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The Judgement of Paris – Marlow Edition. French wines vs American wines. And the winner….?

Updated: Oct 9, 2019


In 1976, Stephen Spurrier, a Paris-based British wine merchant selling only French wines, organised a competition where eminent French wine judges blind tasted top-quality Bordeaux and Californian wines to discover which they thought the better. Much to Spurrier's shock and that of the French wine industry as a whole Californian wines were voted the best. A re-run ten years later put the Americans top again.


Francophile member of Marlow Wine Society Becca Miles doesn't believe the matter is truly settled. Working with American member Karen Jansen (who does!) re-ran a version of ‘The Judgement of Paris’ Marlow-style at the society’s September tasting.


Members had the chance to compare quality wines from France and the USA and decide which in their opinion was best.


The format for the evening was a little different to the usual with the bottles of wine masked from identity and presented in four rounds - in each round a similar quality wine from France and the USA both from the same grape.


The Viognier round


1. Wine: Bogle Viognier; Geography: Clarksburg, California; Producer: Bogle Vineyard; Year: 2017; ABV: 14.5%; Price: £16.10; Source: Great Western Wine.

An appetising display of luscious aromas with fresh apricot and pear fruit tang on the palate. A third of this wine is spent fermenting 10 months in oak barrels on the lees. The rest of the blend is fermented in stainless steel tanks.


2. Wine: Domaine de la Janasse Viognier VDP; Geography: Southern Rhone; Producer: Domaine de la Janasse; Year: 2018; ABV: 14%; Price: £16.10; Source: Great Western Wine.

A fresh yet muscular Viognier with delicious weight. Fresh stone-fruit flavours and a lovely honeyed finish.


The vote: Only 5 of the 26 members identified the correct country of the wines. Wine 1 (USA) scored 154 out of 260, Wine 2 (France) scored 146 out of 260. ROUND WINNER: USA.

The Chardonnay round

3. Wine: Préjugés Chardonnay; Geography: Cabardes, Languedoc-Roussillon; Producer: Maison Ventenac; Year: 2017; ABV: 13%; Price: £14.85; Source: Deliciously French.

A light-yellow colour with green hues. The round and fleshy nose is redolent of rhubarb and yellow fruits with a soft, full palate and spicy finish. Good served as an aperitif.


4. Wine: Arroyo Grande Valley Chardonnay; Geography: San Luis Obispo, California; Producer: Talley; Year: 2014; ABV: 13.4%; Price: £27; Source: Vineyard Cellars.

Offers aromas of cantaloupe, yellow apple skin and a hint of toasted breadcrumbs. The palate is juicy and bright. Notes of peaches, nectar, stone fruit pith, wet river rock and lemon curd lead to a refreshing and slightly toasty finish.


The vote: 16 of the 26 members identified the correct country of the wines. Wine 3 (France) scored 139 out of 260, Wine 4 (USA) scored 166 out of 260. ROUND WINNER: USA.

The Pinot Noir round


5. Wine: Les Pourrieres Pinot Noir; Grape; Geography: Bourgogne Protegee; Producer: Rene Bourgeon; Year: 2016; ABV: 13%; Price: £16.85; Source: Deliciously French.

A clear ruby red colour. The nose displays dark cherry, floral and clove. Juicy and tart on the palate with fresh cherry and raspberry sustained by mineral and pepper notes. Fruity and dry finish with grapefruit bitterness.


6. Wine: Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir; Geography: Santa Lucia Highlands, CA; Producer: Talbott; Year: 2014; ABV: 14.5%; Price: £38; Source: Vineyard Cellars.

Pleasant notes of black cherry, vanilla and nutmeg combine with raspberry and plum flavours to produce a smooth, mouth-filling texture with soft round tannins.


The vote: 17 of the 26 members identified the correct country of the wines. Wine 5 (France) scored 111 out of 260, Wine 6 (USA) scored 167 out of 260. ROUND WINNER: USA.


The Syrah round


7. Wine: Columbia Valley Syrah; Geography: Columbia Valley, Washington; Producer: Chateau Ste Michelle; Year: 2016; ABV: 13.5%; Price: £15.68; Source: Great Western Wine.

An inviting velvety texture brimming with red and dark berry flavours. 10 months in oak barrels give a smooth richness to this approachable fruit-forward style.


8. Wine: Alberic Syrah; Geography: Crozes Hermitage, Rhone; Producer: Domaine Gilles Robin; Year: 2017; ABV: 13%; Price: £22.50; Source: Great Western Wine.

Wonderful loganberry aromas on the nose and deeply intense raspberry and black cherry after which exotic spice and freesia scents become apparent. Beautifully fresh and expressive in the mouth, medium-bodied and rounded with present but understated tannin and acidity.


The vote: 16 of the 26 members identified the correct country of the wines. Wine 7 (USA) scored 161 out of 260, Wine 8 (France) scored 189 out of 260. ROUND WINNER: France.


******OVERALL WINNER was USA with a total of 648 votes versus France’s 585*******

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