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The Judgment Of Paris was the tasting that revolutionized the wine world

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Forty years ago today, the crème de la crème of the French wine establishment sat in judgment for a blind tasting that pitted some of the finest wines in France against unknown California bottles. Only one journalist bothered to show up – the outcome was considered a foregone conclusion.

"Obviously, the French wines were going to win," says journalist George Taber, who was then a correspondent for TIME magazine in Paris. He says everyone thought "it's going to be a non-story." Taber did show up — as a favor to the organizers. And he ended up getting the biggest story of his career: To everyone's amazement, the California wines – reds and whites — beat out their French competitors.

"It turned out to be the most important event, because it broke the myth that only in France could you make great wine. It opened the door for this phenomenon today of the globalization of wine," Taber says.

The Judgment of Paris, as that May 24, 1976, wine tasting has come to be known, began as a publicity stunt. Steven Spurrier, an Englishman who owned a wine shop in Paris, wanted to drum up business. So, prompted by Patricia Gallagher, his American associate, Spurrier decided to stage a competition that highlighted the new California wines they'd been hearing so much about.

Spurrier tapped nine of the most respected names in French gastronomy for the job. They included sommeliers from the best French restaurants in Paris, the head of a highly regarded French vineyard, and Odette Kahn, the editor of the influential Revue du vin de France (The French Wine Review.)

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