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News - 17.05.11

"If we celebrate the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 today, I would choose Argentinian Wine"

Interview with Steven Spurrier, the man who organized Paris Wine Tasting of 1976

If we asked those who work in the wine industry what the event that changed the scenario of the industry was, they would not hesitate to choose the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976. It was a historic moment in which Californian wines defeated French wines for the first time. The person who organized this event was Steven Spurrier, a 70-year-old man from Britain. He arrived in Seoul on the 4th of this month to attend the inauguration of the wine school Academia du Vin, and is currently working as a critic for the British wine magazine Decanter and other media. We had an exclusive interview with him.

I can’t help but ask you about the Paris Wine Tasting first.

The main objective at that time was to announce that Californian wines had reached a certain level. But as everyone knows, the results were incredible. I had no idea that they were going to turn out that way. Thanks to that historical event, I became famous, and I’ll be remembered forever.

Why didn’t you include in the wine tasting American brands that were already well-known like Mondavi?

I wanted to reveal wines from small producers that had put in much more effort than large-scale producers.

Why was it a “blind” wine tasting?

It was a time when no one even knew where Napa, the main wine producing region from California, was. The only judge who had tasted wines from the US was Aubert de Villaine. I was worried that if they knew the wine was American, they would be prejudiced and give it a lower rating. That’s why I covered up the labels.

If you were holding a Paris Wine Tasting today, wines from what places would you include in it?

Wines from South America. It’s currently the most interesting place. Within South America, Argentine wines. They still don’t surpass Chilean wines, but their quality is impressive. The passion of its producers is surprising as well.

What type of wine would best pair with Korean food, which is spicy and made primarily with vegetables?

If the food is spicy with a strong flavor, the wine should also match the strong flavor of the food. Strong wines like Rhone and Languedoc from France, and Toscana and Sicilia from Italy would go very well. But delicate wines like the Loire Valley wines from France would not pair very well.

What is the secret to enjoying wine?

You just need to concentrate on the wine you’re drinking. There is no one who possesses an absolute sense of taste or smell. All of us humans are given the same sense of taste and smell. The difference lies in how much we concentrate on wine as we drink it, and in doing so, how deeply and fully we develop our memory bank of wines.

It’s said that the wine critic Robert Parker has a nose that’s worth millions and that he has it insured.

Likewise, that doesn’t mean that he has an extraordinary sense of taste or smell. He just has an exceptional memory for wines.

How can an average consumer who doesn’t have a memory bank of wines, or perhaps not a good one, choose a good wine?

It’s simple. Find a wine merchant with a good reputation. If you keep a good relationship with a seller whose tastes are similar to yours, you can get good recommendations, and then if you concentrate on the wine while you drink it, you will be able to develop your own sense of discernment in wines.

Are expensive wines the best?

That statement is not incorrect. Normally the best wines are expensive, but it’s a different issue to determine if a wine is good in relation to its price.

What do you consider to be a good wine?

A wine that balances the fruity flavor (an expression that refers to wine that has abundant flavor and aroma) and the pH (acidity). The fruity flavor and the acidity make up the yin and yang of wine, that is, they are its essential components. If personality is added to that, we have a better quality wine. It means that it has an originality that differentiates it from other wines. A white wine produced from the same Sauvignon Blanc variety can either have the distinctive characteristics of New Zealand wines or the personality of the French Sancerre wine which expresses better the land where the grape was grown. The more personality a wine has, the better it will be, but at the same time, it will be more difficult to obtain it.

The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 changed the scenario of the world wine market.

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