Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Tasting is subjective – that sort of falls into the “no kidding” category. The taste of anything, whether it’s wine, cheese, miso or Matzo, is going to vary depending on who’s tasting it, when said person is tasting it, how it’s served, etc., etc. Even the venerable wine reviewers are subject to this subjectivity. We are all only human, right?

I have just read an article by Cornell University entitled, “An Analysis of Bordeaux Wine Ratings, 1970-2005: Implications for the Existing Classification of the Médoc and Graves” which looked at Bordeaux reviews by Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer and Wine Spectator. It noted that all three sources were very favorable, and fairly close to each other in scoring, with Parker being the most generous of the three and Tanzer being the most stringent.

Chiming in on the debate is Joe Roberts, CSW over at the 1 Wine Dude blog, who tells us to lay off Parker for scoring the big fruit bombs. I have to concede that I have become increasingly brutal of Parker’s 100-point scale and have railed against the flawed design of this scoring system – its built-in bias against delicate wines like Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay. Joe makes the case that there is no real way for anyone to be objective in tasting wine because of various factors in play, though many critics will argue that they are adept enough to withdraw their own personal palates for the sake of analytical review.

While I believe that there are those “supertasters” who not only can determine a wine’s composition, origin, time harvested, and all the little nuances the wine may yield to the taster, I am not a huge fan on quantifying, thus my ongoing tirades against the scores. Yet maybe the time has come to lay down the arms I have taken up against incessant points-brandishers. Maybe, as Joe puts it, it’s time to cut Parker some slack.

Then again, maybe not. It’s all about keeping them (and myself) honest. I actually had someone call ME a critic. I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not to take that as compliment or insult. Maybe it’s a bit of both. I still am not a believer in the 100-point scale because it bases quality on the amount of body present. I strongly disagree with that opinion. What makes a wine exceptional is not body, but harmony. When all the components are in balance, then the wine should be perceived as being of excellent quality. One could argue that the big fruit bombs loved so much by Parker and his peers are not in balance, what with all the thick oak, baked black fruit and high alcohol present. However, maybe that whole perception – the oak/fruit/high-alcohol thing – defines complexity to them. (I shrug.) Who knows? Perhaps this continued arguing and pontificating will go on until someone comes up with a better way to make their point about wine. Until then, I’ll be counting down the days.

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