It may be time for a poll…
Have you knowingly had a wine rated 99+ (or 19+ on the 20 point scale) by a wine critic?
- Yes and I was overwhelmed
- Yes, and I was underwhelmed
It may be time for a poll…
Have you knowingly had a wine rated 99+ (or 19+ on the 20 point scale) by a wine critic?
My memory may be mistaken (the effect was sufficiently underwhelming) but I believe that one night a friend in the trade bought us (during a client dinner) a bottle of Benjamin Romeo Contador (Rioja) 2005, which Parker (or his ilk at The Advocate - in those days it was Jay Miller) had rated 100 points.
It was way over-oaked for proper Rioja and not enjoyable. To be fair, it was still young at the time, but still …
We had something a lot less ‘stellar’, a lot cheaper, instead and loved it - especially in the contrast.
I think it also depends on when the wine is drunk in terms of showing a wine at its peak, it might be a 100 point wine at the time of tasting but won’t be the same after 5 or 10 years of evolution. I also think that some producers might specifically make a wine to suit certain critics in order for them to get a higher score and thus drive sales/increase brand prestige.
I’ve had a 2004 Mouton Rothschild and whilst it was a very nice wine, the world didn’t stop. If I hadn’t known the price I would have guessed around £50. Perhaps I wasn’t expecting to be knocked off my chair but there was no meteoric wow. I think for the mere mortal, once you get past £70-100 a bottle you don’t get anything extra.
The scores are now just a marketing toy and can’t say I’d bother to buy a 96 pointer over a 95. Especially if Suckling is scoring it!
I would unequivocally support that view.
I think that some tasters, ergo scorers use very high marks to inflate their self worth.
I do see a place for scores but like marking an ice skaters performance, I ignore the top mark especially if it was the skaters national judge and the bottom mark and look for an average of the rest. Nothing like democracy!! LoL!! You might end up with a score like 92.473 but at least you can justify your process, even if the number has a smattering of the ludicrous.
Brilliant article from @JamieG - this captures and explains so well what I was clumsily trying to say above about James Halliday. It’s tragic because scores are useful, and now there is no room left at the top.
In September 2016 I was privileged to taste the Tinpot Hut range at dinner with Fiona Turner. While I love her wines in general, one really stood out for me (and my wife who isn’t as much of a wine fanatic) - the 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It was one of the best “regular style” SBs I’d ever tasted, and I made it one of my top 10 whites of 2016 on my blog - but then Decanter gave it 98 points! A fantastic effort, but not close to perfection as 98 points implies…
Certainly a fascinating discussion. My own musings on the topic come form earlier this year when I was in Tuscany and visited Ornellaia where we able to try a vertical of three of their wines - La Volte (~£20/btl), Le Serre Nuove (£35-45/btl) and the Grand Vin, Ornellaia (~£150/btl). Tasting all three side-by-side, they were all delightful, and there was certainly a marked difference between all three. The 2nd wine, Le Serre Nuove, is probably closest in style to the grand vin, and stood up extremely well by itself, however, the increased depth and length of the grand vin was evident, and if one returned to the 2nd wine after tasting the grand vin it seemed diminished. Now, would I have said that it was 3-4x as good as the price might suggest? hard to say, but there certainly was a clear difference, and maybe, as many here have already suggested, you do get a diminishing return in terms of quality as push higher in price and move above £100-200/btl, but it is that little bit of improvement that you do get that allows those wines to stand head and shoulders above their peers, whilst market forces have certainly exaggerated that trend where top tier Bordeaux and Burgundy are concerned!
As for critic scores, this is another interesting read that reinforces many of the points already made: http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/jefford-on-monday/jefford-on-monday-the-104-point-second-wine-15523/
I opened an '07 Serre Nuove recently and found it extremely disappointing. Hard, tannic, no complexity. Just another ‘big red wine’.
One more thought - besides, it can also be worth the money as an investment.
What a knowledgeable, sensible, highly intelligent and unemotional post this has turned out to be. For me though, a self professed wine lover, I want to be intelligent and knowledgeable, yes, but there is a very important emotional side I want with wine too. I want my voyage of wine discovery to also be about romance, passion and philosophy, and I don’t want to miss out on this aspect.
I’ll explain. For me, enjoying wine and oenology is a life long passion, which is only the better for it being so paradoxically simply. Basically, I know that from the vine, soil, sunshine and rain; then from the grapes with their yeast, the juice, alcohol and C02, that is wine. That’s it! “Fine” wine or otherwise.
