How to Think About the 1976 Judgement of Paris in 2023 #winophiles

French Winophiles Reflect on a Historic Blind Wine Tasting
This month, our French Winophiles are celebrating Chardonnay during the anniversary of the 1976 Judgement of Paris. This event was a surprise breakout success in announcing to the world that California wines could compete on the world stage. Take a look further down in this post to see links to my fellow Winophiles discoveries!

1976 Judgement of Paris Blind Wine Tasting
The 1976 “Judgement of Paris” was a blind wine tasting conducted by a small Paris wine shop owned by a British gentleman by the name of Steven Spurrier. The judges in the tasting were French wine experts and the tasting pitted California wines against their French closest counterparts. Chardonnay from California was tested vs. French White Burgundy (also Chardonnay). Cabernet Sauvignon from California was tested vs. Bordeaux red blends (with significant portions of Cabernet Sauvignon). To the surprise and consternation of all the French participants, California wines won the top spot in both competitions. This was not a major competition and the world might never have heard a word, but a Time magazine reporter decided to attend and published an article with the surprising results. Of course, the article was heralded in the US and not reported at all in Europe until minor notes months later. Still, this event counts as a turning point for American wines on the world stage

Chardonnay in 2023
Back in 1976, French wines were generally known as the best in the world. They were the models and were the point of comparison for wines from outside of France. California wines at the time were made in the model of their French counterparts. In the vineyard, vines were trained in the same method as those in France. French oak barrels had begun to be used in winemaking and maturation. In 2023, a blind wine tasting against French wines might still be of interest for a region striving to gain international recognition, but our understanding of what constitutes a great wine has changed for the better. Many winegrowers in Napa have discovered the vine training systems appropriate in France are totally wrong for the climate of Napa Valley! Today, a key benchmark for a wine is its being reflective of where it was grown, a sense of place. We drink wines (like Chardonnay) from all over the world. Our evaluation of those wines includes a consideration of their place of origin. Why should a Napa Chardonnay taste like a Chassagne-Montrachet when the latitude, climate, soil and customer preferences are all different? Vive la différence!

Sylvain Pataille “La Charme aux Prêtres” Marsannay AOC 2014 (43 € in France) 13.5%abv
Eye: Medium gold
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of pineapple, mango, ripe lemon, apple pie, butterscotch, coconut,
Mouth: Dry, high acidity, medium plus body with rich texture, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity flavors, long finish
Observations: A full body white wine, entirely suitable for bigger dishes, this wine had no trouble with roasted sausage and leeks with mustard. The oak has integrated beautifully, present but not overwhelming. The riper aromas and flavors suggest ripe grapes, but that high acidity tells us this Chardonnay is from a moderate climate, like Bourgogne.

Flora Springs “Family Select” Chardonnay Napa Valley 2018 (sample, $36 SRP) 14.2% abv
Eye: Medium lemon
Nose: medium plus intensity aromas of butterscotch, white peaches, passion fruit, ripe cantaloupe, vanilla bean,
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, full body, high alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium plus finish. Flavors follow the nose with clear butterscotch tones balanced with the ripe melon and passionfruit.
Observations: The full body, alcohol and ripe melon fruit notes suggest a warmer climate, appropriate for Napa. The prominent butterscotch and vanilla notes are a typical style choice with California Chardonnay, many American palates appreciate the bolder flavors.

French Winophiles Celebrate Chardonnay and the 1976 Judgement of Paris Blind Tasting
Take a look at my fellow French Winophiles finds for Chardonnay and the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Maybe you’ll find something new to try! You can catch us on May 24 – 25 sharing our ideas on social media – details tbd. Stay tuned!

• “A Tale of Two Chardonnays: From France’s Pays d’Oc and California’s Russian River Valley” from Camilla at Culinary Cam

• “No to Chardonnay? Don’t Be So Judgy!” from Cathie at Side Hustle Wino

• “Chardonnay; Old World vs New World in Today’s World” from Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm

• “Chardonnay Unites Us More than it Divides” from Susannah at Avinnare

• “How to Think About the 1976 Judgement of Paris in 2023” from Jeff at Food Wine Click

• “Celebrating Chardonnay: Chard White Lasagna with Bourgogne’s Paul Pernot, Czech’s Thaya, Oregon’s Nysa” from Gwendolyn at Wine Predator

• “Chardonnay Day with Domaine Charton-Vachet Montagny Cuvee” from Deanna at Wineivore

6 Responses to “How to Think About the 1976 Judgement of Paris in 2023 #winophiles”
  1. wendyklik says:

    It is funny because I didn’t start drinking wines until the 1980’s and I teethed on California wines. It wasn’t until I joined this and the other wine groups that I learned to appreciate Old World wines.

    • Same for me. European wines were too subtle when I first started, though I discovered some of their secrets as time went on.

    • So true that our palates have grown and deepened through the years. When I started drinking wine in college, I drank Chianti in fiaschi. The stronger, the better. It took years for me to appreciate the subtleties in so many wines.

  2. Peter Burrows says:

    Good note on Pataille, picking is on the later side with freshness coming from quality bitters drawn out through prolonged pressing.
    Next we need the Aligoté judgement of Paris!

  3. Deanna says:

    Fascinating point of view on these annual holidays. I like the little details you included like the Time magazine reporter, how this wasn’t reported in Europe, and turning our attention to the local terroir. Vive la difference indeed!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] How to Think About the 1976 Judgement of Paris in 2023 from Jeff at Food Wine Click! […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: