Exposing wine connoisseurs
With the fact that wine snobs are the worst of all snobs, I think everyone will agree, except the wine snobs themselves. This is not because almost all the studies that have ever been done in the field of wine tasting show that it is easy to convince even the best sommeliers to laugh that the $ 5 white wine is the best red wine ever were made. And not because if the wine, for whose glass they are happy to donate their firstborn, is poured into bottles of cheap wine, then all sommeliers will unanimously say that this wine tastes like horse urine. No, the fact that most wine myths (and how we perceive tastes and smells) are related to human psychology is not a big problem for us: after all, people are people, and if they like what everyone likes, This is not unusual. How can we condemn them for this?
No, the real problem is those cries with which a part of the wine connoisseurs community rushes to condemn those who doubt their opinion, while making all other wine connoisseurs feel their own incompetence.The snobs of this level are too rich, and some of them spent thousands of hours of their precious time trying to become experts in grape juice - the same one that your 2-year-old child drinks three dollars for four liters ... This is the very community who can spend hours talking about her gorgeous collection of fleecy socks. (Which, to be fair, are fabulously comfortable - I'm just sure of that.)
Perhaps nothing shows it better than the story of the so-called "Court of Paris" - an event that forever changed the world of wine (for the better). Among other, more productive results, this event showed that some of those claiming to be the finest connoisseurs of French wines have an absolutely hysterical character. During the blind tasting, many of them not only confused American wine with French wine (presumably at a much higher level), but also preferred American wine.
The story of the "Court of Paris" can be traced to the well-known promoter of French wines and the owner of a wine shop in Paris, Stephen Sperrier.Sperrier organized this event, hoping to emphasize that the quality of the wine coming from California at that time was not as bad as its reputation claimed. He also hoped that the competition would give him the opportunity to expand his own business associated with his Paris wine shop, as the event will highlight many French wines that can be bought from him. Naturally, he, like many others in this world, believed that French wines would easily win the competition.
In organizing the event, Sperrier explored the wines he considered the best made in California and set them against their closest French equivalent.
As judges, Sperrier invited several of the best wine experts from France, including Odette Kahn, the then editor of French Wine Review, as well as several professional sommeliers (the elite tasters) who are French winemakers.
In general, Sperrier was able to assemble a team of true connoisseurs, consisting of nine of the best tasters. To round the figure, Sperrier also took part in the judging, as did the American wine connoisseur Patricia Gallagher.
Realizing that if French wines win in all categories, he will inevitably be accused of bias, Sperrier decided to hold a tasting "blindly" and asked his fellow judges just to rate each wine on the merits, and not on any particular scale. And that was what the judges failed to do.
Despite the fact that Sperrier tried to highlight the competition as widely as possible and sent out a mass of invitations to most of all major media outlets, they found this topic uninteresting, said only one TIME journalist journalist George M. Taber. Subsequently, Taber stated that he simply decided to provide service to Sperrier. He, like everyone, was sure of the unconditional victory of French wines and thought that with the same success it was possible to write an article on the theme “water is wet”.
Taber (who, unlike the judges, knew which wines are in which wine glasses) soon changed his mind - after seeing that the French restaurateur and chef Raymond Oliver muttered “Oh, I returned to France,” trying the chardonnay from the California Napa Valley.
As Taber told later in an interview at National Public Radio, he thought: “Hey, but it’s possible that I can find material for the story here.”And the guy wrote a story - with a sequel, which he himself called "the most significant newspaper report ever written about wine."
Because almost every judge rated at least one American wine higher than his French counterpart. Several experts, including Kahn, who later refused to use his words, found American wine (both red and white) best overall. In fact, American wines as a group completely dominated this event, in the style of the 1992 Olympic basketball team.
Today it may seem confusing, but it is important to understand the context. Again, at this point in history, many wine experts tended to believe that French wine greatly surpasses all other wines of the world for a variety of reasons, including such things as soil, weather, and secret methods that have been inherited only by French winemakers for centuries. etc.
Later, Taber commented on the results: “This turned out to be the most important event, because it destroyed the myth that the greatest wines can be produced only in France. This has opened the doors to the globalization of wine production. ”
Wine expert David White later said: “The 1976 competition completely changed the game. The results gave winemakers all over the world a reason to believe that they, too, can produce the world's greatest wines. ”
Shortly after this event, quite unexpectedly, many new wine vineyards appeared around the world. In addition, according to the founder of the award-winning wine brand Stag's Leap Warren Vinarski, winemakers also began to more openly share information about their methods with other people working in this field. All this suggested that, thanks to the preservation of various traditions and classical ways of doing business, French winemakers were far behind the times, while the new owners of vineyards did not hesitate to use improved methods and technologies. Thus, according to Vinarski, thanks to this event “the wines in the world have improved, and the wines in France have improved”.
Returning to the "Court of Paris." Hearing the results, the enraged Odette Kan tried to withdraw her assessment, not wanting anyone to find out about her decision. She feared that this would greatly spoil her reputation in the world of wine.
When her efforts failed, she resorted to slandering Sperrier and said that he had falsified the competition, setting French wines against French wines. Recall that she blamed the man, who himself was selling French wines at that time and defended their priority all her life.
Thanks to Kahn, and with the support of others, Sperrier was temporarily ostracized by the French wine-growing community, which for a year prevented him from filling the shelves of his shop and participating in the prestigious French tasting tour. And even at the end of this year, he still sometimes had problems with acquiring some wines - for example, he was refused to sell wine from the Domaine Ramonet-Prudhon vineyard, when a year later he went there for purchases.
(However, not everything was lost for Sperrier, he later received many awards from the winemaking community, including, ironically, for contributing to the development of French wine production.)
But before that happened, the French media actually buried the story of the Court of Paris. Among the meager references to the competition in the French newspapers of that time, there were even doubts about whether there was any competition at all.Those who admitted conducting it wrote that the experiment was just "an example of the stupidity that can occur with blind tasting." In fairness, this is the right moment, and although accurate results can vary from test to test, French wines are no longer a standard.
However, 30 years later, Sperrier organized another blind tasting, very similar to the first, to see if the result would change. However, this time the tasting led to the fact that American wines received the highest awards. Nevertheless, it seemed that no one was much surprised or upset. It turns out that good wine can be made in various regions of the world, and not only on French soil.