The world of wine is paying tribute to Steven Spurrier, British wine expert, who passed away at his home in Dorset, England, at the age of 79.

A much-admired figure in the wine trade, Spurrier began his career as a wine merchant in Paris, and went on to become a successful wine writer, educator, and most recently winemaker at Bride Valley in Dorset.

The famous Judgment of Paris tasting organised by Spurrier in 1976 forever changed the world of wine. Spurrier selected some fine examples from Napa, California and invited respected French judges to taste them blind before an audience on May 24, 1976. He also included some top wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. The panel was stunned when the wines were revealed and the Californian samples, specifically from Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, had won highest marks. This groundbreaking event firmly put California on the world wine map.

“Steven’s now famous Judgement of Paris in 1976 is recognised as a catalytic moment in Napa Valley and Montelena’s history. His contribution was instrumental to setting us up for success,” Bo Barrett, the winemaker of Chateau Montelena told The Drinks Business. “Not only Montelena and Napa – that one historical event set up a chain of circumstances that levelled the playing field for any great wine, from any place in the world, to walk onto the big league,” said Barrett.

Spurrier’s colleagues will always remember him for advocating the up-and-coming wine regions, as well as for his kindness and immense support of the younger members of the wine trade. “Steven Spurrier was one of the kindest gentlemen I have had the pleasure to know. He was a great supporter when I was a nobody. His indefatigable spirit to the very end is a lesson to us all,” said Neal Martin.

“I loved his enthusiasm and open mind. He treated all wines as equals,” Tim Atkin MW wrote on his Twitter, while Robert Joseph described him as “a gentle man and a gentleman. Steven was one of the people who can undeniably be said to have helped to change the wine world for the better.”

IG Wines would like to express their deepest condolences to the family of Steven Spurrier. He will be forever missed by his colleagues and friends and his impact and contributions to wine will live on forever.