In Defense Of White Wine (Thoughts On Expert Scores And Red Wine Bias)

Vinted on November 2, 2016 binned in commentary, wine news
Red wine bias

White wines get the review shaft (image: winecurmudgeon.com)

A little over a week ago, my friend Jeff Siegel published details by PhD Suneal Chaudhary, who analyzed over 64,000 wine scores, dating to the `70s, from “major wine magazines.” The study’s aim was to ascertain if red wines routinely receive higher point score reviews than white wines (other styles were presumably ignored).

Long-time 1WD readers know that I have become a big fan of statistically relevant data, and the data in this case (including how those data were handled) are, for sure, statistically relevant, in sample size, time duration, and applied analysis.

It’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions, but Jeff summed up the congruence of the findings with the common sense experiences of wine geeks everywhere nicely in his original post on the subject:

“We don’t pretend that these results are conclusive, given the variables involved. Red wines may be inherently better than white wines (though that seems difficult to believe). They certainly cost more to make, and that might affect the findings. The review process itself may have influenced the study. Not every critic publishes every wine he or she reviews, and those that were published may have been more favorable to reds than whites. And, third, the scoring process, flawed as it is, may have skewed the results regardless of what the critics did.

Still, given the size of the database, and size matters here, Suneal’s math shows something is going on. And that’s just not our conclusion. I asked three wine academics to review our work, and each agreed the numbers say that what is happening is more than a coincidence. That’s the point of the chart that illustrates this post – 90 percent of the 2010 red wines that we had scores for got 90 points or more.”

What to make of all of this?

Personally, I think that we wine geeks ought to be a bit more flabbergasted at the discrepancy, considering that, in general, white wines are superior to reds aromatically…

Yeah, I did just write that.

And I meant it, too. More on that in a couple of minutes.

Jeff has since published a thoughtful followup post detailing some of the reactions to the study (I should mention here that both posts, and the study details, are well worth a read, and I don’t mean the I’ve-got-fifteen-minutes-after-lunch-at-the-office kind of read, I mean the kind of read where you have few distractions, an hour or so of free time, and an open mind… you know, the same way that you read every post here on 1WD, right???). What he found was not all sunshine and unicorn-farted-rainbows, either:

“…[there] was a common theme among the comments, emails, and discussions Suneal and I found – that only wines made with serious grapes deserve the best scores, and the only serious white grape is chardonnay (and don’t even think about mentioning rose). So, according to this argument, why should anyone be surprised by any kind of bias? It’s only natural and right… Which, of course, made me very sad – the some animals are more equal than other animals theory.”

If that doesn’t also make you, as a wine lover, sad, then I’d posit that you need to drink a little bit less, sober up, and read it again. Because the thinking that the only serious fine white wine grape is Chardonnay is patently ridiculous. Like, get-the-funny-shoes-and-red-horn-nose-you-clown ridiculous.

It is certainly true that not all fine wine grapes are created equal; there are simply so many grape varieties made into fine wine, and statistically not all of them can produce wines that contain enough aromatic, textural, and flavor complexity – let alone potential age-worthiness and harmony – to be considered among the best wines in the world.

Here’s the rub, though – there is no general Aristotelian avatar of perfection when it comes to wine. You can get close to an idea of perfection for wine made from iconic grapes and regions, but when comparing wines beyond that generality, that perfect Aristotelian avatar image starts to get very fuzzy, very quickly.

I’ve tasted (ok, and drank) a few lifetimes worth of wines at this point. As one might expect, I’ve yet to find a white wine whose textural complexity matches those of the best reds in the world; you’d expect that because the process of creating a red wine’s texture is, itself, usually more complex than it is for white wines. And I’ve yet to encounter a red wine whose aromatic complexity consistently bests the world’s best whites. Which is why I try to explain so often to hapless, glazed-over-eyed conversation victims people that Riesling gives you more bang for your buck than, say, Cabernet Sauvignon.

And, ok, the cynic in me totally wants to shout “those reds only got higher scores because they have more alcohol in them, and all of those wine magazine critics like boozy shizz!” But that would be kind of rude, probably…

Anyway…

If the study results that Jeff so eloquently and effectively wrote about have anything to teach us wine geeks, it’s that we shouldn’t be afraid to consider the best white wines in our collection as on equal – and in many cases, superior – footing to whatever reds other people are bringing to the tasting party. White wines are not also-rans, no matter what the scores reflect; like women vs. men, we are talking about a yin and yang of sometimes opposite but often complimentary and equally powerful and equally, well, perfect in their own imperfect ways.

