2nd Wednesday Wine Club—Revisiting the Judgment of Paris from May, 1976

Doug Akins

The 2nd Wednesday Wine Club enjoyed an evening of historical reenactment. Doug Akins led this group through a blind tasting of four whites and four reds. The wines were evenly split between France and California, and while we couldn’t afford to exactly duplicate the wines from the original tasting, our whites were Chardonnays from California and Burgundy. Our reds were Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa, Calif., and Left Bank Bordeaux, France. Each person had four wines to taste and rate on Appearance, Aroma, Body, Taste, and Finish, using a 5-point scale. Bonus points were given if the taster chose the correct country, France or U.S.

The 1976 Judgment of Paris was designed as a publicity stunt to boost sales for Steve Spurrier’s wine shop. All panel members were French, and respected names in the wine industry. Everyone was sure that France would win, hands-down. However, when the results were tallied, the top honors went to the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from Calistoga, Calif., and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, Calif.

The results were published, and what it did for the wine industry and world was unbelievable. Now, everyone could put their wines up against the French wines. The king had lost his throne. Today we see ramifications of this event every time we visit our local wine merchant and explore wines from Australia, Spain, Italy, Chile, Argentina, and others.

At our local tasting, in both categories (red and white) the U.S. wines were preferred over the French wines. While the French wines were very good, the overall scores put the U.S. wines on top. Thanks to Mel and Tony Kura for hosting this rowdy bunch.