Steven Spurrier’s Impact on the Wine Industry

The name “Steven Spurrier” will forever be remembered as the person who propelled California wines into the limelight. Thanks to his innovativeness and willingness to explore, Spurrier organized the landmark event that put California on the map as one of the world’s best wine-making regions.

Steven Spurrier is one of the wine trade’s most important figures. Over the years, he has taken the role of a wine merchant, buyer, wine educator and lecturer. He was the brain behind the historic wine-tasting event called The Judgment of Paris (also known as the Paris wine tasting of 1976). This blind tasting, located in France, consisted of top wines from California alongside top wines from Bordeaux. To everyone’s surprise, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon emerged as the judges’ favorite. This event led to an unprecedented boom in California’s wine production. Through this event, Napa Valley’s wines gained recognition around the globe.[1]

Spurrier authored many fascinating articles and books on wines and co-authored several others. His writing won him several awards, including Le Prix de Champagne Lanson. They also honored his contributions and dedicated years of service to the French wine world with Le Personalité de I’Année.

Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

L’Academie du Vin — Originally established in Paris in 1973 by Steven Spurrier, the Academie du Vin was France’s first private wine school teaching wine appreciation to ex-pat British and Americans. The location of the school was next to Steven Spurrier’s famous wine store, the Caves de la Madeleine, and was located inside a former locksmith shop.

The Academie du Vin quickly rose to fame in wine enthusiast circles through its association with the 1976 Judgement of Paris–a blind tasting that brought recognition to California wines and changed the wine world forever.

Did you know? With Steven’s extensive training and experience in the UK wine trade, he helped to create an educational wine phenomenon that transformed enthusiasts’ approach to wine; by perfectly blending enjoyment and technical expertise.

“A pillar of opinion who everyone respects”

In 1988, Spurrier climbed farther up the ladder as he became the director of Christie’s Wine Course. He co-founded the prestigious Academie du Vin Library in 2019. In 2014, Steven Spurrier and his wife, Bella, established a winery in Bride Valley, where he made his first vintage.

His numerous adventures across the world of wine won him respect from virtually everyone who values hard work, unwavering commitment, and dedication. Prominent wine writer Hugh Johnson describes the wine marvel and rarity as “a pillar of opinion who everyone respects” [2]

A Pillar of Knowledge

The sensational and pivotal experience at the Judgement of Paris was cleverly depicted in the fictionalized classic movie “Bottle Shock” which premiered in 2008 at the Sundance Film Festival. He was depicted in the movie as a charming and fashionable Englishman — and Steven was no different in real life.

Even though his passion for wine and “aggressive” marketing approach often take center stage in his life, moments with Spurrier are always warm and memorable. As a richly educated Brit who attended the London School of Economics and a sporty rugby school, Steven Spurrier had deep insights into various subjects.

Did You Know: Spurrier’s love for wine transcended pleasure; he describes it as the “science of forensics.” Those who met him have described his company’s refreshing, interesting, insightful, and never off-putting.

As he revealed in his autobiography, “A Life in Wine,” his love for wine was ignited by a taste of a 1908 glorious Cockburn’s port when he was 13 years old. That magical moment set Spurrier on his journey to positively impact the wine world. Spurrier was always looking for the next challenge to conquer, and his daughter, Katie, had the best words to describe his love for adventure when she said, “Spurrier’s problem is that the present bores him.”

Steven Spurrier always said he was a privileged boy with lots of luck. He loved wine, art, and the wonderful people he was lucky to have met and perhaps inspired.[3] 

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On this day in history

March 9, 2021 —Steven Spurrier died from cancer at his Bride Valley wine estate in Dorset at 79. He was married to Bella Lawson until his death, and together they had two children: Kate and Christian.

May 24, 1976 — Steven Spurrier and his colleague, Patricia Gallagher, organized a wine tasting event that became the turning point for California wines. This event is iconic in wine history and is widely known as the Judgment of Paris.

Want to read more about the history of wine? Check out these books!

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles- From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond A Life in Wine


  1. Steven Spurrier, Vintner Who Turned The World On To Napa Valley Wines With A Single Tasting, Dies.” 2022. Los Angeles Times.
  2. Mariani, John. 2022. “Steven Spurrier, International Wine Legend, Dies At 79”. Forbes.
  3. “Steven Spurrier (1941–2021)”. 2022. Jancisrobinson.Com.

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