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An Englishman in Paris

In 1971 Steven Spurrier did the unthinkable. He used his inheritance to establish himself as a wine merchant in Paris – in the heart of the country that, at the time, reigned supreme over the winemaking world.

Two years later, Steven thought it might be fun to marshal his already extensive network of contacts to offer lessons in wine appreciation for his fellow Parisians. He founded the L’Académie du Vin, offering a series of informal courses that combined wonderful wines and expert tuition in an agreeable atmosphere, taking the subject matter seriously without ever descending into dullness.

Shock, horror!

In 1976, Steven sent more tremors through the wine world when he organized the ‘Judgement of Paris’ – a blind tasting that pitched the finest French vintages against a selection of ‘upstarts’ from California. To everyone’s surprise (and some people’s horror), the upstarts won – underlining that with sufficient skill and passion, along with the blessing of suitable terroir, great wine could be produced across the world.

Image of Steven Spurrier wine merchant
Steven in 1973 outside his wine merchants in Paris VIII arrondissement

Since then, in part thanks to Steven’s youthful enthusiasm, wine appreciation courses have become an essential part of the global wine landscape. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of students around the world who have taken a formal programme through the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) since it was founded in 1969, there are a multitude of opportunities to learn about wine through more informal wine tastings, wine classes and wine societies.

Read all about it

A little older and a good deal wiser, Steven turned his attention to the writing that inspired him to enter the wine trade in the first place. Read about his memoirs here.

Good wine writing, like wine itself, is a product of talent, passion, extensive knowledge and instinctive good taste, but it is also about pleasure. Wine writing at its best must inform and educate, yes, but equally it should elevate the senses and stir the spirit – inviting the reader to embark upon a journey that is both endless and endlessly fascinating.

Judgement of Paris Steven and Odette Khan
Steven at the ‘Judgement of Paris’, 24 May 1976.