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Steven Spurrier: A Legacy Uncorked – From Wine Lover to Global Icon

Steven Spurrier

The world of wine has witnessed many luminaries, but few have made as lasting an impact as Steven Spurrier. Born on October 5, 1941, in Cambridge, England, Spurrier’s journey from a young wine enthusiast to a revered wine expert and merchant is a testament to passion and determination[1]. This blog post takes us through the life, career, and remarkable contributions of Steven Spurrier.

The journey to the wine world

Early Fascination with Wine

Spurrier’s relationship with wine began at a remarkably young age. At just 13, he tasted a 1908 Cockburn’s Port that would ignite his lifelong passion. This early experience laid the foundation for his future endeavors in the world of wine.

A Wine Career Begins

In 1964, Steven Spurrier officially entered the wine trade as a trainee with London’s venerable wine merchant, Christopher and Co. It was here that he honed his expertise and developed a deep appreciation for wine. But Spurrier’s journey was destined for even greater heights.

The Rise of L’Academie du Vin

In 1970, Spurrier relocated to Paris, where he made a pivotal decision that would shape his legacy. He acquired a small wine store in the heart of Paris, in the Cité Berryer. This store, known as Les Caves de la Madeleine, would soon become a celebrated haven for wine enthusiasts[2]. Here, customers were encouraged to taste wines before purchasing them—a novel concept at the time. This establishment gained recognition as a highly regarded specialist wine shop.

academie-du-vin-library-launches
L'Academie du Vin | source

Did you know?

Spurrier and his American colleague Gallagher were responsible of organizing the original tasting-turned-competition at his Parisian wineshop. The competition would become the famous Judgment of Paris.

In 1973, Spurrier, alongside partners Jon Winroth and Patricia Gallgher, established L’Academie du Vin, France’s first private wine school. This institution played a pivotal role in the education of budding wine connoisseurs, including French wine writer Michel Bettane and Charles F. Shaw, famously known as the namesake of “Two Buck Chuck.”

The “Judgment of Paris”

Arguably, Spurrier’s most iconic achievement was organizing the “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976[3]. This blind tasting event pitted California wines against renowned French counterparts[4]. To the astonishment of the wine world, California’s Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon surpassed some of Burgundy and Bordeaux’s most prestigious wines. This historic event forever altered the perception of California wine and ignited the expansion of wine production in the New World.

Return to the UK and Influence

In 1988, Spurrier sold his wine interests in France and returned to the UK. Here, he continued to influence the wine world as a consultant and journalist. He founded The Christie’s Wine Course in 1982 in collaboration with Christie’s Education, further disseminating his profound knowledge of wine. Additionally, Spurrier served as a wine consultant to Singapore Airlines and consultant editor to Decanter magazine.

Honors and Awards

Steven Spurrier’s contributions to wine writing earned him numerous prestigious awards. He received accolades such as Le Prix de Champagne Lanson and the Bunch Prize for articles published in Decanter. In 2001, he was honored with Le Grand Prix de l’Academie Internationale du Vin and The Maestro Award in honor of Andre Tchelistcheff. His services to French wine were recognized in 1988 when he was named Le Personalite de l’Annee (Oenology). Spurrier also chaired prominent wine competitions, including the Japan Wine Challenge and the Decanter World Wine Awards[5].

Portrayed on Screen and in Documentary

Steven Spurrier’s life made its way to the silver screen when actor Alan Rickman portrayed him in the 2008 film “Bottle Shock.” During the film’s production, Spurrier voiced concerns about potential misrepresentations, as the script took liberties with reality. Despite this, his legacy remained intact.

Additionally, a documentary by Jason Wise chronicling the 1976 tasting was planned for release in the summer of 2022, ensuring that Spurrier’s pivotal role in the wine world would continue to be celebrated.

A Remarkable Personal Life

Behind his wine exploits, Spurrier shared his life with Bella Lawson, whom he married in 1968. Together, they had two children, Christian and Kate, creating a loving family alongside his remarkable career.

A Legacy That Lives On

Tragically, Steven Spurrier passed away on March 9, 2021, at his home in the Bride Valley English Wine Estate, in Litton Cheney, Dorset. He left behind a legacy that continues to shape the world of wine, inspire enthusiasts, and celebrate the art of winemaking. His story serves as a testament to the transformative power of passion and dedication in the world of wine.

Links to wineries represented by Steven Spurrier

Read More:

References:

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/16/dining/steven-spurrier-dead.html

[2] https://blog.lescaves.co.uk/2021/03/11/a-tribute-to-steven-spurrier/#:~:text=The%20story%20is%20that%20he,Les%20Caves%20de%20la%20Madeleine.

[3] https://library.ucdavis.edu/news/remembering-steven-spurrier-and-the-1976-judgment-of-paris-tasting/#:~:text=The%20sender%20was%20Steven%20Spurrier,his%20American%20colleague%20Patricia%20Gallagher.

[4]
Jullianne Ballou, “Remembering Steven Spurrier and the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting,” (March 17, 2021), https://library.ucdavis.edu/news/remembering-steven-spurrier-and-the-1976-judgment-of-paris-tasting/
[5]
Decanter Staff, “Decanter World Wine Awards – The Regional Chairs,” (June 26, 2008), https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/decanter-world-wine-awards-the-regional-chairs-79766/

Want to read more? Try these books!

A Life in Wine Academie Du Vin Guide to French Wines 

Bibliography

Decanter Staff, “Decanter World Wine Awards – The Regional Chairs,” (June 26, 2008), https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/decanter-world-wine-awards-the-regional-chairs-79766/

Jullianne Ballou, “Remembering Steven Spurrier and the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting,” (March 17, 2021), https://library.ucdavis.edu/news/remembering-steven-spurrier-and-the-1976-judgment-of-paris-tasting/#:~:text=The%20sender%20was%20Steven%20Spurrier,his%20American%20colleague%20Patricia%20Gallagher.

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