that some of the very detailed review of the international wine growing regions were a bit slow for me. The actual account of the tasting and the description of the French wine ...more
Jan 06, 2010 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last weekend my sister, brother-in-law and I saw this great little Netflix film: "Bottle Shock." It was a comedy and dramatization of the "Judgment of Paris", the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting at which French experts judged California wines to surpass the best wines produced in France. Of course I had to read the story, because the book is always better than the movie ;-)

Indeed, the real story is even more fascinating. Written by the only journalist present to cover the event, the focus is on the indi
Apr 29, 2016 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough and highly readable account of the lead up to and events of the so called "Judgement of Paris," the blind wine tasting that, quite by accident, changed the worldwide landscape of wine.

A few reviews I read through complained that the book was too much of an "information dump," that is, it reads like a list of facts as opposed to an interesting streamlining of them. There are certainly points of the book when I agree with that, especially the chapters right before the tasting when the
Diane Ferbrache
Jul 23, 2012 Diane Ferbrache rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, wine
In 1976, a wine shop in Paris arranged a blind tasting of French and California wine. In a surprise to everyone involved, the California wines WON!! This seemingly small event set the stage for California wine, especially from Napa Valley, to move onto the world stage.

Several years ago, my husband and I took a Spring Break trip to San Francisco and spent a few days wine tasting in Napa Valley. We are not wine experts, not even close. Then came the movie "Sideways" and a few years later, the mov
Bill Varon
One would think from the title of this book it was all about the tasting and the surprising victories by rookie Napa Valley wineries vs. the established elite of France. Yes, it eventually got around to describing the actual event and the "blowback" that resulted (the French are still pissed off and in denial that we kicked their asses). But I especially was that most of the book described the early risk takers and the overall history of California wine country. Especially, in such an incredible ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Ernie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book. I read it because I enjoyed the movie, Bottle Shock, based on this book. Sometimes it is important to read the book before seeing the movie. I needn't have worried. The book and movie are barely related! The movie is a fun story. The book is a great depiction of the history of winemaking in France and California. It centers on the event of the movie and. like the movie, notes that making good wine has become a global activity. It was interesting to learn how the French wine laws ...more
Stephanie W
Oct 17, 2011 Stephanie W rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, food, history
I heard about this book and the controversial judgement of Paris a few months ago when touring Grgich Hill Winery (the winery established as a direct result of the Paris tasting in 1976). I've always loved the Grgich cabernet (the Yountville reserve is spectacular) and I was eager to read about the process of wine making and the history of the estate.

Although Taber delves a little too deeply into the personal backgrounds of the various winemakers involved as opposed to covering the Paris event i
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