Carol's Reviews > Judgment of Paris: California Vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine

Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber
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Jan 06, 10

Read in February, 2009

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 individuals behind the winning California wines: Jim Barrett and Mike Grgich, who made the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, and Warren Winiarski, who made the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Winiarski's story is especially amazing: he was a young philosophy lecturer who left academia to follow a romantic dream, and this was his very first vintage!

The story is placed in the context of the history of wine. California vintners did not have the benefit, or the burden, of centuries of tradition as France did. In fact, America had only recently come out of Prohibition, the wine industry's equivalent of the Cultural Revolution. So winemakers had to innovate, and innovate they did. After the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting the whole world came to Napa to see what the Americans were doing, and then they returned to their own countries to innovate on their own. It's fascinating to read about the subsequent development of world class wineries around the world, not just in France and California, but also in places like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, and Chile.

"No one can deny that this is the golden age of international wine," Taber writes. It can all be traced back to this seminal event in 1976.



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