The judgement of Napa: commemorating the 1976 tasting

Wednesday, 29 December, 2021
Forbes, Brian Freedman
The Judgement of Paris has become one of those rare moments in the history of wine that, the further we get from it, the greater its importance seems to become.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Judgement was a 1976 blind tasting in Paris that pitted the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy against the top Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays of a promising but still fairly under-the-radar wine region called…wait for it: Napa Valley. The judges included some of the most important figures in the world of French wine, and among the great reds that were tasted were such icons of Bordeaux as Châteaux Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Léoville Las Cases, and Montrose. Included in the flight of Chardonnays were the Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches, Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles, Ramonet-Prudhon Bâtard-Montrâchet, and Roulot Meursault Charmes, among others.

For wine collectors, these are the kind of bottles that get hearts racing and mouths watering. And yet, to everyone’s surprise, Napa’s Chateau Montelena took the top prize among the Chardonnays and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was judged to be the best among the reds. The results were reported in a short piece in Time Magazine by George Taber, and in a relatively rapid period of time, the entire world of wine was shaking at its very foundations. Taber later wrote an excellent book about it—“The Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and The Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine”—that was later turned into the movie “Bottle Shock.”

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The judgement of Napa: commemorating the 1976 tasting
The judgement of Napa: commemorating the 1976 tasting

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