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Steven Spurrier passes away

Published:  09 March, 2021

Steven Spurrier, one of the most widely respected and liked people in the wine trade, has passed away.

Steven, 79, famously gained global recognition in 1976 when he organised the ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting, a blind line up that pitted up-and-coming California stars against top Burgundy, with game-changing results.

Alan Rickman later was to play his character in a film version of the events surrounding the tasting called Bottle Shock (2008).

Steven had many more strings to his bow, though. Entering the wine trade in 1964 with London’s oldest merchant, Christopher & Co, he later moved to France, where he raised French eyebrows with the opening – by an Englishman – of Les Caves de la Madeleine in Paris in 1971.

A smart merchant selling diverse wines, this Right Bank base provided the launchpad for L’Academie du Vin some 18 months later, as the first private wine school in France.

L’Academie du Vin, according to Steven’s own website, had been “breaking Parisian wine rules” by putting on tastings of non-French wines, which later seeded the idea for the ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting.

Steven’s influence and reach steadily grew, selling his wine interests in France and returning to the UK in 1988, where he fashioned a polymath career as a wine writer and consultant, with consultant editor to Decanter and wine consultant to Singapore airlines among his positions. He also founded and became director of The Christie’s Wine Course in 1988 and was chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Continuing his passion for writing and the written word on wine, he also co-founded the Academie du Vin Library with Simon McMurtrie in 2019, dedicated to publishing the best wine writing from both the past and present.

The Acadamie published Steven’s latest edition of his own memoirs in 2020.

Along the way, Steven picked up many prestigious awards, including Le Prix de Champagne Lanson, for wine writing, while being honoured as Le Personalite de l’Annee (Oenology) for services to the French wine world in 1988.

Perhaps his most lasting achievement, though, will be the foundation of his own English sparkling wine estate, Bride Valley, in Dorset, which delivered its first commercial harvest in 2011, with the first release of wines selling out in 2014 and subsequent vintages going on to deliver growing acclaim.

Steven Spurrier will be much missed by his wife Arabella and family, and the many in the trade that crossed paths with this generous and gentle giant of the wine world.