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Consternation over Paris 1976 recreation

Published:  23 July, 2008

Franois Mauss, founder-president of the Grand Jury Europen - which conducts large-scale blind tastings using an international panel - has criticised the 30th anniversary rematch of the Judgement of Paris' tasting due to take place in London and Napa on 24 May.

In a letter to Harpers, he writes:

I must be seeing things! We all remember the famous 1976 Paris tasting, inspired by Steven Spurrier, where American wines "beat" French wines in a blind comparative tasting. Now some people wish to restage the event. But several problems arise with this attempt to pit against each other for a second time the wines tasted in 1976.

The first problem seems to be the reported opposition of the Bordeaux chteaux involved, and equally of the California properties, which are not keen on a rematch. And it is here that things take a turn for the worse from the point of view of those winelovers for whom such tastings must be conducted on a strictly equal basis.

The wines should not have been solicited from the producers, because their lack of enthusiasm - which one can well understand - has forced the organisers into a major concession: to reveal the geographical origin of the wines! This is a gross breach of the rules governing any fair comparison. For such an event, it would have been wiser to find sponsors to supply the wines, preserving total independence vis--vis the producers themselves.

The second problem is the astonishing repetition of one of the fundamental mistakes made at the original tasting: namely, the comparison of wines from different vintages. This is completely arbitrary, and without any justification whatsoever!

Finally, it seems as if the panel will be largely Anglo-Saxon. Far be it from us to suggest that they are incompetent, but at this stage of Europe's development, and at a time when the greatest wines are tasted all round the world, it would have been both reasonable and seemly to invite representatives from Asia, Germany, Italy, Spain.

In short, when one could have compared on a better basis the fascinating differences between the great wines of Napa and Bordeaux, between New World Chardonnays and the supremely elegant great white Burgundies, one is instead staging a pale copy of an event that, in its day, did make its mark on the wine world, despite its fundamental flaws.

To have advanced no further than that after 30 years represents a huge waste of energy, and reveals a disregard for the rules of fair play.'

The white wines involved were: 1973 Chateau Montelena (US), 1973 Roulot Meursault Charmes (FR), 1974 Chalone Vineyard (US), 1973 Spring Mountain Vineyard (US), 1973 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches (FR), 1972 Freemark Abbey Winery (US), 1973 Ramonet-Prudhon Btard-Montrachet (FR), 1972 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles (FR), 1972 Veedercrest Vineyards (US), 1973 David Bruce Winery (US).

The red wines were: 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (US), 1970 Chteau Mouton-Rothschild (FR), 1970 Chteau Haut-Brion (FR), 1970 Chteau Montrose (FR), 1971 Chteau Loville-Las-Cases (FR), 1971 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (US), 1971 Mayacamas Vineyards (US), 1972 Clos Du Val Winery (US), 1970 Heitz Wine Cellars Martha's Vineyard (US), 1967 Freemark Abbey Winery (US).