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Michael Brill


    You could argue that the analysis should have been whites vs. rosés, not reds. Red wines are fundamentally different in that they owe much of their characteristics to solids from skins (and sometimes stems… and even seeds) whereas white is almost entirely about juice. Whether that difference means that reds are better or worse is, well, that’s what the study is about. You can also make an argument that the robustness from skins, stems and seeds provides a platform for winemaker additions (mostly oak, but also oxygen, etc.). It’s just not a fair fight.

    Think about the best bread you’ve ever head – high probability it had some whole grain component and wasn’t made from completely denuded white flour.

    Of course white wines have skins and stems and seeds and a handful of winemakers will extract a bit of that (or in the case of orange wines, a lot of it). But maybe the bias that exists is stylistic, not quality?

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Michael.

      “maybe the bias that exists is stylistic, not quality”

      That is very similar to the argument that I am making here, for sure.

      • Michael Brill


        To clarify, I meant that because consumers don’t prefer characteristics that derive from white grape *solids*, white wines don’t have a chance to compete in quality with red wines. Red wines could actually be better than white wines the same way that more 90+ point breads are made with whole grains rather than 100% processed white flour.

        If consumers were to adopt a preference for white wines made with more solids then you can start comparing them.

        (note: I drink probably 90% white wine but when I think about the greatest wines I’ve had, most are red)

        • 1WineDude


          Michael – I agree in so far as reds have a textural advantage over whites. But I do not think that necessarily translates into a quality advantage.

          • Michael Brill


            Although the texture benefit is huge, there are flavor and aromatic compounds in skins/stems/seeds as well, so it’s not just about texture. There’s simply more to work with. This also provides greater support for doctoring wines with oak – something more difficult to do generally with whites.

            Whites simply have an arm tied behind their backs.

            • 1winedude


              I’m not sure, Michael. From a complexity standpoint, yes, but not necessarily of your aim is purity of fruit expression.

        • the drunken cyclist


          Michael, it seems like the logical progression of your argument would arrive at the conclusion that All red wines are better than ALL white wines, which I am sure you are not arguing. Instead of the bread argument, I would argue that comparing whites to reds is like comparing cars to motorcycles. Both should be judged on their own merits, not against one another. Cars and motorcycles, by and large, perform the same function, but they go about it in very different ways. You would never compare the merits of a high-priced car to a high priced motorcycle—both could be outstanding. (I assume—I have never even driven a motorcycle, but is was the best analogy I could come up with quickly.)

          • Michael Brill


            I don’t think that’s the progression of my argument, but I do agree with yours.

  • John Cesano


    Red wines seem to, more often, be scored on a 100 point scale, with reviewers willing to give up to 100 points. White wines seem to be rated using a different scale by the same reviewers, perhaps a 96 or 97 point scale at best, with no wines scoring higher than that. Often the ceiling for white wine scores, by varietal, is lower still.

    • 1WineDude


      John, this study seems to underscore that perception, certainly.

    • Bob Henry


      John,

      See my comment below.

      ~~ Bob

  • the drunken cyclist


    Certainly thought-provoking as to why white wines don’t get the “respect” that red wines do. I am not sure how to phrase it without sounding like a complete jack-donkey, but that has never really prevented me before so…. I feel like part of the discrepancy (at least in this country) might be due to a bit of gender bias, actually. I certainly get the feeling that many see white wines as more feminine while reds are seen as more masculine (and “traditionally” women opt for white, while men prefer red). I realize that is a gross generalization, but seeing that most of those who rate wine are men, they may be rating reds higher based on personal preference and cultural traditions.

    Having said all that, I also believe it is harder to make a higher quality white as there are many more “tools” available to the red wine maker that can have an impact on taste then there are available to the makers of white wine.

    • 1WineDude


      dc – I’m not sure I’d agree with the winemaking portion of what you’re saying (there are lots of white wine in-winery tricks available, bro) but the gender bias point is a great one. And a scary one. And, honestly, after all of the shizz I’ve seen in the election campaigns this year, nothing really surprises me on biases anymore. Having said that, if your take is true – and I think one could certainly make a case for that – then it is bit of a sad indictment on the wine reviewing biz.

