Two films of the Decanter consultant editor’s legendary 1976 Paris Tasting – when American wines trounced the French in a blind tasting – are being made. The first, the ‘official’ version, is sanctioned by Spurrier himself, and George Taber, who wrote the definitive version of the events 30 years ago.
The second, being filmed at Chateau Montelena in Napa, and produced by film company IPW, is called Bottle Shock. It stars Alan Rickman as Spurrier, and Danny DeVito as Mike Grgich, one of the seminal figures in California wine history.
Spurrier has written to the producers of this film to say they will receive no cooperation from him or from anyone associated with wine shop Les Caves de la Madeleine and L’Academie du Vin, the businesses he was running at the time of the Paris Tasting.
‘Further,’ he writes, ‘it is our understanding that you intend to include representations of fact about one or more of the Spurrier Parties in the picture, and that some, if not all, of such representations are false, defamatory and disparaging, and place the Spurrier Parties in a false light.’
Spurrier is outraged that he is being portrayed as ‘an impossibly effete snob’. Having read the script he finds the portrayal of his character ‘deeply insulting,’ he said.
Liz Fowler of Clear Pictures Entertainment, the producers of the Judgement of Paris, said the rival film ‘is a gross misrepresentation of both himself and the historical accuracy of the event now known as the Judgement of Paris.’
Spurrier said, ‘There is hardly a word that is true in the script and many, many pure inventions as far as I am concerned.’
Fowler told decanter.com, ‘There are episodes that are completely fictional. Steven Spurrier is portrayed as masterminding the event but there was none of that involved. They fully expected the French to win.’
Spurrier’s letter to IPW warns, ‘Be advised that we will not tolerate any such tortious misrepresentations or invasions of privacy. Any unlawful use of my name or other property will lead to the vigorous pursuit of all available remedies in connection therewith.’
While the script for Bottle Shock is finished, and it is understood filming is underway, the Judgement of Paris script is not yet complete.
Nadine Jolson, a spokeswoman for Bottle Shock, said that the film was about the same historic event, ‘and nobody owns the rights to that.’ She said filming would not stop – and added that their script was written in 2004, two years before Taber’s book about the event was finished.
Jolson also stressed that Bottle Shock was not financed by Chateau Montelena: the only connection with the property was that it was being filmed there, she told decanter.com.