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George M. Taber Lecture: Judgment of Paris

Deluca Liquor & Wine hosted a lecture by the famed wine writer, George M. Taber, author of the book, Judgment of Paris. George was there mainly to present his new book called To Cork or Not To Cork, which discusses the controversy surrounding the use of cork as wine closure. Before George proceeded to his main topic, however, he first took questions about the Judgment of Paris.

For your information, I do own this book. This book is about the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, an event that is generally considered to be a key turning point for the entire wine industry. If you don’t know anything else about the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting, just remember this. It was the event that put California wines on the map.

Indeed, the 1976 Paris Tasting challenged the age-old wisdom that said Old World wines are better than New World wines. What made this tasting so revolutionary was the outcome: Californian wines were voted better than French wines in a blind wine tasting by French wine experts! You can just imagine the resulting outcry when the results were revealed. The judges gasped, whispers broke out and all you could hear was “Ce n’est pas possible!

My “Judgment of Paris” – My Take on the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting

Now, I’m not here to defend the French wines and say that the outcome of the contest was incorrect, but I do have a few objections. Mainly, I object to the means by which the vintages for the Burgundy White Wines were selected.

If you have read my past write-ups, you would be aware that, at blind tastings, I prefer a horizontal selection of wines if they come from the same AOC/AVA. In the Paris Wine Tasting event of 1976, California wines were pitted against Burgundy wines. California and Burgundy are not in the same region, obviously, so origin should have been considered in the selection of vintages. To put it simply, what might have been a good year in California might not have been a good year in Burgundy. As it turned out, 1973 was in fact one of the worst vintages for Burgundy in the last 40 years or so, whereas 1973 was a fairly decent year for California.

The quality of the vintages used for the red wine tasting was much fairer, though.

Overall, I am grateful to the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 for it showed the winemakers worldwide that they have to be more diligent and that they have to constantly keep up their efforts to make better wines. This is the main reason why today, we can enjoy what George Taber aptly called “the golden age of wines.”

Enjoy the golden age of wines, folks! Cheers!