The famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976, in which a line-up of Californian wines substantially dented the French claim to vinous supremacy, vindicated the Americans’ belief that their wines stacked up comfortably against the top French examples. For the wine world, however, the result was hardly uncontroversial. How competent were the judges? (Pretty good: they included the owner of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and the sommelier of the legendary Tour d'Argent restaurant.) How credible was the French selection? (Two First Growths and two Seconds in the cabernet line-up.) What no one seems to have considered was the apples-and-pears nature of what had appeared to be a comparison of like products. The Californian and Bordeaux reds were cabernet-based, the whites chardonnays. It seemed fair to assume that what was being judged was like for like. At one level, this is entirely true: every blind tasting compares like (a class of red wines, a class of pinot noirs, a class of wine...

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