The Judgment of Paris Reimagined: Honors and Pleasures at the Judgment of London

By | 6 June 2024

What insights are to be gained from an event where top-tier New World wines compete with esteemed Old World varietals?

By Anne Krebiehl MW

Anne Krebiehl MW provides coverage from the Judgment of London, a blind tasting modeled after Steven Spurrier’s 1976 famed competition, yet with a more agreeable outcome this time around.

The call to participate as a judge at the Judgment of London, coinciding with the first day of the London Wine Fair on May 20, 2024, was met with eager acceptance by me. The assembly of 21 judges, including prominent merchants, sommeliers, and wine journalists, was filled with a mix of excitement and wonder..

Hannah Tovey, head of the LWF, inaugurated the event by expressing her deep admiration for the historic Judgment of Paris. She honored the memory of Steven Spurrier, the visionary behind the original tasting nearly half a century ago, and his practice of highlighting the individuals behind the wines. Tovey described it as a privilege to organize the tasting in tribute to Spurrier. She detailed how she quickly involved Ronan [Sayburn], the CEO of The Court of Master Sommeliers, and Sarah [Abbott MW, the Managing Director of Swirl Wine Group] to meticulously plan the tasting arrangement and scoring system, enjoying the detailed discussions that ensued.

Subsequently, Sayburn commemorated Spurrier’s seminal event, though he anticipated that this iteration would not yield a definite winner due to the increasingly ambiguous categories of “Old” and “New” World wines, noting a move away from these distinctions within the Master Sommelier community. He shared that the chosen wines, spanning vintages from 2005 to 2020, were selected by producers for their current potential and were purchased from Hedonism, a highly esteemed wine shop in London’s Mayfair, courtesy of Tovey’s credit card.

Following Sayburn, Abbott took the stage emphasizing the UK wine trade’s commitment to diversity in wine, inspired by Spurrier’s own explorative and open-minded spirit, challenging expected norms. She outlined the day’s tasting protocol which involved assessing 32 wines arranged into 16 thematic pairs of European and non-European wines focusing on varietal or texture. Abbott urged participants to focus on the inherent quality of each wine and rate them on a scale from one to ten, without the need for notes or identification, allowing for an honest expression of the wines’ qualities during the evaluation spanning two hours for each wine type.

Sommeliers Ioanna Nerantzi from Greece and Dion Wai from New Zealand meticulously poured the wines from identical decanters as an encompassing hush took over. Immersed fully in the sensory experience of these blind tastings, we savored the moment without the burden of pinpointing origins, focusing instead on discerning subtle differences and similarities between the selections. While some varietals like Riesling pronounced themselves unmistakably, others invited a more introspective evaluation of balance, length, intensity, and complexity. Such engagements were particularly pleasurable with many wines proving exceptionally delightful. The generous timeline enriched our experience, allowing multiple revisits to each wine to note its evolution in the glass before assigning a final score. The vessels used were Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon glasses, renowned for their versatility.

Upon collection of the scorecards, Sayburn unveiled the white wines, unveiling some unexpected revelations. Among the highlights was Jeffrey Grosset’s 2012 Polish Hill Riesling, which earned the sole perfect score from me, making it an unforgettable standout. Felton Road’s 2017 Block 6 Chardonnay impressively overshadowed Jadot’s 2017 Corton-Charlemagne. Other captivating match-ups included the Rieslings from New Zealand’s Pegasus Bay with Austria’s Hirtzberger Singerrriedl from Wachau, presenting an enticing comparative tasting experience.

Lunch discussions revolved around the remarkable wine selection, personal surprises, and speculation about what red wines Abbott and Sayburn had lined up for the afternoon. Reflecting on the event, I noted a shift from 1976, when Odette Khan was the lone woman among nine tasters at a similar event, to our panel now consisting of 11 women and ten men—a demonstrable evolution. The afternoon session shifted to red wines, which presented more challenges for assessment. The 2018 Clos Rougeard, though popular among some, hinted at Brettanomyces which I found off-putting. However, the Pinot Noirs, afforded ample time to breathe, revealed their extraordinary character, particularly the 2017 Dujac Bonnes Mares Grand Cru. A memorable pairing was the 2018 Trinity Hill Homage Syrah with the 2018 J-L Chave L’Hermitage; both showcased distinct attributes yet shared a refined elegance. Additionally, the Barossa’s Torbreck Grenache defied regional stereotypes by delivering subtlety and freshness. In contrast to most, my preference amongst the reds leaned towards the 2009 Léoville-Las-Cases over the 2009 Mouton Rothschild, aligning less with those who favour claret.

