Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Good Wine Can Suck Too!

So I was drinking a wine tonight from a producer that has become a bit of a darling of some critics I respect. The time came to give the wine a score. I thought hard about it. The nose, the palate, the finish and the overall impression came into play. In the end-- 88 points!

For a moment I felt bad. WHY? Because we are all somehow trained to feel that even in an off vintage, we should give handicap points to good producers… God forbid we hurt their egos, right?

Let's think about this for a minute. If we have a great vintage, and the wine scores 96 points, then we all feel good about it. However, we then have just a good vintage, and the wine scores 96 points. Somehow, it's glossed over. Then we have a bad vintage, and the wine sinks to a whopping 94 points, and we are then told to buy the producer, not the vintage. But what if the vintage really did affect the wine? What if it's short, diluted, uninteresting or just simply bad?

This reminds me of 2003 Barolo. How can a wine that's simply "okay" to drink today still score 93 points? I'd rather drink anything at 87-90 points, than most 2003 Barolo.

Hail Damage
I guess that in the end, this is a rant. But it's a rant because I stand in a happy place while scratching my head. A place where I know the best producers aren't giving me free wine, so I don't have to worry about them taking away their free wine. I don't have to worry about people comp’ing me plane tickets, drivers, vacations, or a case or two that fell off the back of the truck and into my trunk.

In the end, I write what I think about wine. Good or bad, I don't care. I buy 50% of what I taste, and that which is given to me receives the same treatment. If the person who submits the sample doesn't like what I have to say--I don't care.

So, yes, good producers can make bad wine.

Now, in all fairness, this is not a bad wine, but it certainly isn’t a 91-93 point wine. If I found it in a bargain bin for $20, I’d buy it. I’m sure after this post I won’t ever see any free samples from them… Oh well.

2005 Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione Alta Valle della Greve IGT - The nose showed a mix of small tart berries with savory spice notes, herbal tones, animal musk and graphite. On the palate, it was silky and accessible with dark red fruits, mocha and spice. The balanced acidity kept things lively, yet this fell slightly short toward the close, finishing with tart red fruits that faded quickly.

Admittedly, my expectations were high, and so my judgment may be slightly obscured. With that said, the bouquet was amazing, but this vintage simply lacks any serious structure and staying power. At $20 this would have been a 90, but with the higher price tag, I can't buy into the hype. (88 points)


  1. I couldn't agree more, the hype around certain producers/vintages gives me the creeps. I usually browse through Cellartracker to read other enthusiasts verdicts on these hyped wines. Once again there are lots of high 90 scores but every now and then I find one or two scores below 90, even really low 80's, and that is for me the most interresting. If they have a good review thats even better. What is it that makes these low scorers disagree with the majority?

    So speak up before it is too late!

    1. There are two ways to look at this. For me, a 90 is a very good daily drinker wine, but if that wine cost more than $25, than there's no value in drinking it. As scores get high and price fluctuates the value can go up and down. I believe that some people just want to prove critics wrong, and that's fine with me. However, there are others that don't want to think for themselves and will always default to a critics opinion, no matter if they enjoyed the wine or not. On the other hand, there are bad bottles of every wine or bottles that were mistreated in their life that will perform badly, they will obviously score very low. Then there's the large production stuff, where the wine the critic scored could have come from a completely different batch from the one you're tasting. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that I'm just confusing the matter even more right now. As for cellar tracker (which I use and love), I often see instances where bottles that really do need long decanting or more bottle age, get low scores. In those cases, I really have to take those comments with a grain of salt. As it's been said to me many times in the past--find a critic that you like and trust with a palate similar to yours and stick with them.

    2. As you say, some wines may need some extra time in the air or are just too young to drink at the time, and therefore score gets lower. That is why I mentioned the need for a good review, including these data.

      When it comes to the scoring part, I disagree with you. A wine should be able to get 90 points, no matter the cost. I personally base my scores on the quality of the wine, with no consideration of price.

      I have followed and left wine critics over the years. And as you say, find one or two with a similar taste as yours and you'll probably find great wines.

      Don't get me wrong, I really appriceate your blog and your thoughts. Keep em coming.
      / J

    3. Thanks, Very appreciated.

      The way I see it, if a winemaker has a bad year, then lower the price. Or, if you're afraid of hurting the brand, declassify the juice into something else at a lower price. Price isn't a main deciding factor in my scoring, but once the note is written and my score is set, I do think about the value that the wine represents. I have a lot of respect for Produttori del Barbaresco for this. If they aren't happy with the Riserva juice, then it all goes into the straight Barbaresco at less than half the price.

      Maybe I misspoke a little about the actual score being affected by price. If a $20 wine drinks like something I'd expect to pay $50 - $75 for, then the score usually reflects that without any further consideration. In the reverse, if the wine cost $50-$75 and drinks like sub-$20, then it's going to get a bad score just for the fact that it didn't perform well. If price affects this, then it's probably subconscious.

      I'm not sure if you're into Barolo, but one thing that gave me hope for wine criticism, were Antonio Galloni's scores for Domenico Clerico's newest releases. The '09 Barolo are all in the 88-89 point range. However, up until recently, I feel like this is the exception and not the rule. Going on this scale, considering how much wine-apology seems to go on in the business of reviewing established wineries, I really have to wonder what to expect. 2009 is supposed to be a substandard year in Barolo, yet I was very surprised to see so many 95's and up. I'm looking forward to tasting the wines, and I'm wondering if we have another 2003 on our hands.

      Then there's Wine Advocate and their new Italian critic, handing out a lot of high scores. It'll be a while before we get a gauge on the situation there, but I must admit that at first glance, the situation doesn't look good.

    4. I too am a big fan of the way they handle "bad" juice in Barbaresco, that is how it should be done. Or no wine at all these bad years, sell the grapes.

      Of course, it's hard to not be affected by price versus quality. That's were the QPR comes in. So instead of adding extra points simply state if it is considered good QPR.

      My Barolo knowledge is unfortunately too vague to be able to comment. I have never tasted a 2003 Barolo but I will for sure get my hands on some 2007/2008/2009 and compare.

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