  • fredswan8


    I don’t see how you can say “the data are, for sure, statistically relevant.” Yes, there are a lot of reviews and they span a considerable range of time. However, there’s no disclosure as to where the reviews came from. There’s no information on varietal mix of the reviews either. What I see is a general conclusion being pushed in the absence of specific data.

    I am not disputing that red wines in their data get more high scores than white. However, I see nothing to indicate bias. Tendency yes, bias no. And, without some of that other data, there’s no way to prove (or disprove) bias.

    As I expressed in my own article in response to WC’s original post, I don’t think they have adequately considered how scores are created. And Suneal says ““I’m starting to get a sense that there’s something about the scoring system that’s flawed in some way but can’t exactly put it in words at the moment.” Why, because he likes whites and they don’t get as many high scores? The only options they seem to consider are a flawed scoring system or bias on the part of reviewers. That’s weak.

    • 1winedude


      Fred, the conclusions might be weak based on what you’re saying, but that doesn’t prevent the days from being statistically relevant based on size and timeframe. I’m giving some benefit of the doubt here regarding sourcing.

      • fredswan8


        I respect your giving them the benefit of the doubt. But, since their data set is a black box—there is no disclosure with respect to the source or content and no opportunity for peer review—I will not do that. Especially since both of their articles clearly show their intent is to prove a preconceived point with “data” rather than examine data and see what can be gleaned.

        Even the timeframe is sketchy. They say they have data going back to the 1970’s, but their charts don’t go further back than 1994.

        I will give them the benefit of the doubt on not having fabricated anything and I will assume that the data were provided, rather than selectively chosen by the authors to prove a point. That’s as far as I can go.

  • Bob Henry


    Guys,

    The explanation is simple, and goes back to an obscure 1989 interview Wine Times magazine (later rebranded Wine Enthusiast magazine) conducted with Robert Parker.

    Yes, he has a scoring/rating bias against white wines.

    The salient quotes edited and reproduced below.

    ~~ Bob

    WINE TIMES: How is your scoring system different from The Wine Spectator’s?

    PARKER: Theirs is really a different animal than mine, though if someone just looks at both of them, they are, quote, two 100-point systems. Theirs, in fact, is advertised as a 100-point system; mine from the very beginning is a 50-point system. If you start at 50 and go to 100, it is clear it’s a 50-point system, and it has always been clear. Mine is basically two 20-point systems with a 10-POINT CUSHION ON TOP FOR WINES THAT HAVE THE ABILITY TO AGE. …

    [Bob Henry’s aside: CAPITALIZATION used for emphasis.]

    I thought one of the jokes of the 20-point systems is that everyone uses half points, so it’s really a 40-point system — which no one will acknowledge — and mine is a 50-point system, and in most cases a 40-point system.

    WINE TIMES: But how do you split the hairs between an 81 and an 83?

    PARKER: It’s a fairly methodical system. The wine gets up to 5 points on color, up to 15 on bouquet and aroma, and up to 20 points on flavor, harmony and length. And that gets you 40 points right there. And then the [balance of] 10 points are … simply awarded to WINES THAT HAVE THE ABILITY TO IMPROVE IN THE BOTTLE. THIS IS SORT OF ARBITRARY AND GETS ME INTO TROUBLE.

    . . .

    WINE TIMES: Do you have a BIAS toward red wines? WHY AREN’T WHITE WINES GETTING AS MANY SCORES IN THE UPPER 90s? Is it you or is it the wine?

    PARKER: Because of that 10-POINT CUSHION. Points are assigned to the overall quality but also to the potential period of time that wine can provide pleasure. And white Burgundies today have a lifespan of, at most, a decade with rare exceptions. Most top red wines can last 15 years and most top Bordeaux can last 20, 25 years. It’s a sign of the system that a great 1985 Morgon [Beaujolais] is not going to get 100 points because it’s not fair to the reader to equate a Beaujolais with a 1982 Mouton-Rothschild. You only have three or four years to drink the Beaujolais.

    WINE TIMES: In your system, what would be the highest rated Beaujolais?

    PARKER: 90. That would be a perfect Beaujolais, and I’ve never given one. I have given a lot of 87s and 88s.

    [Bob Henry’s aside : In 1990, Parker awarded a score of 92 points to the 1989 vintage Georges Duboeuf “Jean Descombes” Morgon Beaujolais, contradicting his then year-old statement above. Fast forward to 2011: the stellar 2009 vintage cru Beaujolaises garnered scores in the 91 to 94 point range from Wine Advocate. As have subsequent vintages.]

