I knew that the story of the Zodiac, the serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960s, would make the silver screen. But the Paris Tasting of 1976? No way.
While the Zodiac is the chilling story of a cold-blooded psychopath, the Paris Tasting of 1976 was a well-orchestrated publicity stunt, organized to promote California wine in Europe. Now the story of how California Cabernets and Chardonnays trumped their French counterparts—Bordeaux and Burgundy—is being made into not one but two films.
Director Randall Miller's Bottle Shock will be released later this year. But it's the second movie, The Judgment of Paris, based on George Taber’s book from 2005, that really caught my attention. Robert Mark Kamen, who has written several major films, including Taps, A Walk in the Clouds and The Karate Kid, is writing the screenplay. Kamen is also a California vintner, so in the words of the PR machine promoting this new film, “he brings a unique perspective to this true-life story.”
“The entire history of American wine,” says Kamen, “can be defined as ‘before the Paris Tasting and after the Paris Tasting.’” Before the Paris Tasting,” he continues, “any discussion of fine wine began and ended with France. After the tasting, the world woke up to the fact that fine wine could be grown in places other than the historic vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy.”
“The world of wine was never the same again, and better for it,” Kamen concludes.
Not so fast. Those who believe that no one respected wines from beyond Bordeaux or Burgundy until this event—or that this tasting launched California wine—have a shallow appreciation for wine and history.
While it’s true that the story of the winning wines and their winemakers makes for good reading, with or without the tasting, California was well on its way to becoming one of the world’s greatest winegrowing regions. So I’m weary of hearing about how this event catapulted California wine into international fame and how it gave French vintners the proverbial wake-up call.
Anyone who’s ever been in a blind tasting with a dozen wines knows how unpredictable the results can be, and more importantly, how easy it is to overstate the significance. This was certainly true with the Paris Tasting, which was staged by a British wine retailer in Paris in 1976, the year of the American bicentennial. And the results, while perhaps startling at the time, were seriously overblown. I’m afraid this movie will further distort the results, rather than hone in on it being a cleverly staged PR event.
Moreover, I hope this film doesn’t end up being a sappy, chauvinistic or zealous promotion for California wines.
I have this gut feeling that if what the backers of Judgment of Paris are suggesting, it may well end up being a Sideways distortion, with the heroes being from California and the losers, wearing black hats, from France, betrayed if you will by their own French judges who called it the way they saw it.
On that day, with those wines, the California wines were superior.
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — April 10, 2007 8:19pm ET
Roy Piper — Napa, CA. — April 10, 2007 8:57pm ET
Ready Family Wines — Healdsburg, Ca — April 10, 2007 10:44pm ET
Jim Gallagher — Jim Gallagher — April 11, 2007 12:24am ET
James Suckling — — April 11, 2007 5:23am ET
Merlin — Zurich, Switzerland — April 11, 2007 8:54am ET
Peter Czyryca — April 11, 2007 9:57am ET
Joshua Masur — Redwood City, CA — April 11, 2007 3:28pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — April 11, 2007 4:36pm ET
Frank L Hugus — Danville, California — April 11, 2007 10:12pm ET
James Suckling — — April 12, 2007 2:43am ET
Tim — Napa, CA — April 12, 2007 2:51am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — April 12, 2007 8:23pm ET
Robert Kamen — Sonoma Calif — April 14, 2007 12:05am ET
E. Grey — Los Angeles, CA — April 14, 2007 3:06am ET
Jim May — Los Angeles — April 14, 2007 3:48am ET
Robert Kamen — Sonoma Calif — April 14, 2007 8:10am ET
Jim May — Los Angeles — April 14, 2007 2:23pm ET
Robert Kamen — Sonoma Calif — April 14, 2007 5:31pm ET
Frank L Hugus — Danville, California — April 16, 2007 12:49pm ET
Patricia Gastaud-gallagh — Paris, France — April 16, 2007 12:56pm ET
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