Steven Spurrier (wine merchant)

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Steven Spurrier
May 2016
Born(1941-10-05)5 October 1941
Cambridge, England
Died9 March 2021(2021-03-09) (aged 79)
EducationRugby School
London School of Economics
  • Wine merchant
  • author
Years active1964–2021
Known forOrganising the Judgment of Paris wine competition
Bella Lawson
(m. 1968)

Steven Spurrier (5 October 1941 – 9 March 2021)[1][2] was a British wine expert and merchant who was described as a champion of French wine.[3] Spurrier organised the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, which unexpectedly elevated the status of California wine and promoted the expansion of wine production in the New World. He was the founder of the Academie du Vin and Christie's Wine Course, in addition to authoring and co-authoring several wine books.[4]

Early life[edit]

Spurrier was born in Cambridge on 5 October 1941[5] to John and Pamela Spurrier. His father joined his family sand-and-gravel business in Derbyshire after the Second World War. Spurrier was educated at Rugby School, before studying at the London School of Economics.[1][6] His interest in wine was first piqued after drinking 1908 Cockburn's Port when he was 13 years old.[6]


Spurrier entered the wine trade in 1964 as a trainee with London's oldest wine merchant Christopher and Co. In 1970 he moved to Paris where he persuaded an elderly lady to sell him her small wine store, in the Cité Berryer, a passageway off the rue Royale,[3] From 1971 he ran the wine shop, Les Caves de la Madeleine where clients were encouraged to taste wines before they bought them,[7] which achieved recognition as a highly regarded specialist wine shop.[3] With partners Jon Winroth and Patricia Gallgher in 1973 he started L’Academie du Vin, France's first private wine school, which was central to the wine education of several wine personalities such as French wine writer Michel Bettane, and Charles F. Shaw, namesake of "Two Buck Chuck".[3]

Spurrier went on to stage the influential "Judgment of Paris" Tasting of 1976, when a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from California were ranked above some of the most prestigious wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux.[6][8]

Spurrier sold his wine interests in France and returned to the UK in 1988,[9] becoming a wine consultant and journalist. He was director of The Christie’s Wine Course, which he founded with Christie's Education in 1982.[3] He was also a wine consultant to Singapore Airlines, and consultant editor to Decanter.[10] In 2018, he starred in the documentary SOMM 3 alongside Jancis Robinson where he discussed the Judgement of Paris while tasting some of the world's finest wines.[11] In 2019, he founded the Academie du Vin Library with Simon McMurtrie to publish wine writing. The Library published the latest edition of his memoir in 2020.[12]


Spurrier received several international awards for wine writing including Le Prix de Champagne Lanson and the Bunch Prize, both for articles published in Decanter. In 2001 he was awarded Le Grand Prix de l’Academie Internationale du Vin and The Maestro Award in honor of Andre Tchelistcheff. In 1988 he was made Le Personalite de l’Annee (Oenology) for his services to French wine. He has also received the Ritz Carlton Millennia Singapore Lifetime Achievement Award and the Prix Louis Marinier. He was a regular judge on the international wine tasting circuit and the chairman of the Japan Wine Challenge and the Decanter World Wine Awards.[3]


Alan Rickman portrayed Steven Spurrier in the 2008 film Bottle Shock. During its production, Spurrier warned of taking legal action in the event of misrepresentation. Having read the script, Spurrier stated, "There is hardly a word that is true in the script and many, many pure inventions as far as I am concerned".[13] A documentary by Jason Wise about the 1976 tasting is planned for release in summer 2022.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Spurrier was married to the former Bella Lawson from 1968 until his death.[14][15] Together, they had two children: Christian and Kate.[6]

Spurrier died from cancer on 9 March 2021, at his home in the Bride Valley English Wine Estate, in Litton Cheney, Dorset. He was 79.[6][14]


  • The Academie du Vin Concise Guide to French Country Wines (1984) ISBN 978-0-399-50829-5
  • How to Buy Fine Wines (1986) ISBN 9780714880129
  • Academie du Vin Wine Course (1991) with Michel Dovaz ISBN 978-0-02-613262-6
  • Clarke & Spurrier's Fine Wine Guide (1998) with Oz Clarke ISBN 978-0-15-100412-6
  • Wine—A Way of Life (2018) ISBN 978-0-95-623878-8
  • Steven Spurrier: A Life in Wine (2020) ISBN 978-1-913141-07-3

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Steven Spurrier, "International Wine Academy" Vice Director". International Wine Academy of Roma. 2006. Archived from the original on 14 November 2006.
  2. ^ "'Great man of wine' Steven Spurrier dies at home". The Drinks Business. 9 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Robinson, Jancis (27 May 2006). "Steven Spurrier - champion of French wines". Archived from the original on 17 April 2015.
  4. ^ Taber 2005, pp. I-III
  5. ^ "Spurrier, Steven". Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e Mobley, Esther (9 March 2021). "Steven Spurrier, the Brit who got California wines to be taken seriously, dies at 79". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  7. ^ Spurrier, Steven (6 September 2008). "Which is best: old or new?". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Mobley, Esther (24 October 2018). "The hidden figures behind the Judgment of Paris". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 14 February 2019.
  9. ^ Prial, Frank J. (3 August 1988). "Briton Selling Paris Wine Interests". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "Decanter Contributors". Decanter. 2007. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
  11. ^ Lander, Jess (24 September 2018). "Somm 3 film review: How it compares to the first two". Decanter. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  12. ^ Catchpole, Andrew (9 March 2021). "Steven Spurrier passes away". Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  13. ^ Lechmere, Adam (27 July 2007). "Spurrier threatens action against rival Judgement of Paris film". Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  14. ^ a b c Asimov, Eric (16 March 2021). "Steven Spurrier, Who Upended Wine World With a Tasting, Dies at 79". New York Times. Vol. 170, no. 59001. p. A23. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 26 March 2021. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  15. ^ Frank, Mitch (9 March 2021). "Steven Spurrier, Wine Educator and Enthusiast, Dies at 79". Wine Spectator. Retrieved 10 March 2021.


External links[edit]