We didn’t study mythology in journalism school, and most of the myths we learned about in business school pertained to the reliability of economic modeling. So it was a revelation, recently received, that “The Judgment of Paris” is a tale from Greek mythology. I had thought it referred only to the most famous wine tasting of the past 50 years.

The Greek myth begins at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, to which all of the gods were invited except Eris, the goddess of discord. Naturally, she tried to crash the wedding, and in her anger at being turned away cast a golden apple addressed “To the Fairest” into a group of goddesses. Three of them—Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena—laid claim to it.

Zeus was asked to decide which of the three was the most beautiful, but he demurred. (Wouldn’t you?) He instead commanded Hermes to lead the goddesses to Paris, a mortal shepherd-prince, who would decide the matter. All three goddesses tried to bribe Paris. Turning down Hera’s offer of all of Europe and Asia and Athena’s promise of wisdom and superlative skill in battle, Paris accepted Aphrodite’s bribe: the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Troy. Unfortunately, Helen was married to the King of Sparta, and Paris’s efforts to abduct her set off the Trojan War.

Of only slightly less consequence was the Judgment of Paris of May 1976, a competition organized by a British wine merchant named Steven Spurrier in which top-quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines from the United States were tasted against French counterparts. The judges were French and—according to George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who covered the event—they were snooty and often mistaken.

“That is definitely California; it has no nose,” said one as he downed a Batard-Montrachet ’73. “Ah, back to France,” said another while sipping a Napa Valley chardonnay. When the results were tallied, the highest-scoring cabernet was a Napa Valley Stag’s Leap Cellars ’73, which topped four grand cru chateau reds from Bordeaux, including a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild ’70 and a Chateau Haut-Brion ’70.

The top chardonnay was also from California: a Chateau Montelena ’73 crafted by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a Croatian immigrant who had previously worked with Robert Mondavi, who had himself moved to the Napa Valley from Hibbing, Minnesota.

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