1976 Paris Judgment

Definition - What does 1976 Paris Judgment mean?

Also known as the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, the Judgment of Paris and 1976 Paris Tasting, Paris Judgment is a wine competition best known for launching California’s popularity into the wine industry. Held in Paris on May 24, 1976 at the Intercontinental Hotel, it was a blind tasting of six California Chardonnays, four white Burgundies, six California Cabernet Sauvignons and four Bordeaux reds. The blind tasting was judged by nine French representatives from the Institute of Appellations of Origin, the Wine Institute of France, La Revue du vin de France and the top restaurants in Paris. The results of the Paris Judgement surprised even the judges: a wine from California was ranked first in both the red and white wine categories. Everyone, including the media, had believed that the French wines would take all top four places. These unexpected results were published in TIME magazine and marked the beginning of California (and the New World’s) rise into the international wine industry.

WineFrog explains 1976 Paris Judgment

Steven Spurrier, a 34-year-old British wine merchant and owner of French wine school, L’Academie du Vin, organized the 1976 Paris Tasting as a way to compare California’s wines that were new to the international wine scene to France’s prestigious wine. Spurrier himself believed that the French wines would take the top four rankings. Regardless, he felt that a blind tasting competition would be good exposure for California wines and a nice complement to the American Bicentennial activities in Paris.

During the blind tasting, judges gave the wines a mark out of 20, with the average of all nine marks determining its ranking. The judges were not given a rubric (ex: appearance, nose, first taste, second taste) by which to give their marks, so each judge provided an assessment according to their personal tasting habits. The tasting started with whites. California’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay took first place, followed by France’s 1973 Meursault Charmes Roulot. California also took third, fourth and sixth place. For the reds, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, 1973 took first place; second went to Château Mouton-Rothschild, 1970. Third, fourth and sixth went to the remaining French wines.

These results shocked the world as well as the judges. California’s (specifically Napa Valley’s) popularity as a winemaking region increased quickly. There was a shift in production; winemakers turned away from the cheap jug wines they’d been popular for, producing higher quality wines instead. Consumers, both locally and globally, showed a greater interest in investing in a bottle or two for their cellars. It is for this reason, among others, that experts view the Paris Judgement as the key event in the transformation of California’s wine industry.

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