The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History houses, amid its illustrious artifacts, two bottles of wine: a 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. These are the wines that won at the now-famous Paris Tasting in 1976, where a panel of top French wine experts compared some of France's most famous wines with a new generation of California wines. Little did they know the wine industry would be completely transformed as a result, sparking a golden age for viticulture that extends beyond France's hallowed borders to Australia, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and across the globe.
Then Paris correspondent for Time magazine, George M. Taber recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on the three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. At a time when California was best known for cheap jug wine, these pioneers used radical new techniques alongside time-honored winemaking traditions to craft premium American wines that could stand up to France's finest. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks in captivating prose, bringing to life an eclectic cast and magnificent settings. For lovers of wine and anyone who enjoys a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old, this is an illuminating and deeply satisfying tale.
©2005 George M. Taber (P)2011 Tantor
"An intoxicating indulgence for Sideways fans, and an education for would-be wine sophisticates." (Kirkus)
I saw the movie Bottle Shock. This book just reveal how lacking the movie was!
I am a huge fan of the movie Bottle Shock, so I had high expectations for this book. The first half of the book was an excellent set of vignettes and histories that describe the events and people which culminated in the Judgement of Paris. The story of the judgement was also well told and highly interesting. Unfortunately, after this point the book begins to loose its way. It becomes less focused and more of a general discourse on the world of wine. While interesting, the story became a little to loose to keep me interested. So I would say definitely give the book a chance, but don't feel bad if your not riveted by the second half.
Not necessarily -- you can skip ahead in the print version.
I have not.
The Tasting in Paris, of course.
The story of Mike Grgich.
What a strange book. For the first half, it's all about the Great Tasting of 1976. The scene is set. We learn the history of French wines and California wines, all culminating in this singular event. But the event happens just a little after the mid-point. And then...the book turns into a treatise on the Wines of the World. Not uninteresting. But decidedly anti-climactic.
The narrator mispronounced several of the names, to the point of distraction. He pronounced St. Helena, CA as if it were Helena, MT (a town that is mentioned at least 100 times throughout the book). To someone who lives in the wine country, that's anathema. His research needed to be much more thorough, and now I am wondering how many other words he has mispronounced. Gwurztraminer was another one.
Someone who has a better handle on French language pronunciation, and does better research on English pronunciation.
It's a fantastic event in California's wine history and I am grateful Taber took the interest to be there and then to chronicle it with such detail and background.
While much has changed in the 10 years or so since the latest references in the book and 40 years since the actual event in Paris the impact of the Paris tasting on the not only the California wine industry but the ripple effect on the world (including France) makes a fascinating read/listen. The narration is a bit plodding after a while but it's worth the effort to stick through it.
Would recommend this book to all budding vita culture majors in the UC Davis program.
Probably of greatest interest to those interested in The development of the wine industry in the U.S. over the past 70 years, or interested in the global wine business in general. It has large sections that any other listener would likely find very uninteresting at best, and tedious. The narrator did not add to the performance whatsoever. So many chronic mispronunciations. No pausing between sections to signal a new paragraph/topic. Grating. Still I found it interesting and well researched.
Are you are vineyard owner? Wine seller? Wine enthusiast? Wine snob? Francophile with alcoholic tendencies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might possibly find this book interesting. Otherwise, probably not.
I know that this was an epic event in the wine industry and heralded the rise of California wines ... and ultimately, encouraged a flowering of an international wine industry.... but for me, a non-drinker and never much of a wine fancier at any time in my life, this was dull stuff.
The narrator sounded sort of sleepy most of the time, occasionally waking up and actually doing more than droning along. The material isn't thrilling and the narrator doesn't improve it.
So, if you are really interested in this subject, by all means enjoy and have a glass of wine while you are at it. Otherwise, take a pass.
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