Judgment of Paris

The Judgment of Paris, took place in 1976 and really did usher California wine into the wine elite in the world.

We hear many of the same things said now, as they did back then.  French wine was considered so vastly superior to that made in California, that something like the Judgment of Paris really shouldn’t have ever been an issue, at least according to French judges, before they tasted the wines.

The red wines were Bordeaux vs California Cabernet Sauvignon.


14.14Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars1973Cali
14.09Chateau Mouton-Rothshild1970Bordeaux
13.64Chateau Montrose1970Bordeaux
13.23Chateau Haut-Brion1970Bordeaux
12.14Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello1971Cali (Santa Cruz)
11.18Chateau Leoville Las Cases1971Bordeaux
10.36Heitz Wine Cellars1970Cali
10.14Clos Du Val1972Cali
9.95Mayacamas Vineyards1971Cali
9.45Freemark Abbey1969Cali

My Comment: So, it’s always been said that Bordeaux needs age to show well.  To their credit, they didn’t cherry picked good vintages for a tasting like this. It’s been said that 1970 was rough in Bordeaux and while that may very well be true, I refuse to believe that the wine industry can tell it’s customers to take a year off, can it?

It would be more interesting, in my opinion to check on a complete blind tasting in what’s referred to as a good vintage, but they did the best that they could.  Let’s remember Napa Valley in the early 1970’s was nothing more than an agricultural backwater a couple of hours north of San Francisco.  At least the tastings were free and you had a pretty drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Also and the thing that sticks out most in my mind when seeing the results, poor Ridge.  That’s barely ever said in terms of California wine, but the quick report on this tasting and the take away that we’ve been talking about for a generation now, is that Napa beat Bordeaux.  That being said, Monte Bello isn’t in Napa…not even close.  Monte Bello is Ridge’s estate vineyard and it is unquestionably in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  While I know wine sales aren’t always a zero sum game, but I can’t help but think that if this part of the tasting was talked about more, maybe the Santa Cruz Mountains as a growing region would have a higher profile than they do currently.

A few years back the Judgment of Paris hit it’s 30th anniversary.  Ageing of wine is always at issue and for a generation, along with the common wisdom we’ve talked about before, we’ve heard that French wine is going to age better than it’s California cousins. Getting all the wineries in question to resubmit perfect bottles from the previously tasted vintages clearly wasn’t going to be easy and despite some spirited efforts to deny the tasting from happening: 30 years later the Judgment of Paris wines were re-tasted.

This time, the top 5 versions of Cabernet Sauvignon were from California. It’s been said of course that the 1970 vintage in Bordeaux was tough