The Judgement of Paris: Where it all began
Our story begins in 1970s Paris with Steven Spurrier - an English wine merchant who had made a name for himself running courses for British and American expats.
What had started as informal after-hours gatherings of regular customers blossomed into a fully fledged wine school helping confused anglophones navigate the world of French wine. In those days, fine wine meant only one thing; and that was France.
In the spring of 1976, Spurrier decided to organise a tasting. And although he did not know it at the time, this tasting would prove to be a pivotal moment - not only for his own career, but for the world of wine as a whole.
He selected some of the best wines on offer from Bordeaux and Burgundy, and pitted them, blind, against bottles from a little known American wine region called the Napa Valley.
Red wines were drawn from the best of Bordeaux, and included the first growth Chateaux Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion - both household names whose wines fetch eye-watering sums. They were tasted against Californian Cabernets, some of which are now almost as famous as their French counterparts - including Ridge, Stag's Leap and Heitz Wine Cellars. Whites from Burgundy's Domaine Leflaive, amongst others, were tasted against Chardonnay from California.
The judging panel was composed of eleven dignitaries from the world of wine - all of them French - who assigned each wine a score out of twenty. When the totals came back, it became clear that the unthinkable had happened. The French had been beaten in each category.
The tasting was reported by the only journalist to attend (the others to be invited had roundly refused), George Taber of Time Magazine. It was unceremoniously ignored by the French press!