That’s the intelligent stuff over with, for me. Oh, but wait, what about what the producer does and how the very best wine achievable is made out of this and whatever else nature delivers? Isn’t that the intelligent stuff too? Of course and what about the grape variety and soil type, climate, yield, firmentation, temperature, time, maturation, etc. Then even more importantly, how this results in what the wine is like; how good it is; how much there is and how in demand it is. So there’s even more quantifiable and intelligent stuff too and all this, unfortunately, leads us to the market value, that has to be paid for the wine.
So, with all the tangible and intangible factors of supply and demand taken into concideration, and with the anecdotes, legends and the mystique that come with wine knowledge, that’s why, for me, these wines are worth the money and that is why I am prepared to pay to possess one of the most famous wines on the planet. If I really want to possess one and maybe, when the time and circumstances are right, the company and situation are right, I want to try it and appreciate it at it’s best, I would most definitely buy one.
I would buy my First Growth Medoc from a great vintage, as young as I could find, and push for the best deal I could get. Then I would keep it a long time, until I thought it would be drinking best. Also, I would drink it with the additional awareness that, if I were to go out to buy it now, and I could find one, it would cost conciderably more than what I paid for it. However, if I had the pocket to, I would certainly buy en primeur, regularly.
For all these reasons and these circumstances, in my opinion, if you can afford Ch Lafite, don’t let anyone put you off and yes, it is worth the money.
I was going to start a thread on wine scores and competitions, but you have neatly put many of the reasons to take them with a pinch of salt in your reply here, Suckling in particular gives scores above that of fellow critics to almost everything, it makes perfection something that is almost mundane and I don’t believe those scores anyway as they become meaningless.
Your anecdote of the 92.58 score was something I noticed elsewhere and just laughed.
The Parker scores in that category is sensible but it is not spelt out either by him when scoring “lesser” value wines and I cannot recall any other critic saying that at all, so to the man on the Clapham Omnibus reading such all scores are defined as just that scores.
Perhaps the time has come to have less of scores, after all everyman and his dog now put up scores they think the wine should have, newspaper columns, wine blogs everyone, all are entitled to an opinion but perhaps peak scoring has been reached, as the 100pt system doesn’t kick in until 50 points, which I suppose is given for just turning up, we should go back to a much simpler way as used by Michael Broadbent for instance which gives plenty of latitude in the marking, if anyone reads his Great Vintage Wine book you will see zero stars being given and on a couple of rare occasions he awarded six stars with the added comment of “no spitting out that day” it has a lot more meaning than the tiresome everything is 95 points and make your own mind up.
Parker was far from being all bad as is the current thinking, his value wine books were very good but never updated, one recommendation in the eighties was for a Salice Salento by Dr Cosimo '82 and stocked by the old lamented Oddbins, he said it was a wine to fill your car boot with, I did and more than once for friends and other wine drinkers, I thank him for that one.
As a follow up to the header title I give you this
I was given this six case by a client in the late eighties boom after I finished a job he was very pleased with, he knew nothing of wine but the name Lafite," it is the best isn’t it, I wanted to thank you", what of course I could not say other than thank him profusely for his generosity was that '72 was a bum year, he would not have known that.
It was consumed quite quickly as it was not a stayer, people were naturally impressed when a bottle of Lafite was produced but in honesty it was nothing more than decent, you could have purchased many better wines at a fraction of the price.
Of course in those days the vintage mattered more than today and the wineries were only just putting the science we take for granted today into practice, plus Lafite was going through a bit of a period of irregular offerings.
Have I had other great wines, well a few especially at that period of time, but the two that stand out were a Leflaive Montrachet that was mind blowing and at the first wine dinner given by the old Lay and Wheelers in the Colchester Garrison officers club for Krug Champagne.
I am a take it or leave person regards Champagne but this event was to good, and we lived relatively close at the time, to turn down, it was a splendid evening with the two brothers Henri and Remi Krug overseeing all and the place was filled with the great and the good of the wine world, Jancis was there for instance.
We were served with Grand Cuvee and several vintages of Krug, it started with the oldest the '59, the last vintage produced by the brothers father, I actually got a full glass by smiling nicely at the waitress and apart from an initial taste saved it through to the end and got drooling looks as I sampled it at leisure everyone else having long finished that vintage, it was that good my friend and his wife who came with us offered to BUY the glass from me, but no, it was magnificent and gave the whole perception of Champagne I had a totally different slant, sadly of course that vintage had disappeared from lists even by then and was far to expensive anyway.
