Exploring the Unquestionable Superiority of Certain Wines

By | 7 May 2024

My main role in wine communication isn’t as a critic who scores every wine in a region, but rather sharing my experiences and insights on them.

Although Robert Parker wasn’t the first wine critic, he undoubtedly played a significant role in the rise of wine criticism. Initially, he was able to cover most of the fine wine scope, being the kind of wines critics normally score. Soon enough, he had to recruit associates like Pierre Rovani for help with Burgundy, and Jay Miller for places like Argentina and Oregon, due to the expansion of the market. Hence, came the competition and a surge of teams which makes the current scene quite congested.

While I do rate wines and taste numerous ones annually, I don’t travel to a region to sample hundreds of wines a day in isolated rooms. Rather, I prefer relying on the insights of others to lead me to potential hidden gems among the winemakers or newcomers. If they understand my work and believe I would appreciate tasting their wines, odds are I would.

Something interesting to note is how some wines have earned such a regarded status that they’re exempt from criticism. They’re known for their quality, and if you taste them and don’t find them exceptional, it’s likely due to a misjudgment or a bad batch. And if the wine isn’t up to par and your assessment is accurate, it would be best to not risk tarnishing your reputation by publishing a negative review. By and large, criticizing it negatively can only be detrimental to your reputation, other than the handful of individuals who’d agree with you.

Let’s illustrate with an example. Should you sample the recent Penfolds Grange batch and rate it a 92/100, attributing to its fine making but perhaps an overly ripe flavor and lack of precision, the likelihood of getting another invitation to taste it is slim. Not just because acquiring it for a review is considerably costly, but your credibility may be questioned. Particularly in Australia where the scores are rather high, a bad vintage of Grange starts at 97 but generally revolves around 99 or 100. Any rating below 95 signifies standing alone and a dent in credibility.

Consider another one: tasting the Médoc’s first growths en primeur. Firstly, the upscale Bordeaux Châteaux only allow samples during the primeur week if you visit them; this often comes with an invitation for a luxurious treatment- a tasting book, a well-aged vintage for reference, and a fancy pencil. The chosen barrel sample is bound to taste admirable, wherein a typical good vintage scores between 98-100, and during a mediocre vintage a 96-98. Scoring any less than these expected numbers may reflect poorly on you as it seems out of line. Their reputation makes them immune to any lower scores, it’s an implausible occurrence.

Similarly, new vintages of renown Champagnes from giant houses are usually sampled at carefully arranged functions, sometimes even requiring a trip to a foreign land. Wine critics, in their earnestness to perform their best, can make tastings favorable for these wine houses. Accepted scores for top-tier wines fall within a very limited range. As a specialist in Champagnes, maintaining a constant access to this range is crucial. Therefore, this becomes a tricky situation if some wines, according to you, do not warrant the high scores. It’s preferable either to leave a positive remark or remain silent.

There’s a reverential attitude towards the highest-quality wines. The last thing ‘A’ list wine property owners would want is having their wines blindly sampled amongst an extensive assortment. An orchestrated experience aids in maintaining the enigma. While it’s always compelling to taste and criticize them, a low score is essentially gainless—that goes for both, you as well as your audience. Furthermore, it might just jeopardize all future possibilities of sampling such wines again.

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