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February 11, 2013
That’s what Time Magazine called it.
The wine event of the century took place June 7, 1976.
It would be France against California.
California, merely a state, accounting for 90 percent of entire American wine production—the vine cuttings from Mexico, descendants of the "common black grape," brought to the New World by Hernán Cortés in 1520.
France, merely the toast of the entire world.
Their wines of Bordeaux, from the most important region of France, already quite superior in the 13th century, are now, legendary.
Enter Steven Spurrier, transplanted Englishman who owns Cava La Madeleine wine shop, one of the best in Paris, to arrange things and put the Americans in their place.
A blindfold test would shame these upstart Californians and the swill, they call wine.
Anyone who thinks this will be a contest is drinking something stronger.
The wines tasted were transatlantic cousins:
Four white French Burgundies against six California Pinot Chardonnays. Four esteemed Grand Cru Chateau Reds from Bordeaux against six California Cabernet Sauvignons.
The judges were all French.
The eleven French judges swirled, sniffed, and spat, trying to determine the imported pretender from an aristocrat.
When the ballots were cast, California won everything.
The top scoring red was Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars ’72 from the Napa Valley, followed by Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion ’70.
The white winner was Chateau Montelina ’73 from Napa besting the French Meaursalt-Charmes ’73.
It was the day that changed the way the world perceived American wines forever.
Did the impossible in humbling the French.
And sent them scurrying overseas to see how we were doing it.
If you’re in Washington D.C, you can see the bottles of the winning wines in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.
After all these years, there's a spate (if two is a spate) of films out on our great victory.
"Bottle Shock," went quickly to DVD, and "Judgment of Paris" is yet to come.
I am holding a glass of California Red Zinfandel at the moment and I don't think anyone would mind a toast in French.
"A votre santé."
After Friday's post, I thought it appropriate.