Judgement of Paris 1976 French vs Californian wines


I've been reading the excellent book by George M Taber called "Judgement of Paris" - California vs France and the historic 1976 Paris tasting that revolutionised wine. 

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The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 or "The Judgment of Paris" was a wine competition held in Paris on 24 May 1976 organised by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, who owned a wine store in the city. French judges carried out two blind tasting comparisons of the highest quality wines from California and France, one of Chardonnays and another of red wines (Bordeaux wines from France and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California). 

The results were surprising and ground breaking given that a Californian wine won in both the red and white competitions despite a notable French judging panel.

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Winning Red: Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 1973

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Winemaker Warren Winiarski

Winemaker Warren Winiarski

Winning white: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973

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Wine maker Mike Grgich

Wine maker Mike Grgich

The best (and sometimes not great) Wine movies



My all time favourite wine movie from 2004, Starring Paul Giamatti (Miles) and Thomas Haden Church (Jack), put it on your wish list. The film made Merlot a demon and Pinot Noir a star!

Youtube classic clip, the Merlot moment,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiOuroHPxRQ

Miles is a failed writer living a meagre existence in San Diego as an English teacher. With his career seemingly fading and the fate of a book hinging on a publisher's decision, Miles is depressed with himself and what he hasn't achieved. Jack is a television actor whom some recognise but not many do, as if he were a minor actor who got a taste of success. With his best friend Miles, the two embark on a road trip through California's wine country. Miles wants to give his friend a nice sendoff before married life, while Jack simply wants to have a fling beforehand. As they're both nearing middle age with not much to show for it, the two will explore the vineyards while ultimately searching for their identities.

A week before the marriage of his great friend, the decadent actor Jack, the bitter frustrated writer divorced oenologist English teacher Miles Raymond travels with him to the wine country of California to spend a week together. While Miles intends to drink wine and play golf, Jack indeed intends to score and get laid with as many women as possible. While hosted in the Windmill Inn, they meet the waitress Maya and the attendant Stephanie, and they spend some time together, visiting different wine makers and and Miles and Maya disclosing their inner secrets and falling in love for each other.

Miles Raymond, a failed writer and divorcé who teaches junior high school English takes his best friend, former hot actor Jack, on a weeklong drive up to California's wine country. There they explore the nature of their failures and question their relationships. Jack, about to get married, has an affair with a woman and wonders whether he should call off his wedding. Miles questions whether or not he made the right choice while trying to form a relationship with the woman's best friend, a fellow oenophile who is a waitress at a restaurant that he frequents often when visiting that part of the country.

See more at IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375063/

See trailer below:


Somm is a great documentary. It certainly inspired me and made me realise how much I have left to learn about the grape and how obsessive people become to become a Master Sommelier. It is written and directed by Jason Wise.

It follows six fellows who are prepping for the Master Sommelier exam. Less than 200 candidates have passed this test since it began in 1969; it has one of the lowest pass rates of any exam in the world.

To become a Master Sommelier would seem to need a photographic memory with an ability to memorise thousands of Flash Cards, a massively understanding partner since they will come second best for months and the blind-tasting is incredible.

See more at IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2204371/

See trailer below


Director :

Rudolf N. McClain, Released 2008

A documentary celebrating Merlot wine in response to the movie Sideways. The message of Merlove is that no single grape varietal should be singled out as superior or inferior to others. Enjoy as we interweave documentary style filmmaking with the animation of a bottle of Merlot wine named "Merlove" who must find a way to fill itself with love when aimlessly tossed into the ocean of mediocre Merlot wine. We want people to know that Merlot is ready to be loved again by all and remember that every vintage has a new story to tell...


Watch trailer below:


Blood into Wine is a documentary about the Northern Arizona wine industry focusing on Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski and their Caduceus brand wine. Released 2010.

See more at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1394383/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

See Trailer below:


Released November 2004

Mondovino is a dense, rich, and complex documentary on the power struggles and major players of the "wine world" elite. It depicts the endless struggle of the old world versus the new global capitalist order. On one hand we have the older, aging, independent grape-growers and wine makers of Burgundy and Tuscany. They have a philosophy of wine as a symbol of civilization. It's not simply a commodity to them. The production and consumption of wine is a religious experience between man and the earth.

