Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

The Judgement of Overton, 2021

Why the Judgment of Overton? Two of our tasting group decided to collect the wines to re-run the so-called Judgement of Paris. In short, this blind tasting in 1976 changed the world of wine. It demonstrated that Californian wines can be of the same quality level as the top wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. Our event was red wines only; our collectors are still trying to source the Chardonnays at prices that will only require a small second mortgage. In both 1976 and 2021, the wines were tasted blind and marked out of 20. On both occasions, there were no rules about how to use that scale, so there is a huge random element in all this. And the tasting happened in Overton, Hampshire.

The scores and ranking from the Judgement of Paris, 1976

Here are the scores of the original French tasting panel, setting standards for mean scoring!

The Judgment of Paris, the 1976 results
The Judgment of Paris, the 1976 results

Our event took place at the beginning of the omicron variant of Covid-19, so it required one of these from each attendee:

The Judgment of Overton in Covid-19 times
The Judgment of Overton in Covid-19 times

There were eight of us present, but no picture of hosts Rebecca and Allan, nor of Janet and me. The poured wines were a sight to behold!

The Judgment of Overton, half of the group
The Judgment of Overton, half of the group
The Judgment of Overton, the wines
The Judgment of Overton, the wines
The much more important scores of the Judgment of Overton

Our scores were rather more generous. To be honest, for me these wines were of a consistently high quality with only Leoville Las Cases not really showing up. My scores only ranged from 16.5–18/20. And remember that in UK wine scoring, 18/20 is a really, really high score. A 19 is reserved for unicorn wines and 20 for a wine of a lifetime.

The Judgement of Overton–our scores
The Judgement of Overton–our scores

As a contest, this means virtually nothing. Note the huge range of the age of the wines and the number of vintages. As a result, we were not comparing like with like. The two first growths (Haut-Brion and Mouton) were fully mature, most of the Californians were youthful. Also, in this group there are more tasters who prefer European styled wines and only one (yes, you Rob) who really appreciates exuberant fruit as the leading feature of a wine. And there are two tasters in the group who hate old Bordeaux with a passion!

However, as an experience, this was a remarkable event. I went back to taste wine number one an hour later and was really wowed by the fruit quality of Martha’s Vineyard from Heitz. And it only came 7th here. The Clos du Val–well someone has to come 10th–was a superb fruit bomb and so on. And it was surprisingly challenging for most here to taste 10 wines of this quality in one sitting. Many thanks go to the amazing generosity and planning of the two key people who sourced the wines. One wine had a nice story attached to it. It had been given one of our tasters to his father years ago, an amazingly generous gift. Thankfully, the father gave it back to his son when he decided he was no longer enjoying fine wine in old age.

Thanks also to chef Rob for the main course which featured enough meat to feed an army.

The final treat of the evening was Ian’s 1970 Graham’s port which was quite superb!

This tasting group is the descendant of one that assembled for a near-legendary 24-bottle dinner exactly 10 years ago. (As it happens, that featured Mouton 2001.) We will be recalling December 2021 in the same bracket.

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