    WINE TIMES: So it’s the AGING POTENTIAL that is the key factor that gets a wine [rating] into the 90s.

    PARKER: Yes. And it goes back to how I evaluate vintages in general. To me the greatness of a vintage is assessed two ways: 1) its ability to provide great pleasure — wine provides, above all, pleasure; 2) THE TIME PERIOD OVER WHICH IT CAN PROVIDE THAT PLEASURE.

    • fredswan8


      Bob, that is not a bias against whites. And it is not an arbitrary position held by Robert Parker. It is the way wines are scored by professional critics. It is not a bias against anything. It is a recognition that there is value in the age-ability of wines, regardless of their color. In fact, the way points are allocated is “handicapped” to give white wines a greater chance of getting points for longevity despite their lack of tannins. I covered all this in detail last week here: http://www.fredswan.wine/2016/10/25/red-wine-bias-among-wine-critics/

      If there were no points allocated for longevity, then one might argue critics were biased against wines that do have that capability.

      An individual wine drinker may not find extra value in wines that age. Certainly, in today’s early-drinking culture and with the increasing degree to which young wines express their charms in full, many people will feel that way. Given that, it may be that scoring systems should be revised to decrease the number points allocated for aging. But that would introduce discrepancies with scores from the past.

      In any case, this circumstance is not a bias against white wines, it’s a bias in favor of wines that age. And that is a wholly different matter.

      • Bob Henry


        Fred:

        In your blog titled “Red Wine Bias Among Wine Critics?” you ask:

        “There is no mention at all in the study or article to indicate Messrs. Siegel and Chaudhary looked at how wines are actually scored — where the points come from.”

        Then answer your own question citing Clive S. Michelsen’s “Tasting & Grading Wine” tome, and declare:

        “. . . I believe the difference [in scores between red and white wines] may largely involve BODY, LENGTH, STORING POTENTIAL and the point scores awarded for those categories.”

        Continuing, you state:

        “I will only address the 100-points system here as those are the scores referenced in the article and research. In that system, as explained by Michelsen, all wines start with 50 points. . . . The other 50 potential points come from tallying a number of FACTORS. For dry, still wines these include APPEARANCE (clarity, brightness, hue and color depth), NOSE (cleanliness, depth/fullness and varietal typicity), TASTE (alcohol balance, bitterness, body, fruit structure, flavor, length and overall balance) and STORING ABILITY. For depth/fullness on the nose, I would use the terms intensity and complexity.”

        Yet Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator – the two leading 100-point scoring systems — do not judge wines by these “factors.”

        Quoting Robert Parker in that 1989 Wine Times interview:

        “The wine gets up to 5 points on COLOR, up to 15 on BOUQUET and AROMA, and up to 20 points on FLAVOR, HARMONY and LENGTH. And that gets you 40 points right there. And then the [balance of] 10 points are . . . simply awarded to wines that have the ABILITY TO IMPROVE IN THE BOTTLE. This is sort of arbitrary and gets me into trouble.”

        If it is “arbitrary,” the we can call that a bias.

        Over at Wine Spectator, a letter from a reader published in the March 14, 1994 issue (page 90) posed this question:

        “Grading Procedure

        “In Wine Spectator, wines are always rated on a scale of 100. I assume you assign values to certain properties of the wines (aftertaste, tannins for reds, acidity for whites, etc), and combined they form a total score of 100. An article in Wine Spectator describing your tasting and scoring procedure would be helpful to all of us.

        “(Signed)

        Thierry Marc Carriou
        Morgantown, N.Y.”

        Their reply:

        “Editor’s note: In brief, our editors do not assign specific values to certain properties of a wine when we score it. We grade it for overall quality as a professor grades an essay test. We look, smell and taste for many different attributes and flaws, then we assign a score based on how much we like the wine overall.”

        So Wine Spectator doesn’t even acknowledge factors/properties such as appearance, color, aroma, bouquet, flavor, harmony, length or the ability to improve with age. They don’t assign any points to such factors/properties — and then add up the discrete numbers.

        The two publications’ declared (and differing) scoring methodologies do not support your “belief” that the difference in scores between red and white wines can be attributed to BODY, LENGTH, STORING POTENTIAL.

        Robert Parker has a bias for wines that have sufficient “stuffing” that they can improve with age – preferably improve for decades.

