The biddies make an encore visit to the Judgement of Paris, which started off as something of a publicity stunt, but turned into a pivotal moment in winemaking history. Tune in to learn about the first wine competition on record (spoiler alert: the King voted for wine from Cyprus) and how many, many years later, the Judgement of Paris bolstered the global market and taste for New World Wine.

In this episode:

  • A Medieval wine tasting
  • How California Cabernet’s stood up to French Bordeaux wines
  • Encore tastings of wine made from Cabernet and Chardonnay grapes

*This is an encore release of Episode 7 – Judgement of Paris! The same content but updated and re-recorded for higher quality sound.*


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NPR, “The Judgement of Paris: The Blind Taste Test that Decanted the Wine World”

Wine Spectator, “And the Winner of the Paris Tasting 2006 Is…”

Jancis Robinson, “That Paris Judgment 40 Years On”

Los Angeles Times, “Tasted 30 years later: They’re alive!”Wine Spectator, “The First Wine Competition?

Study Notes for Judgement of Paris:


  • “Bataille des Vins”—the Battle of the Wines.
    • The poem of that name, written by cleric and poet Henri d’Andeli in 1224, describes what could be called a wine competition, but “battle” really is the more apt term. 
    • Organized by French king Philip Augustus—as His Highness was the only wine critic who mattered—the battle pits some 70 wines against each other, mostly from grapegrowing enclaves around France, but also from the Mosel, Spain and Cyprus.
    • May not be an accurate representation of true middle age wine contests
    • “It seems that from this period into the 15th century, the wines that are given the highest praise are whites, and that reds are viewed either with contempt or suspicion.”
    • Some have speculated that Commandaria, a style called “the wine of kings and the king of wines” by Richard the Lionheart, would have been the Cypriot wine to win Philip’s favor. 


  • Only 10 years into the modern era of Napa Valley
  • Robert Mondavi Winery was really the first wine operation of any size to have broken serious ground and his first wines were made by Warren Winiarski
    • Winarski won the Paris blind tasting with the first crop from his own vineyard at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
  • Turned out to be a very important event because it broke the myth that only in France could great wine be made
  • Helped open up the door for the globalization of wine
  • Started as a publicity stunt to drum up business by Steven Spurrier an Englishman who owned a wine shop in Paris
    • Patricia Gallagher – American associate
  • Stage a competition that highlighted the new California wines that were started to make waves in Europe
  • Spurrier picked out the wine on a trip to California in March 1976
  • Judges were 9 of the most respected names in French gastronomy including French somms, head of a highly regarded French vineyard and Odette Kahn (editor of the French Wine Review)
    • Backlash was immediate
      • One judge demanded his ballot back
      • Spurrier was banned from wine tastings for 12 months
      • French press ignored it saying results were laughable and could not be taken seriously
    • Judges were asked to resign from their positions including the head of the Appellation control authority
    • Spurrier was cold shouldered by the French wine establishment
  • Scores tallied and top honors went to Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Cabernet
    • Two winners were then retailing at 6 a bottle
  • Transformed California but also gave winemakers everywhere a reason to believe that they too could take on the greatest wines in the world

French argued that the French wines refused to shine because they were too young so a rerun of the original tasting happened 10 years later in New York (California won again)


  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973
  • Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971
  • Heitz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard 1970
  • Clos Du Val Winery 1972
  • Mayacamas Vineyards 1971
  • Freemark Abbey Winery 1969
  • Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1970
  • Chateau Montrose 1970
  • Chateau Haut Brion 1970
  • Chateau Lovilla Las Cases 1971
  • Chateau Montelena 1973
  • Chalone Vineyard 1974
  • Freemark Abbey Winery 1972
  • Veedercrest Vineyards 1972
  • David Bruce Winery 1973
  • Meursault Charmes Roulot 1973
  • Beaune Clos des Mouches Joseph Drouhin 1973
  • Batard-Montrachet Ramonet-Prudhon 1973
  • Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles Domaine Leflaive 1972

2006 – The Rejudgement of Paris

  • 30 years later, two judgement of Paris tastings took place – one in London and one in Napa with the same reds, same vintages
  • The 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet (placed 5 originally) from California won with the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cab coming in second
  • All first five places for cabernet were from California
  • One of the original judges sat in each panel
  • Any wine that fell apart – all but one were from Bordeaux

Freemark Abbey Chardonnay 2018

  • 1886 – Josephine Tychson built and operated the original redwood cellar becoming the first female winemaker on record in Napa Valley
  • 1939 – Changed hand a couple times but named Freemark Abbey after Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster, and Albert “Abbey” Ahern who were three socal businessman
  • 1967 – purchased by 7 partners and ushered in their signature style of Chardonnay and Cabernet
  • Only winery to have both a white and red represented in the original judgement
  • Ted Edwards current winemaker
  • 92% barrel fermented in French oak, 47%  is new
  • Creamy, full, butterscotch
  • Came in 6th