In 1976, California earned its spot in the world of wine with a blind tasting. The Judgement of Paris may be one of the most famous wine events in this century. California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were pitted against their French counterparts. As the fairy tale goes, a California wine came out on top of each category, an infuriating realization for the French judges, some of whom demanded to revoke their score cards from the record. If you are looking for a good romanticized version of the events, the movie Bottle Shock depicts the story from a Hollywood perspective. In my opinion, the real version is more interesting.
It’s been 36 years since the Judgement of Paris (Or, as I like to call it, the “Humbling of France”), and the impact it had then still rings true to this day. However in the spirit of this glorious free country, the industry has been shaken up again, and this time, it is by none other than the bustling little state that I like to call home; New Jersey.
“The Judgement of Princeton” was another blind tasting held at Princeton University on June 8th of this year. The entire project was brought to life by George Taber of TIME magazine, who not only wrote a book on the Judgement of Paris, but was also present during the original tasting back in 1976. Several other prestigious members of the American Association of Wine Economists were also involved in spearheading the tasting, putting the results of the tasting at much higher stakes.
We ended up sending a bottle of Chardonnay Reserve and our Bordeaux style blend, Lumiere. Jim had asked me how many bottles of the reserve Chardonnay we had in the cellar, I reported we had only managed to save 7 bottles (I should have pulled it off our shelf sooner, but it was it was so tasty! I have a hard time saying no to customers.) He actually weighed out taking one to the competition at all. In the end we decided it was worth it, which turns out to have been a very good idea since the Chardonnay tied for 6th place in the white category with a French wine, that was decorated with a $175 price tag around its bottle neck.
The Judgement of Princeton was fashioned after the Judgement of Paris with nine judges; 5 from the States, 3 from France and one from Belgium. The flights were arranged in sets of ten, six of the wines in each flight being from New Jersey. The French wines were sourced almost exclusively from the same estates that the wines in the Judgement of Paris derived from. In my opinion, this kind of stylized throwback to the past events added a nice flair to the tasting.
The controversy over the scoring for the Judgement of Paris was cured by having wine economist Richard E. Quandt on hand. Quandt analyzed the scores for the Judgement of Paris with a software he developed that measures algorithms to essentially even out the scores, making a pattern for each judge. This pattern is then tested for extreme statistical variances. (How do you like my economist sounding jargon? I’ve been perfecting it for this blog for a week now.)
The results were released later that day at the American Association of Wine Economists annual meeting in front of the media. Due to the technical complications of Quandt’s custom made floppy disk wine scoring system, rumor has it that one of the other event organizers had to write the results on an enormous chalkboard, as the crowd quietly groaned at his poor hand writing.
The final tally ranked one wine above all the rest and one below all the others. However the rest of the wines statistically were in the same ranking. It was brought to the media’s attention that if the tasting had happened again on another day, the rest of the wines would essentially be put in a grab bag and put out at random. There is no “statistically significant difference” between them as measured by Quandt’s software. This bodes extremely well for New Jersey wines as a whole, not only in flavor, but also in price. The Jersey wines were anywhere from a third to a twentieth of the price of the French wines.
Our other ranking besides the Chardonnay was our Lumiere that took 7th place in the red category. Between our scores and winning Winery of the Year we are all a little giddy over here in the tasting room, and I feel so honored and privileged to work in a place with such supporting and loyal customers, who back us when we try new things.
A congratulations and shout out to our friends at Almathea, Tomasello, Silver Decoy , Unionville, Hertiage, 4 JG’s and Ventimiglia for being allies in this ground breaking historical time in New Jersey wine history.
Here’s to another extraordinary vintage of Jersey wine!
For more information about the tasting, check out this news report on youtube!