Steven Spurrier’s Legacy: Promoting open-mindness and exploration in the world of wine


Steven Spurrier’s legacy in the wine industry is without parallel - a fact I’m sure no-one would dispute. From mine and my colleagues’ perspectives, the most tangible aspect of his legacy is the wine school - the Académie du Vin, running in different guises in North America and in Japan - teaching according to his principles of tasting quality wine in order to learn, and the Académie du Vin Library, now the premier wine book publisher globally. But in truth, the extent of the consequences of the event, which came to be known as the Judgement of Paris, cannot easily be estimated. The ratification of the quality of wines from California by the top French judges came at the right moment for the Californians, and other quality wine producers from the so-called New World, to capitalise on, and it was a moment for the French to reflect on everything they took for granted. But the most important aspect of Steven’s blind tasting was to make people more open and less blinkered about what they drank and to cast prejudices aside and embrace a wider range of wines.

This was very much the heart of what drove Steven. Curiosity and generosity were central tenets for him and took him to the furthest reaches of the wine world, giving support, advice, and publicity to emerging regions. These were not flash in the pan enthusiasms either - he worked in India for many years and is much revered there. He was still talking about his love of Uruguayan wines in one of the last webinars he gave during Covid. And I have no doubt that he would have loved and worked with the Judgement of London team if he were still with us today.

The Judgement of Paris started as a nice idea to share Californian wines in Paris to show how great they had become, but primarily to mark the American War of Independence which the French had supported (on the American side, obviously!) To be fair to the judges, they didn’t even know they would be tasting French counterparts until they arrived, and Steven had no idea the Californian Wines would sweep the medals. The reds were judged after the scores had been shared for the white wines so the judges had every opportunity to try and give the French reds a head start but even then the Californians triumphed. It’s the perfect case study for why blind tasting wines of a similar quality, made from the same grapes, is such a great way of examining them against their peers.

Judgement of London, with its broader modern framework of comparing wines in pairs that match stylistically, is a wonderful evolution of Steven and Patricia Gallagher’s original event. Taking wines from around the world, not limited to a head to head between two countries, gives exposure to many more brilliant regions and will result in some very interesting comparisons. Whatever the results, it will be a great day for both winemakers and wine drinkers, who will learn just a bit more about the wonderful diversity of this drink we all adore.

See the Judgement of London Results presentation at Centre Stage on Tuesday 21st May at 4:45pm.

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