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Gastronomy and Wine Portal

The Judgment of London

Judgement Day comes to London

19.04.2024, News Автор: Olesya Berseneva

Under such an intriguing headline, an equally intriguing event is announced as part of the London Wine Fair 2024: a remake of the famous tasting once organized by Steven Spurrier called Judgment of Paris. This year Drinks+ is the official media partner of this grand event along with the world’s top wine media industry. On May 21, another sensation may happen — and we will find out whether the picture of the wine world will be changed again.

Let’s recall that the so-called Paris Wine Tasting, also known as The Judgment of Paris, took place on May 24, 1976, on the initiative of Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, later — a publisher and one of the most authoritative experts in the wine world, and his American colleague Patricia Gallagher. The vast majority of the jury members were French oenophiles.

The wines were tasted on a 20-point scale in two blind tasting comparisons: one was devoted to white wines — American (California) and French (Burgundy) high-quality chardonnays, and the second consisted of red wines (cabernet sauvignons from Bordeaux and California). As a result, Napa County wine was recognized as the best in each category, which was a sensation, because France was considered the leading producer of the best wines in the world.

The Judgment of London

Until the early 1970s, the quality of some California wines was outstanding, but few people paid attention to it, as the market traditionally favored French brands. By the way, according to historical sources, at that time Spurrier himself was selling mostly French wine and was not sure that California wines would win. Moreover, the revolution he led brought its leader, in addition to fame, a lot of trouble — after all, his business was located in Paris, which since 1976 has turned into a raging hive. Frightened and furious, the leaders of the French wine industry banned Spurrier from participating in the prestigious national wine tasting tour for a year, apparently as punishment for the damage his tasting had done to the former image of Bordeaux wines.

The Judgment of London3

There was a fierce debate over the score for a long time, with one judge even withdrawing her ballot. Until, 20 months later, the same wines were re-tasted in San Francisco in 1978. Stephen Spurrier flew in from Paris to take part in this evaluation. The result: American samples took the first three places for white and red wines. Subsequently, two more tastings were held by the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) on the tenth anniversary of the Paris Tasting. However, the chardonnays of those years that participated in 1976 were not evaluated, as they had already passed their prime by that time.

The Judgment of London3

Stephen Spurrier provided advisory and organizational support for this anniversary tasting. The panel of judges consisted of 8 judges, and in the dry balance, the first two places were taken by the Americans, the third was won by Château Montrose 1970. Another attempt at revenge by France took place on May 24, 2006, on the 30th anniversary of The Judgment of Paris. It was again organized by Stephen Spurrier and took place on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean: at the Copia Museum in Napa, California, and in London at Berry Bros. & Rudd, the office of the oldest British company specializing in the wine trade.

As the Times newspaper reported (by the way, the only media present at the Paris tasting — but more on that below), despite the fact that French tasters, many of whom had participated in the original tasting, expected the American winemakers to collapse, they had to admit that the harmony of the California Cabernets had won them over again. The victory was impressive — this time, the top five places were taken by California Cabernets, and only the highest-rated Bordeaux, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970, managed to climb to sixth place. Thus, the 2006 tasting tandem finally changed the wine world.

Стивен Спурье

…Almost half a century has passed since The Judgment of Paris. London decided to take over the baton and hold an updated version of this iconic tasting for the wine world, but at a modern level. Hannah Tovey, Director of the London Wine Fair, raised the curtain on the spectacle that we are looking forward to: London is the historic center of the international wine trade. And as one of the most diverse markets, it is a fitting venue for the highly anticipated The Judgment of London. The tasting is to honor the best wine. We will get an assessment of the situation and the criteria for how great a fine wine can be. We are proud to have decided to organize such a large-scale event at the London Wine Fair.

The Judgment of London

This tasting is intended to pay tribute to the late Stephen Spurrier and the revolution in the wine world that he organized in Paris. The Judgement of London version will be updated to reflect the range and maturity of the modern fine wine market. Whereas the original tasting compared current Bordeaux and Burgundy wines to their California counterparts, the 2024 version will feature a broader inclusion of well-known European wines and equivalents from the rest of the world. Of course, a more realistic comparative analysis is also expected than almost half a century ago.