        But that bias is insufficiently communicated to his readers, who “assume” (wrongly) that a “perfect” score FOR ANY GRAPE VARIETAL is “100 points.”

        Period.

        See my next comment highlighting some of Robert Parker’s stylistic preferences and biases . . .

        • Bob Henry


          Excerpts from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate on how he scores wines . . .

          “Long-time readers know that I am more critical of older wines than many other writers. To merit high ratings, an older wine must still be fully alive with its personality intact.”

          [ Source: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (issue 84, dated 12-11-92) ]

          “Readers should recognize that when tasting old bottles the expression, ‘There are no great wines, only great bottles,’ is applicable. . . . Long-time readers have noted that I prefer my wines younger rather than older. Therefore, regardless of its historical significance, no wine which tastes old and decrepit will receive a good review. Those old wines that receive enthusiastic evaluations do so because they remain well-preserved and loaded with remarkable quantities of rich, pure fruit. They possess a freshness, in addition to the profound complexity that developed with significant bottle age. . . . bottles that received perfect or exceptional reviews are living, rich, concentrated, compelling wines that justify the enormous expense and considerable patience collectors invest in maturing the finest young wines from top vintages.”

          [ Source: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (issue 90, dated 12-20-93) ]

          “Long-time readers know that I am a fruit fanatic, and if a wine does not retain this essential component, it is not going to receive a satisfactory review.”

          [ Source: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (issue 103, dated 2-23-96) ]

          “The 1990 Le Pin [red Bordeaux, rated 98 points] is a point or two superior to the 1989 [Le Pin, rated 96 points], but at this level of quality comparisons are indeed tedious. Both are exceptional vintages, and the scores could easily be reversed at other tastings.”

          [ Source: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (issue 109, dated 6-27-97) ]

          “. . . Many of the wines reviewed have been tasted many times, and the score represents a cumulative average of the wine’s performance in tastings to date. Scores however, do not reveal the important facts about a wine. The written commentary that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information regarding the wine’s style and personality. Its relative quality vis-à-vis its peers, and its value and aging potential than any score could ever indicate.’ ”

          [ Source: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (issue 111, dated 6-27-97) ]

          “ . . . Readers often wonder what a 100-point score means, and the best answer is that it is pure emotion that makes me give a wine 100 instead of 96, 97, 98 or 99. ”

          [ Source: Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (unknown issue from 2002) ]

        • Bob Henry


          I accessed Amazon and looked up Michelsen’s tome.

          He is the founder of Sweden’s Malmö Wine Academy.

          Quoting this book review from Decanter magazine reproduced on Amazon:

          “Clive S Michelsen’s Tasting & Grading Wine, can lay claim to being the definitive book on the subject. The 165 pages of lavishly illustrated text take the reader through the principles of wine (the vineyard) and the styles of wine (the winery), before embarking on a chapter on wine-tasting procedures that covers every possible aspect of appearance, colour, aroma and taste. After a comprehensive survey of possible defects in wine, Michelsen launches into what really sets this book apart from previous works: 30 pages on Grading Procedures, which explain ‘how to grade or score wines in a consistent way while using the 100-point system’. THIS IS NOT THE PARKER OR WINE SPECTATOR 100-POINT SCALE, but the Malmo Wine Academy 100-Point System, which leaves no stone unturned in the search for the true gradation of each wine. Printed on a sheet of A4 paper, it is well and truly complete, and dauntingly impressive, and will banish for good any off-the-cuff expressions, such as, ‘Gosh, that’s good.’…this book deserves to win the Nobel Prize for Tasting and Grading Wine…” –Stephen Spurrier, “Decanter Magazine,” October 2005

          Further refuting your belief that the difference in scores between red and white wines can be attributed to BODY, LENGTH, or STORING POTENTIAL . . . because Siegel and Chaudhary’s study does not rely upon Malmo Wine Academy 100 point scale scores.

          It relies upon Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator and maybe Wine Enthusiast published scores.

  • Bob Henry


    And here is a historical footnote.

    How many wines has Stephen Tanzer awarded a “perfect” 100 point score to?

    Give up?

    That’s okay, this is an admittedly obscure wine trivia question.

    One. And only one wine.

    And that red wine being . . . ?

    wrong Wrong WRONG!

