Steven Spurrier has unveiled an extraordinary new painting – a huge canvas of the legendary 1976 Judgement of Paris.
The Judgement of Paris, with names added
The painting was commissioned by Sir Peter Michael CBE, owner of the Peter Michael winery in Napa as well as The Vineyard at Stockcross in Berkshire, whose American wine list is 3,000 strong.
Spurrier and Sir Peter unveiled the painting last week at The Vineyard, along with Yohann Jousselin MS, the hotel’s head sommelier.
The painting, measuring six metres by three, is by London artist Gary Myatt. It depicts the moment when the panel Spurrier had gathered in his Paris wine shop, most of whom were eminent French critics, discovered they had ranked Californian wines higher than French – a circumstance unthinkable in the mid-1970s.
The event was so controversial that some of the judges withdrew their ballots; Odette Kahn of the Revue du Vin de France subsequently criticised the tasting.
It has since been made into a Hollywood film, Bottle Shock, starring Alan Rickman as Spurrier, and is the subject of numerous books.
Sir Peter said, ‘This painting is all about a dramatic change of understanding – the establishment of Californian wine as a major player in the wine industry. It comes to the hotel at a time where we prepare to make our own changes, open up our 3,000 strong wine list to launch 100 wines by the glass and re-establish ourselves as a welcoming, yet serious, UK food and wine destination.’
Spurrier recalled the tasting – which was recreated in 2006 for its 30th anniversary, with much the same results – was as shocking for him as it was for the critics.
It was intended, he said, to promote the expansion of wine production in the new world.
‘Through my own love of French wine I never expected such a shock outcome and neither, as the painting so well depicts, did the other judges.
‘It is really quite incredible that the legend lives on to such an extent and here I am in the heart of Berkshire, being transported back to that moment in 70s Paris. Still, the success of Peter Michael Winery is another testament to Californian wine.’
The eleven-strong panel consisted of Pierre Brejoux of the INAO, Claude Dubois-Millot, Michel Dovaz and Patricia Gallagher of the Academie du Vin, Odette Kahn, editor of the Revue du Vin de France, restaurateur Raymond Olivier, Pierre Tari of Chateau Giscours, sommelier Christian Vanneque of Tour d’Argent, Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Jean-Claude Vrinat of the restaurant Taillevant, and George Taber of Time magazine.
In May 2006 at a recreation of the tasting, with the same wines, simultaneously in Napa and London, the Cabernets – Ridge Monte Bello 1971, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973, Mayacamas 71, Heitz 70 and Clos du Val 72 – were voted superior to their rivals in Bordeaux.
The results of the 1976 tasting:
United States – Chateau Montelena 1973
France – Meursault Charmes Roulot 1973
United States – Chalone Vineyard 1974
United States – Spring Mountain Vineyard 1973
France – Beaune Clos des Mouches Joseph Drouhin 1973
United States – Freemark Abbey Winery 1972
France – Batard-Montrachet Ramonet-Prudhon 1973
France – Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles Domaine Leflaive 1972
United States – Veedercrest Vineyards 1972
United States – David Bruce Winery 1973
United States – Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973
France – Château Mouton-Rothschild 1970
France – Château Haut-Brion 1970
France – Château Montrose 1970
France – Château Leoville Las Cases 1971
United States – Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971
United States – Mayacamas Vineyards 1971
United States – Clos Du Val Winery 1972
United States – Heitz Wine Cellars ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ 1970
United States – Freemark Abbey Winery 1967
Written by Adam Lechmere