As of the exact date of the writing this blog (March 9, 2021), Steven Spurrier, the well-known British wine merchant best known for organizing the Judgement of Paris event in 1976--where French wines were pitted against California wines--has died, at the age of 79
Spurrier joined the wine trade in 1964, as a trainee with Christopher and Co, which were London’s oldest wine merchants. He moved to Paris in 1970, and purchased a wine shop, where he encouraged his customers to taste wines before purchasing, which earned him an excellent reputation. In 1973, he expanded on that reputation and started L’Academie du Vin, which was the first private French wine school.
In honor of the 200th anniversary of American freedom, Spurrier organized the Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976. Wines from France and California were blind tasted side-by-side by French wine judges. Shockingly, a California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were scored higher than the French wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux. The tasting was brought to film, with great liberties taken, in the movie "Bottle Shock," where Alan Rickman portrayed Spurrier.
Spurrier returned to England in 1988 after selling his wine interests in France. He became a wine consultant and writer. His writing for Decanter magazine yielded him several awards, including the Le Prix de Champagne Lanson and Bunch Prize. His biography, Steven Spurrier: A Life in Wine, was published last year, in 2020.
In 2008, Steven and his wife Bella went to a famous vine nursery in Burgundy and selected Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier to plant on their property in England to make sparkling wine. In 2011, the vines produced their first crop and the wine was released in 2014 and sold out immediately. The vineyard, Bride Valley, has nearly 25 acres of vines in Dorset.
"Somm 3," the third movie in the SOMM documentary series, included a very special tasting with Steven Spurrier, Fred Dame, and Jancis Robinson, all wine nobility, of the wines that impacted their lives and careers.
Besides his writing and consulting, Spurrier was also known for lectures, wine tastings, and wine judging.
He was the keynote speaker at the first Virginia Wine Summit in 2012, where he wowed the crowd with this speech about Virginia wine. He had been in a judge in the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition many times and was a true friend and fan of Virginia wine.
On a personal note, I (Kathy Wiedeman, City Vino’s own weekly blog writer) was able to meet Mr. Spurrier a number of times over the last few years, when he was in or around Washington, DC, usually around the time of year of the Governor’s Cup judging. I have fond memories of a couple of tastings, including a spectacular one featuring different styles of Sherry that was held at Capital Wine School, in Chevy Chase, the Wine Summit, a wine dinner at Stone Tower Winery, and another dinner at Veritas. I feel that my life was enriched by having met a man that leaves such a remarkable impact on the wine industry that I love so much.
Raise a glass to Steven!