In May 1976 the English wine critic Steven Spurrier presented some Californian wines in Paris.
Fearing that the distinguished panel was so unfamiliar with them, at the last moment he paired them with some classy French wines like Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Las Cases and Ch. Montrose.
In a blind tasting the Californian wines were judged superior.
In the red category the Californian Stag’s Head won the day.
The event might have remained unknown except that a journalist from Time magazine was present, who dubbed the event The Judgement of Paris and published an article.
Last night the wine tutor sought to reprise the event by, as far as possible, recreating the tasting.
The first three wines were Chardonnay and – although we tasted the big guns like a Meursault and Puligny Montrachet – the Californian Montalano scored higher.
We next moved to Pinot Noir: this category was not tasted in 1976 as there was far less of it. We finished with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Most of the tasters failed to identify whether the wine was Californian or French.
Although it was a fun evening – and we tasted some fine wines – you cannot really recreate 1976 as the wine world has moved on significantly since then.
The Super Tuscans like Sassicaia and Ornellaia have eclipsed in cost and estimation the Bordeaux and Bourgognes.
The New Zealand Pinot Noirs from Otago are as good as any Californian and indeed I recently tasted a superb Pinot Noir further up the western seaboard from Oregon.
Greek winemakers are producing wondrous wines from the Xinamavrou grape.
Portuguese wine has come on leaps and bounds from Mateus Rosé and Vinho Verde.
Austrian wine like a Grüner Veltiner are on the up.
Wine tastes have changed too with organic wines and less alcohol became more favoured.
It is true French wines still have a certain cachet and perform well on the wine indices.
I sold 10 cases of Burgundy – white and red – last year profitably and vineyards there go for $50m but the discerning imbiber now looks elsewhere for value and quality.