On the other side of the "war" are the major wine-producing conglomerates, such as the Mondavi family of Napa Valley or the producers of Ornelliai wine in Italy. No, these aren't bad people. They simply have a different philosophy on wine production, and they eagerly embrace the new technologies and innovations in wine fermentation, such as the "New Oak" barrels that speed up production. They also hire Michel Rollan, a world-famous "wine consultant," who tells people how they can better the quality of their wine through different production processes. But the smaller, more independent wineries see "wine consultants" as harmful to diversity, because they worry that consultants seek to make all wine the same. Just because one consultant likes or doesn't like a wine, does not mean that every pallet will agree.

Mondovino also shows the dark histories of many of the world's most powerful wine producers. Some of the most successful wine makers in France collaborated with Nazi Germany in World War II, and most of the major wine producers in Italy supported Fascism and Mussolini. There are still racist and elitist undertones in much of the wine world today. Mondovino carefully weaves together the web of land, power, politics, and wine.

This film is a lot a great bottle of wine. It's complex, multifaceted, and can't be rushed. I'm not going to lie -- Mondovino is not a short movie. It's over two hours long. But like a great wine gets better with age, so to does this movie get better as time progresses.

If you've ever wanted to know more about wine and the people who make it, this film is a great resource to learn from. "Wine people" are going to love it. But for the average Joe who just wants a good time at the theater, this probably is not the best selection for him. It's not entertaining as much as it's educational, and if you're not in the mood, you're not going to feel it. Just like how you can't enjoy a savory glass of Pinot Noir if all you want is a beer.

See trailer below:


Directed by David RoachWarwick Ross, Narrated by Russell Crowe, released August 2013

For centuries, Bordeaux has assumed a mythical status in the world of fine wine as a leitmotif of wealth, power and influence, but its prosperity has always been linked to the capricious nature of markets and the shifting fortunes of global economies. Now change is coming to Bordeaux, with traditional customers like the US and the UK falling away, as China's new rich push prices to stratospheric levels. The demand is unprecedented, but the product is finite and this new client wants it all. Will the China market be the bubble that never bursts or the biggest threat yet to Bordeaux's centuries old reputation?

See more at IMDB 


See trailer below:

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Director David Baker Released 2014

There are plenty of obsessions in the world, but few endeavors attract as much devotion as wine. American Wine Story is a documentary about oenological aficionados who have taken their obsessions to the extreme, chasing their dreams with a bottle in one hand and a corkscrew in the other.

After an upstart winemaker’s untimely death, his sister steps in to try to save his fledgling winery for his eight-year-old son: American Wine Story blends this with other tales of risk and reinvention for those who are born again into the wine industry. This feature documentary is about about the transformative power of a humble beverage to fuel passion and reshape lives. Following dozens of winemakers and aficionados from all across the country to learn what drives them, and also trace some American wine history in the process, this is a film that aims to leave all audiences with a dash of inspiration to follow their own American Dreams, or at least pause and consider the story behind the bottle the next time they pull a cork.

See more at IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3273290/

See trailer below

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Director Sarah Knight, released 2013

This comedy takes its title from the Latin proverb, which literally translated: "in wine, the truth," suggests that people reveal their truest feelings under the influence of alcohol.

See more at IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1647413/?ref_=tt_rec_tti

See trailer below


Directed by Ross ClenendenPaul Hawley. Released 2009

"CORKED" ...is a funny tale told by documentary filmmakers of four distinctly different wineries and their intertwined fate in Northern California wine country. A prestigious celebrity wine critic is coming to the area and everyone is trying to make sure their wine ends up on his golden palate. A diverse group of characters inhabits this region, ranging from a fiercely independent "one man show" to an established 'family' winery where the word family is a registered trademark. An eccentric "rich kid" attempts to make his mark in his fathers newly acquired vineyard and "two marketing" executives are determined to tap into new markets with an edgy high-concept label. We follow this group through the toils of harvest, and their quest for recognition leading to the Golden Harvest Gala!

See more at IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1031562/plotsummary?ref_=

See trailer below

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Director Randall Miller, released 2008

The story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris" organised by Steven Spurrier. Spurrier is said to hate the movie because of the way he is portrayed by Alan Rickman. Not great in my opinion.

See more at IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0914797

See trailer below

Great places to drink fine wine and eat great food around the world

United Kingdom

1. The Vineyard, The Vineyard, Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 8JU 

Last visited Winter 2013


Daniel Galmiche, the celebrated French Chef looks after the food but with 30,000 bottles of wine and a super wine list, definitely a place to put on your list. This is five star accommodation in the heart of Berkshire and perfect for the wine lover.


2. Vinoteca, 53-55 Beak St, London W1F 9SH


4 London Branches in Farringdon, Marylebone, Soho, Chiswick. Simple, well made food with reasonable prices plus great ambience/atmosphere. Interesting wine list that doesn't cost the earth. There's a bar plus restaurant. 