    It was white. A German dessert wine. This one:

    2010 Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, (Mosel, Germany)

    Database of his top scores:

    http://www.wine-searcher.com/critics-11-stephen+tanzer

    • Bob Henry


      Continuing on the topic of WHITE wines receiving “perfect” scores from a wine critic . . .

      Jancis Robinson (like so many Masters of Wine) uses the 20 point maximum score scale.

      Link: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/how-to-score-wine?layout=pdf

      When she participated in a vertical tasting of Yquems going back to the 1800s, she had to improvise in the moment and recalibrate her 20 point scale to 26 (sic) points to accommodate the hedonism of the old wines she was tasting.

      With Dude’s indulgence, an excerpt from her posting. (As dim memory serves, this was first published in the “Food” section of the Los Angeles Times?)

      From Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine
      (published September 1998):

      “Notes From Attending an Yquem Vertical Tasting”

      Link: no longer available.

      Previous link: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/tasting-article-20

      Ms. Robinson’s prefacing remarks: “All in bottles with original cork unless stated otherwise.”

      1784 (President Thomas Jefferson’s collection bottle, 1 tasted by Michael Broadbent, H R [host Hardy Rodenstock] and German cronies at Wiesbaden in 1985 soon after H R’s acquisition of this Thomas Jefferson collection from a mysterious “bricked up cellar in Paris” before another was auctioned at Christie’s in 1986. The bottle tasted in 1998 was much darker than that described in 1985.)

      Very dark brown syrup with copper coloured rim. Bottle stink immediately after pouring. After 5-10 minutes a very beguiling bouquet of dried roses emerged and the wine was lively, aromatic, fragrant for a good 40 to 50 minutes. On the palate the wine was very gentle, very delicate, very feminine to the 1787’s more aggressive appeal, and the sweet fruit was lovely and very, very long before fading (earlier than the 1787). A marvel of a relic rather than unmitigated pleasure.

      1787 (another dark Thomas Jefferson bottle, engraved not labelled, with a deep punt).

      Deep, deep brown with a greenish rim and, like the 1784, smelt slighty mouldy at first. There was definite life here, however, in a wine that was slightly treacly, extremely lively with marked but not unpeasant acidity. On the palate a burnt sugar start, dry finish, no great persistence. After 40 minutes there was an intense nose of chestnuts, autumnal and briary. More robust and concentrated but less charming than the 1784. Powerful, chunky.

      1811 (the year of the comet)
      A quite amazing wine, served blind with 1831, 1911 and 1931 it was the most intense, yet least evolved of the lot.

      Deep amber with green gold rim. So vibrant and multilayered on the nose, it smelt as though it was just starting to unfold, yet was utterly convincing about the treasures it had yet to give up. Spicy and rich and so, so piercingly clean. Racy, long piercing essence of cream and spice. Very, very powerful, long and complete. After 40 minutes in the glass it took on a hint of rum toffees which is not a flavour I happen to like (c.f. the greater delicacy of the 1847) but that is the only criticism I could possibly muster. This is presumably a one-off and probably deserves an even higher ranking than the 1847. 25 [Bob Henry comment: Her 25 point score exceeds her own 20 point scale.] and still a great deal to give. I hope very much to have a chance to taste it again before I die.

      1828
      Deep amber.
      Nose not quite knit, slightly volatile. Dry finish. Less intense than the other wine vaguely in this style, the 1899 (as well it might be). 18 and going downhill slowly.

      1831
      Wide, pale rim with a heart of deep amber. Very very intense yet subtle nose with nots of nuts and cream. A superb wine with layers and layers of flavour and richness. Angelo Gaja suggested baby powder and roasted hazelnuts. Wonderfully smooth texture. Its effect on this jaded palate was medicinal in the best possible way: a quite delicious pick-me-up. So long, yet delicate. A great, great wine that happened to be served with one or two even greater ones. 24 [Bob Henry comment: Her 24 point score exceeds her own 20 point scale.] and probably at its peak.

      1847
      The big issue of the day was whether this of the 1811 was ‘better’. (Both were absolutely extraordinary. The 1847 gave me more pure tasting pleasure, but apparently this wonderfully pure scent of raspberries and vanilla cream had been apparent on the 1858 and the 1869 tasted previously, whereas there is nothing quite like the 1811 for intensity and youthfulness.) Relatively light tawny-amber. Extraordinary nose, at first perfectly ripe, warm raspberries and then heady vanilla cream. Beautifully balanced. Gentle. Delicate. Perfect texture. Nothing could be finer. 26 [Bob Henry comment: Her 26 point score exceeds her own 20 point scale.] and probably still climbing, although the 1811 will outlast it.

