It was believed that only France had the ideal climate, earth, and grapes to make the perfect wine.

On May 24, 1976, everything changed.

The story goes ….  an Englishman who owned a wine shop in Paris, Steven Spurrier, decided to try something different to drum up business.

He staged a competition that set the new wines that had emerged from California, against French wine.  It was to be a blind tasting by the Who’s Who of Wine experts in Paris, France, the majority of whom were naturally, French.

Everyone assumed it was a slam dunk.

Now known as “The Judgment of Paris”, the judges tallied up their scores and handed in their ballots — the results stunned the wine world.

A bottle of Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and a red wine, Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 1973, both from California, won.

The winning bottle in the white wine category, a 1973 Chardonnay made by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich at Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, California.

Overnight, as California wine was catapulted to world-class status, the wine world, and some of its

reputed experts were thrown into a frenzy.  The California wine won!

Although the California wine was of exceptional standard, there was a reason why the French wine was off form on the day.

In 2008 a Hollywood movie called “Bottle Shock”, telling the story of the 1976 competition, hit theatres.  It was a comedy-drama starring Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, and Bill Pullman.

Watch the interview recorded at the time of the movie’s release with the real father and son team, Jim, and Jo Barrett of Chateau Montelena.

Their winning bottle launched California wine onto the world stage.

What is “Bottle Shock”?

“Bottle Shock” is a term used to describe a temporary condition in a wine where its flavours are muted or disjointed. More anecdotal than scientific, the theory is that the complex elements of wine (phenolics, tannins and compounds) are constantly evolving.  Heat or motion can stress this evolution causing the wine to temporarily go into “shock”. There are two main scenarios when this happens: either right after bottling, or when wines (especially fragile older wines) are shaken in travel. Usually a few days of rest is the cure.

Most wines are fine if you take them from a lying-down position to an upright one. However older, more fragile bottles need special handling. When a wine reaches the 10-year mark or so, there is probably a fair bit of sediment in it. Sediment is a by-product of aging wine. Disturbing the sediment does not necessarily cause the wine to go into bottle shock, but it may be unpleasant to have all that gritty sediment floating around in the wine.

How to Avoid “Bottle Shock”

A simple solution that works most of the time is to stand an older bottle upright for at least a couple of days before opening and decanting it off its sediment. It takes longer for the sediment to settle in older wines.  But if the wine is relatively new, without sediment, you need not worry about it.

Stag’s Leap – A Judgment of Paris Winner

1973 Artemis triumped over Bottle ShockAs we approach the 4th of July to celebrate Stars and Stripes, it is as good a time as any to learn more about Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars has a long and distinguished wine reputation and is considered a Napa Valley first-growth estate, best known for estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignons.

Over the years, these wines have become some of the most highly regarded and collected wines worldwide. They are fashioned to express classic elegance, structure, and age ability, and to reflect the place in which they are grown.

Founded by Warren Winiarski in 1970, the winery’s first release, the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, would go on to beat world-famous reds produced by first-growth Bordeaux châteaux like Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion at the 1976 Judgement of Paris. The winery is co-owned by Chateau St Michelle and Antinori.

ARTEMIS, named after the Greek goddess of the hunt, is a wine that truly reflects its name. It’s the culmination of the hunt for the finest grapes from Napa Valley which, when combined with estate-grown fruit, combine to create a Cabernet Sauvignon that expresses the regional character of Napa Valley with the signature style of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. This approach results in a wine of lush fruit flavours balanced by extraordinary structure and elegance. Whereas the Estate Cabernet Sauvignons showcase the distinctive characteristics of each vineyard, ARTEMIS demonstrates how astute grape selection and skilful blending can create a wine that represents the sum of Napa Valley’s best Cabernet Sauvignon parts.

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