So does the price make a difference, the answers sometimes and when it does it is worth every penny on other occasions you can, as with many Burgundy purchases and Barolo, feel you have been robbed, it is a rich mans game at the top end.
Wow! and so do I take that’s a yes?
For what it’s worth… my opinion is that wine (however fine) is made from fermented grape juice. And there cannot be THAT much difference to the end product to justify the x 100 price increase from say… £50 a bottle to £5000 a bottle. That was my conclusion having visited Pauillac & Margaux villages last summer.
HOWEVER, as a ‘micro-experiment in value for money’ you could explore the wines of an unfashionable region like Beaujolais at the mid and upper price ranges. I HAVE tried this and without doubt the expensive bottles ARE actually worth the extra price! - Having checked TWS list, the £20+ bottles are no longer available, which is a shame because they were superb.
The finest wine I have had the pleasure to drink was a bottle of 1982 vintage champagne Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque (back in 1992). And yes it was worth every penny of someone else’s money!
Great thread and have really enjoyed reading through the discussion points.
Being Australian and having been involved in the wine industry on and off for almost 20 years (the first few years as an underage son of wine store owners) I have mixed feelings towards points based wine reviews.
The Australian Wine Show system and its “improving the breed” mentality has done great things for the quality of Australian wine production. It has however helped fuel the growth of scoring wines which has set the industry on a dangerous path towards points based promotions with subsequent points creep the natural consequence.
Such scoring of wine seeks to objectify wine, when, in my opinion, consumption and enjoyment of wine is a subjective, personal experience. So whilst point scores may give an indication of quality they do not give an answer to the only question that really matters, will I enjoy that wine?
Which brings me back to the original question, is a Lafite worth the money? I’ve formed the opinion that value, like taste, is something we perceive, and is therefore personal. That to me is the beauty of wine.
As a starting point, you are correct. The question then is who is in charge of deciding worth or value.
Hugh Johnson had a very clear view in his 1996 pocket book regarding “scoring” that gives everyone the right to be in charge.
If we take it as a ‘given’ that a bottle of Lafite-Rothchild in a good year would be incomparably fine - the question therefore boils down to ‘Is it worth the MONEY’? which hinges on what £650 means to an individual.
To an oligarch, £650 is spare change - and the bottle of Lafite is easily worth the money. To myself, the price is sadly is beyond my justifiable wine budget! and the wine is therefore NOT worth the money.
HOWEVER for £20 for feast days and holidays I can enjoy a bottle of TWS exhibition Pauillac 2009, made by Lafite-Rothchild. And yes it is most certainly worth the money!
I see the latest WS offer is called ‘Where’s The Value?’.
The most expensive wine is £14.95 and half are under £10, which is disappointing given that ‘value’ (which I take to mean value for money) can be found at any price point.
“can be found at any price point.”
exactly, there was a distant time when I could afford better ? more expensive wines, and certainly did come across some beautiful bottles, but also more non value wines than at the lower price levels.
Now though I still have some “treasures” drinking is confined mainly to more affordable wines as the so called good stuff goes stratospheric, I see 2005 DRC is currently £220,000, but by judicious hunting out of lists like TWS there are some great lower priced wines that if put in bottles with the “right” label would be more than acceptable to those who feel price is the only arbiter of quality in wine, I don’t feel I have missed much and I still spend more than I should
Ah so you drink Lafite (or not, it doesn’t matter). I want advice and this headline caught my attention. I will be serving a couple of mature first growths with rack of Sussex spring lamb. My wife who is the cook in our house suggested spinach towers as one vegetable (spinach with egg set in a mould and turned out). Plus carrots and potatoes and probably cabbage. Is spinach a suitable veg in the mix of things?
I’m thinking to serve cheese next while we enjoy the remaining claret. What two cheeses might I best select to go with the these wines? One is predominately Cabernet. The other more Merlot.
One final comment on finer wines a factor in the equation is to share with those who appreciate and understand a little about what is in the glass. I once delegated pouring the wine to someone who I thought knew better, and who nearly emptied the carefully decanted wine into the first three glasses and looked around as to say what do I give the others? With finer wines somethings can’t be delegated! Ever since I put him in charge of serving potatoes.