When all the scorecards were tallied, the shades of red were disclosed, yet the outcomes were not announced until the following day. They were calculated using the Borda Count method, as explained by Alex Gokulsing, director of Alsto, a data firm. Gokulsing defined it as a “non-dictatorial positional voting method, which ranks the wines in order and uses a preferential voting scheme to aggregate the rankings. The result has less bias than plurality voting, which can give greater weight to judges who diverge widely in their scoring.” Tovey selected this method to “avoid any clustering.” The effectiveness of this method was clear, as the difference between Europe and the rest of the world was just 0.65%.

Following the tasting, I had a conversation with Sarah Abbot to delve deeper into the conceptual foundations of the event. “Our aim,” she remarked, “was to play on the classic theme of major competitions: the question of who will emerge victorious. This is something innate in every human, the allure of competition. We wanted to leverage that interest. Yet, we were also mindful that Steven’s idea was quite revolutionary. We live in a diverse world, and it’s recognized that excellent wines are produced globally, which we aimed to celebrate.”

I wholeheartedly concur. The realm of wine, with its diverse community and superior quality offerings, has reached unprecedented richness; to sample these wines blind in an ideal setting enabled us to appreciate their profound beauty and captivating essence. Experiencing wines this way — without any bias and receptive to every subtle quality — was an extraordinary privilege at this thoughtfully curated and accomplished event.

Top-scoring white

2011 Pegasus Bay Riesling Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand


2012 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia

Top-scoring red

2012 Jean-Louis Chave L’Hermitage Rouge, Rhône, France

Runner up

2009 Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

Top-scoring wine

2011 Pegasus Bay Riesling Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand

European wines 2,621.5 points
Rest of World 2,604.5 points

Overall winner Europe
Difference 0.65%

WHITE WINES (in the pairs and order tasted)


Rest of World 2012 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia

Europe 2008 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste Hune, Alsace, France


Europe 2018 Marchese Antinori Cervaro della Sala, Umbria, Italy

Rest of World 2018 Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers, Sonoma, CA, USA


Europe 2017 Maison Louis Jadot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Burgundy, France

Rest of World 2017 Felton Road Chardonnay Block 6, Central Otago, New Zealand


Rest of World 2020 Au Bon Climat Hildegard, Santa Maria Valley, CA, USA

Europe 2020 Livio Felluga Terre Alte, Friuli, Italy

Sauvignon Blanc

Europe 2017 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France

Rest of World 2014 Peter Michael Winery Sauvignon Blanc L’Après-Midi, Sonoma, CA, USA


Rest of World 2011 Pegasus Bay Riesling Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand

Europe 2019 Franz Hirtzberger Riesling Singerriedel Smaragd, Wachau, Austria


Rest of World 2011 Tahbilk Viognier, Nagambie Lakes, Australia

Europe 2020 Pierre Gonon, St-Joseph Blanc Les Oliviers, Rhône, France


Europe 2014 Quinta dos Roques Encruzado, Dão, Portugal

Rest of World 2019 David & Nadia Chenin Blanc, Skaliekop, Swartland, South Africa

RED WINES (in the pairs and order tasted)

Pinot Noir

Rest of World 2019 Storm Pinot Noir Ridge, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa

Europe 2017 Domaine Dujac Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, Burgundy, France

Pinot Noir

Europe 2019 Weingut Meyer-Näkel, Pfarswingnt Spätburgunder, Ahr Valley, Germany

Rest of World 2019 Hirsch Vineyards, Pinot Noir, San Andreas, Sonoma, CA, USA


Rest of World 2019 Promontary, Napa Valley, CA, USA

Europe 2009 Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

Cabernet Sauvignon

Europe 2009 Château Léoville-Las-Cases, St-Julien, Bordeaux, France

Rest of World 2015 Viñedo Chadwick, Maipo Valley, Chile


Rest of World 2018 Trinity Hill Homage Syrah, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Europe 2012 J-L Chave L’Hermitage Rouge, Rhône, France


Europe 2019 Qvevri Wine Cellar Saperavi Qvevri, Kakheti, Georgia

Rest of World 2015 Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier, Canberra, New South Wales, Australia


Rest of World 2016 Torbreck Hillside Vineyard Grenache, Barossa Valley, Australia

Europe 2019 Clos Magador, Prior, Spain

Cabernet Franc

Europe 2018 Clos Rougeard, Saumur-Champigny, Loire, France

Rest of World 2018 Gran Enemigo, Cabernet Franc, Gualtallary, Argentina

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