An Evening with Steven Spurrier in Chennai

Date & Time:
Thursday, April 8, 2010 – 19:30

Right: Steven Spurrier with the Terroir Chronicle 2009

Talk about shattering preconceptions about wine. “Steven Spurrier’s take on the current wine scenario is that the French are drinking less wine, the Chinese can’t get enough and that India is the next big market,” writes Parvathi Nayar. The setting was the wine dinner held at the Sheraton Park, Chennai.

Right: Steven Spurrier with the Terroir Chronicle 2009.

Mr Spurrier’s myth-shattering persona is famous – he was responsible for the 1976 blind tasting competition, “The Judgement of Paris” which made the world sit up and take notice of Californian wines. The story was given the Hollywood treatment in the Alan Rickman starrer, “Bottle Shock”. Interestingly enough, a screening of Bottle Shock paired with wines, was one of the activities that Terroir members enjoyed last year.

Quite appropriate then, that Terroir’s 10th event was an evening with Mr Spurrier himself. Today, Mr Spurrier is Chairman, Board of Wine Advisors, Wine Society of India, as well as consultant editor to Decanter and director of Christie’s wine course among other wine-related activities.

The evening’s liquid refreshments opened with a sparkle, an Italian Ti Amo Prosecco. Mr Spurrier recalled how, in Italy, his preferred mid-morning drink was always a glass of Ombra Prosecco; adding, his choice of beverage was influenced by the knowledge that you risk being labelled an ignorant tourist if you ask for a cappuccino any time after 10 am.

Our caviste for the evening declared the first wine served with dinner, the 2005 Maison Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2005 from Burgundy to be “perfect”, from its balanced structure and fresh fruit aromas to how it had been stored. However, the crowd pleaser of the evening was probably the 2004 Joseph Phelps Sonoma Napa Chardonnay. Spurrier commented on the richness of the wine and pointed out how “the higher alcohol content in this wine does make the wine bigger.”

Diners were duly appreciative of the selection of wines over the evening. Terroir member Salony Kane, for instance, noted, “The two reds tasted were both wonderful representations of the stylistic traditions of their regions. The Stag’s Leap Artemis showed vivacious zest and elegance whereas the 97 St Estephe was mature and subtle.”

Mr Spurrier was happy to share his knowledge, and his expertise publicly with the assembled guests, and more privately in one-on-one conversations, where he took time to answer specific questions. He explained, for example, exactly why 2009 was an extraordinary year for wine in France.

“The reasons were because the flowering and fruit-set was early, at the beginning of June with sunny and relatively dry weather, so that there was no loss of buds; the ripening was complete, thanks to hot weather and just the rainfall needed in August and September. The grapes were in perfect condition in the final ripening stages in late September/early October and the vintage took place during unusually dry conditions.”

Good conversations and legendary company, the Steven Spurrier evening was a memorable occasion – and a sign of many more such good vintages to come for wine lovers in Chennai.

Left: Founding members of the Terroir Madras Wine Club