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Wine world legend Steven Spurrier, 1941-2021

Steven Spurrier, a leading light of the wine world for many decades and who famously organised the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting, has died.

Many tributes are being paid to Steven Spurrier, who passed away on 9 March at his home, the Bride Valley English wine estate, surrounded by his family.

The Académie du Vin Library, which Spurrier cofounded, announced the news.

It said in a short tribute, ‘He will always be remembered for founding the Académie du Vin, the celebrated Judgement of Paris and in recent years, the Académie du Vin Library and, together with his wife Bella, the Bride Valley Vineyard in Dorset, England – as well as much else besides.

‘He was also a hugely loved husband, father and grandfather. He will be sorely missed, not just by his immediate family and friends, but by people right across the world of wine.’

Spurrier’s contribution to the wine world has been vast, yet he will forever be associated with the famous Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976.

California wines bested top bottlings from France and the result spread quickly across the world’s media in the pre-internet age.

Steven spurrier at his Paris wine shop

Steven Spurrier at his Les Caves de la Madeleine wine shop in Paris. Credit: Bella Spurrier

As a passionate wine communicator, Spurrier also made an invaluable contribution to Decanter as a consultant editor, writer and critic. He wrote more than 300 columns for the magazine.

He also helped to found the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2004, and he was awards chairman for more than 10 years.

Many in the wine trade paid tribute on social media to a leading wine expert who was unfailingly generous with his time.

Wine writer Charles Metcalfe said on Twitter, ‘Sad to hear of the death of Steven Spurrier. He was modest, despite amazing achievements, charming, and a quiet authority on wine. The wine world has lost a true gentleman.’

Greg Sherwood MW described Spurrier as a ‘true gentleman and wine legend’. He added, ‘A very influential figure in my own personal wine journey. He will be greatly missed.’

Elizabeth Gabay MW said, ‘Can’t believe the news of the eternally young Steven Spurrier’s death. I met him in 1987 when he encouraged me to go into wine, and has been so supportive throughout the years.’

In his 2018 memoir, ‘Wine – A Way of Life’ (reissued in 2020 as ‘A Life in Wine‘), Spurrier wrote about how a Cockburn’s 1908 Port sparked a fascination that would last a lifetime.

Having joined the wine merchant business in 1960s London, he subsequently moved to France and would go on to found L’Académie du Vin in Paris in the early 1970s. This venue would play a leading role in the Judgement tasting.

In a 2018 Decanter column citing his memoir, Spurrier said, ‘I am still totally in love with it all. I have been very fortunate indeed, for wine has brought me more than I ever could have imagined.’

Steven Spurrier at Decanter

Sarah Kemp, who spent 31 years at Decanter, including as publishing director from 1996 and also later as managing director, said, ‘If Decanter has gained a reputation across the globe it is undoubtably down to the extraordinary contribution of Steven Spurrier.

‘I bumped into Steven in the early 1990s at a Wine and Spirit Benevolent Ball and asked how his new job at Harrods was going. He replied with his usual candour, “I’ve been fired”. I replied, “Great, you can come and work with us”.

‘That is how Steven became consultant editor, lead wine taster, regular columnist, ambassador and my muse and mentor.

‘The mixture of his profound knowledge and understanding of the classics and his openness in accepting that great wine could be made outside the traditional regions influenced Decanter’s editorial policy and resulted in articles reflecting the exciting developments the world over.

‘He was at the heart of Decanter, and was respected and loved by his colleagues he worked with, who are left with the most marvellous and happy memories of the Spurrier era.’

A full appreciation of Steven Spurrier’s life and work will be published in the next issue of Decanter, and on Decanter.com shortly.

More articles on Steven Spurrier

Steven Spurrier: My top ten Bordeaux wines of all time

Steven Spurrier’s farewell Decanter column: Not ‘goodbye’ just ‘au revoir’

Steven Spurrier: Wine – A Way of Life 

Steven Spurrier gets Decanter hall of fame award

Steven Spurrier’s top wine memories

Judgement of Paris wines enter US hall of fame

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