Ronan Sayburn MS, CEO of The Court of Master Sommeliers, has been selected as the curator of the London event, who will work in tandem with Sarah Abbott MW, MD of Swirl Wine Group, IWSC Committee Judge. In total, the tasting panel will consist of around 20 judges with the most discerning palates — the cream of the British wine industry, including leading buyers, top sommeliers and respected wine writers. The wines will be tasted in pairs: one European sample and one analog from other parts of the world. The analogues will be determined according to the grape variety, style and texture, and the selected producers will have to submit the best vintage in the range of 5-15 years for the tasting. Eight pairs of white wines will be tasted in the morning on May 20, and eight pairs of red wines in the afternoon. All wines will be decanted and served in Jancis Robinson X Richard Brendon glasses, and the condition of each wine will be pre-checked by Sarah Abbott and Ronan Sayburn. The wines will be scored on a 10-point scale. The scoring system includes eight key findings, all of which will be announced on center stage the following day. Although the London Judgment may not give a final determination of who is the best, the results will provide a certain reflection of the wine world. The tasting in London will show what has changed in the almost 50 years since the Parisian Revolution of 1976. Thus, it will be timely. It is not so much a competition as a direct comparison designed to show how exceptional wine can be.

Дженсіс Робінсон

Ms. Jancis Robinson OBE MW, who will be one of the judges in London, and who, incidentally, is the only judge to have also participated in the British tasting panel for the 30th anniversary of The Judgment of Paris, commented: I’m looking forward to serving on the tasting panel for the carefully crafted Judgement of London tasting — a fitting tribute to the late Stephen Spurrier, whose London flat was so close to the Olympia, where we will be blind tasting some of the world’s finest wines to celebrate the progress made since his 1976 Paris tasting. What better glass for this exercise than mine — a high-quality glass carefully designed to bring out the character of any wine! I am pleased to see that today the Jancis Robinson wine glass is increasingly being rented from Sensible Wine Services for professional tastings.

Sarah Abbott MW commented: I am honored to be working with such a great team on this important tasting. Stephen Spurrier’s lesson that great wine belongs to the whole world is as important and timely now as it was during that iconoclastic tasting many years ago.

Steven Spurrier

Ronan Saburn MS also shared his thoughts: The original Judgment of Paris tasting was a classic triumph of the underdog over the establishment and opened the door to recognition of the new California wine industry. At the London Court, we will not be looking for a clear winner per se, but rather to celebrate how far wine from around the world has come in quality and recognition since 1976.

The Judgment of London will take place on Monday, May 20, with the results announced on center stage on Tuesday, May 21, at 16:45. The London Judgment is supported by the Academie du Vin Library, a publishing house founded by Spurrier in 2019. This institution is kindly providing a copy of Mr. Spurrier’s memoirs for each member of the tasting group.

 London Wine Fair will be held at Olympia from May 20 to 22.

Visitor registration is now open: www.londonwinefair.com

Instagram: @london_wine_fair

Twitter (X): @londonwinefair

For more information, please contact Ms. Sally Bishop: sally@relish-pr.co.uk

Reports from the event will be published on the resources of the Drinks+ media group and other official partners — London Wine Fair. This pool of reputable publications is another fundamental difference of the London event. After all, despite the fact that Spurrier invited many reporters to the sacramental tasting in 1976, the only reporter present was George M. Taber of The Times, who published the results to the world. For obvious reasons, the tasting was not covered by the French press, which almost ignored the story. 50 years later, a large-scale information campaign by the international media is planned. So keep an eye on our actions!

By the way, we would like to remind you that the WTA Ceremony will take place on May 21, a few hours after the announcement of the sensational results of the London Open, at the Olympia. The award ceremony will last from 10.30 to 12.30.

The Wine Travel Awards Ceremony will summarize the results of the 2023 — 2024 campaign, where the winners of both the public vote and the professional jury will be determined. The program includes:

  • A speech Wine Tourism: Benefits and Challenges by Robert Joseph, WTA jury member, prominent author in the world of wine and wine tourism, pioneering wine expert, wine creator and industry innovator;
  • A presentation of WTA Sponsors and Partners;
  • The announcement of WTA winners and discoveries;
  • A walk-around tasting of wines by members of the WTA community.