3. 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen, 17-19 Maddox Street, London W1S 2QH

Last visited Autumn 2014

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3 locations in London - Maddox Street, Fetter Lane, Marylebone

28º – 50º London was founded by master sommelier Xavier Rousset and top chef Agnar Sverrisson. There are 30 carefully chosen wines, available by the glass, carafe or bottle, as well as a seasonally changing menu on offer.


4. Goodman Steak Restaurants

Last visited July 2015


London locations at Maddox Street, Old Jewry (city), Canary Wharf.

Amazing steaks (best in London I would say) and great wine list with some stand out US, New Zealand wines. Choice of American USDA and British steaks. Can't beat an Antica Terra Pinot Noir from Oregon with a rib steak! This place may be Russian owned...but they know their British meat!


5. Murano, 20 Queen Street, Mayfair London, W1J 5PP

Visited Summer 2013

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Angela Harnett is the executive chef and owner Murano in the heart of Mayfair.
Angela was born in Britain, her passion for good, honest food and the best ingredients was instilled in her by her Italian grandmother and mother. After starting out in the kitchens at Aubergine, Zafferano, L’Oranger and Petrus, Angela became head chef at Petrus within seven short months, helping the restaurant to achieve a Michelin star. She went on to launch Amaryllis in Scotland; Verre in Dubai; Menu and The Grill Room at The Connaught, with Gordon Ramsay.

The food is great here and an extra special wine list with a very good choice of French wine in particular. It has one Michelin star. Premium priced that is for sure, especially as you're dining in Mayfair but worth it.


6. Hakkasan Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street, London, W1J 6QB

Last visited September 2013


Awarded a Michelin star in October 2011 this is premium end Chinese food. With an excellent quality of food, albeit with small portions and big prices. The wine list is strong with many choices to match Asian food.  Great atmosphere downstairs with the lighting and incense burners so ask to be seated below ground in this branch (The Tottenham court restaurant and the original is only below ground). The bar area on the ground floor and basement in the Mayfair restaurant are both excellent.

The group now has many restaurants around the world but for high end Chinese with a Western twist you can't go wrong.


7. Monteiths, 61 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR

Visited Autumn 2013

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A tucked away restaurant just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh this is a hidden gem with fresh local meat, fish of the day and vegetables with a superb, cellar like atmosphere particularly with the candles and lighting. Good wine list too. If you want a traditional experience in the heart of Edinburgh town then this is for you.


United States

1. The Capital Grille 800 Main Street   Fort Worth , TX   76102 

Visited June 2015

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I was lucky enough to visit this top steak house in Fortworth, Texas in June 2015 after a bit of research on Tripadvisor. Not only are you going to get the best steaks Texas has to offer but the ambience, service and importantly the wine list are excellent. The Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River 2012 was a real treat with the steak. I love meat, especially steak and this is a place to put on your list if you're in the area.


2. Wild Ginger, 1401 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101

Visited February 2014

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As a lover of fine Asian food I was attraced to Wild Ginger by reviews on TripAdvisor which said it was  one of Seattle's best Asian restaurants. As well as a convenient location right in downtown Seattle on America's North West coast, it has dishes from  China to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

As well as the very tasty and top quality food won a Wine Spectator Grand Award for its wine list. Wild Ginger has been Zagat's #1 most popular restaurant in Seattle for 14 years running, as well as being listed as one of Zagat's "Best Restaurants in the World." I was certainly impressed and the choice of Oregon and Washington State wines was top notch.



1. Churrascaria Vento Haragano, Avenida Reboucas, 1001, Sao Paolo

Visited July 2015

Churrascaria Vento Haragano meat spit

This is an example of the best Sao Paolo has to offer in terms of barbecue meat, with a great array of different meats, a very strong wine list, great salad buffet and superb atmosphere. It worked out at $15 a head for all you can eat given the weakness of the Brazilian Real. Amazing quality. 

There is a great choice of Argentinian, Chilean wines. The rotating spit by the entrance with the meats is a sight to behold! Real culinary theatre.

2. Fogo de Chao, Santo Amaro 6824 | Santo Amaro, Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Visited July 2015

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Another great Churrascaria (barbecue meat restaurant) in Sao Paolo with the lamb being particularly impressive. The Brazilians and the Argentinians sure know their high quality meats. A very strong wine list again, with some Argentinian gems from the likes of Susana Balbo. Very attentive service, you really feel like you're being looked after and for a European or from the US very good value indeed.