      1861
      Extraordinary in every way. Looked almost like black syrup, a PX, with gamboge rime. Smelt of treacle toffee and tea and moved like a thick treacle too. Very very sweet and concentrated. Certainly not fine but, amazingly, well balanced. A one-off. 23 [Bob Henry comment: Her 23 point score exceeds her own 20 point scale.] and nearly at its peak.

      . . .

      The article continued with other Yquem vintage reviews, all scoring 20 points or less.

      Robinson later revisited these remarks, and reassigned all scores above 20 points to simply 20 points maximum.

      Link: not available.

  • MyrddinGwin


    Dude, I think there are a lot of reasons why red wines might tend to break the 90-point barrier more often than white wines, and bias might be part of it. As the Drunken Cyclist mentioned, there very well could be gender bias, but I also think there is a youth/inexperience bias, as well. People just starting with wine are often perceived as liking only sweet (and usually white) wines, and you move on to dry red wines as you get more serious about it. Getting into this superiority/inferiority dynamic based on things like age, gender, or race, though, is too much like part of what terrifies me about this US election.

    I do think that Bob Henry’s quoting Robert Parker was quite helpful, too, though. Robert Parker might have had a good idea with awarding points for a wine’s ability to age (or, more accurately, ability to give pleasure at different points of its life). While Chardonnay’s just one grape used for white wine that can age well, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, and Furmint are a few others. All of them, I think, are under-rated.

    Also, while I respect your argument on red wines generally having more interesting textures than white wines, I do disagree with it. Tannin is one component that white wines usually lack that can add to structural complexity to red wines, but many white wines can have interesting textures on their own. Besides creamy textures in Chardonnays that have undergone malo-lactic conversion, Viognier, to me, can have a bit of an oily texture. Muscat Ottonel has a certain roundness for the most part to me, while a Riesling is defined by its sharpness. Even some Pinot Gris wines for me, like some from Alsace or British Columbia, can be defined by their textures.

    • 1winedude


      Regarding texture, I’m speaking in the broadest of generalities. I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t like the white wine bias (assuming it exists as suggested by the study). Let’s hope that such prejudices don’t define our US election results! :)

      • MyrddinGwin


        Don’t worry, Dude. I know you personally try to be fair. :)

        • 1WineDude


          The operative word being “try.” ;-)

  • Bob Henry


    Adding one more voice to the chorus . . .

    “Why the Hell Don’t You Ever See a 100 point Chablis? Pt 1/2 …”
    (posted Sep 7, 2012)

    Link: http://gargantuanwine.com/2014/06/100ptchablispt1/

    Excerpt:

    “It’s not a silly question. It’s very important. One simply never sees a 100/100 or a 20/20 point Chablis. Why?

    “And why ask this of Chablis, rather than some other heralded dry white wine — when we all know that the wines given 100 points are ageworthy, massive reds from Bordeaux, California, or Piedmont; dusty, vintage Champagnes; or, if made of entirely white varietals, dessert wines? (It would seem old, brawny and sweet are generally the orgasmic fancy of the 100 pointers).”

    “Why the Hell Don’t You Ever See a 100 point Chablis? pt 2/2 …”
    (posted Mar 19, 2013)

    Link: http://gargantuanwine.com/2014/07/100pointchablispt2/

    Excerpt:

    “In this final article examining our curious critical prejudice against dry white wines, I examine our inability to fully appreciate perfect Chablis with Patrick Piuze and share tasting notes on four of my all-time favorites.

  • Bob Henry


    Found this tout alluded to in the “Summer [2008] by Sokolin” catalogue distributed by that Long Island, NY retailer:

    2005 DRC Montrachet
    $5,995 bottle
    100 Points/Wine Spectator

    From the magazine’s website:

    “Both tastings of the Montrachet delivered exotic scents of apricot, pineapple, citronella and honey, still marked by oak. On the palate, it was rich and creamy, almost massive, but unfolds on the palate in waves, with fine structure and a long mineral finish. All the elements are there for a great future. As perfect a young white Burgundy as I have tasted (100/100 points, both non-blind; $2,500-$3,000).”

    [Note: This was not a “single-blind” tasting. — Bob]

    Link: http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/15377

    Leave a Reply to the drunken cyclist Cancel reply

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