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Spurrier defends '76 Paris tasting celebration'

Published:  18 January, 2007

I am astounded that you published the letter from Franois Mauss regarding the 30th anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting (Harpers 12 May) without bothering to contact the person who organised the tasting in 1976, and who is organising the tasting in 2006.

I am also surprised that my friend Franois Mauss did not bother to contact me before he wrote the letter, for had he done so, he would not have got his facts so wrong.

Here is the true story. The tastings in London and Napa will follow a strict and synchronized schedule.

Act One: A re-enactment of the 1976 tasting with the original red wines, all wines taken from winery stocks for the California wines and from impeccable sources for the Bordeaux wines.

Act Two: A tasting of six Premiers or Grand Crus white Burgundies (numbered 1-6), followed by a tasting of six white California Chardonnays, numbered 7-12, from vintages 2002/03.

Act Three: A tasting of three Premiers and three Second Crus Classes Bordeaux (numbered 1-6), followed by a tasting of six California Cabernets, numbered 7-12, from vintages 2000/01.

Act Four: A lunch/dinner, during which fine French/California wines will be served and the results will be announced.

I would remind Franois Mauss that Act One is simply a re-enactment of an historic tasting, with one member of the original tasting in the nine-person (the same as in Paris) panel in both London and Napa.

Whether or not it was a fundamental mistake to compare wines from different vintages', that is what happened in May 1976, with the results that we all know, and that is what will happen on 24 May 2006.

As for the reported opposition of the Bordeaux proprietors, this opposition was simply that they did not wish their wines to be placed in a blind tasting with wines from California.

Neither did the California producers. And neither did I, as the organiser of the tastings.

But what seems to have escaped Franois Mauss and many of the other ill-informed commentators on this event, is that the tasting of the younger vintages is planned as a celebration not a competition.

As to the largely Anglo-Saxon' make-up of the panels in London and Napa, both Michel Dovaz and Michel Bettane will be on the nine-person panel in London.

Steven Spurrier

Wine consultant

[Harpers' Neil Beckett will be attending the London tasting and will give a full report in a forthcoming issue.]