Who to believe?


Three ‘amateurs’ or a critic in Decanter magazine?



I’ve had that wine in the past and really enjoyed it. I also know Panos and trust his views.

I think we need @mcropp to wade in here with her White Bordeaux and Showroom hats on. Is this a poorer vintage?

The wine was in one of the recent mixed cases, Marjorie talks about it here (have started the video just before she tastes it) - seems to be a popular wine in Bordeaux so perhaps might not be the same as a white Bordeaux for UK palates?


I always wonder why critics use the same glass in a tasting. There must be some residual flavouring from the three wines tasted prior to the Thieuley?

Maybe that’s the secret.

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As a professional glass washer, the impact of residual flavouring rarely outweighs the time, cost and effort of washing glasses after each individual wine.


No doubt, but surely 6 glasses could have been provided?

@Richard Great question at the heart of all reviews!

Who is the reviewer? Do we trust their judgement, do their palates align with ours?
I haven’t heard of this Decanter reviewer so his opinion is worth the same as the TWS members opinions to me (I don’t know them either, they may not be complete amateurs)

The Decanter review of this 2016 wine was published on 5 June 2017. Considering the magazines printing lead time, time to taste and write review, for editor to accept it etc etc then it must have been a very young wine when tasted.

TWS members reviews were posted in September 2017 and July 2018. They were tasting an older wine - much older in the latter case.

The Decanter reviewer was led to believe the wine was just a ‘party wine’ and found it 'more than that’.

TWS members read it was a 'refined and elegant dry blend…taken … to even greater heights’. and found it less than that.

The Decanter reviewer didn’t pay fof the wine. The TWS members did.

On balance, if I was thinking of buying the wine, I’d take more heed of the TWS members reviews

However - on one hand there are only 3 members reviews, none from the many (?) who were not disappointed; but on the other hand, TWS has not found any other positive professional review to post.


You have the key answer. Who is the reviewer etc…
If you are tasting wines all of the time you become very familiar with the key indicators.
Those of us with occasional forays into the wine market will have a different ‘memory’ and experience. My wife is anosmic, and her approach to wine is at a reasonable level of ‘drinkable or not’, and ’ do I like it?’.

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Another striking divergence of opinion on this wine

No stars or 5 stars?.


Perhaps two very different palates, or bottle variation. I can’t imagine someone giving either a no star or 5 star on a whim.

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Exactly, with all reviews there has to be a modicum of common sense, you are not going to get professionals either at the WS or in Decanter or anywhere else declaring a wine is pile of poo, they are retailers hardly likely to declare we did a “wrong un buying this” and announce such, no one would.
You only have to see the promotions put forward by staff on this blog, all glowing !
And as I have pointed out before the divergence in the opinion of those who have paid for a wine and drunk it is very different to a tasting, the pro opinion meme that they know better is only valid to a point, the pros at the big wine competitions will often end up despite their knowledge and fail safe tasting with awards that are completely at odds with each other being put on the same bottle.
There are sadly not enough reviews from members sometimes to form an opinion from them, more in this case is better, because one review from a lover of a particular wine is naturally skewed in favour.

Yeah, quite likely a divergence of expectations and preferences here. Looks like one reviewer wanted “full body high alcohol” and got it, whereas the other criticised the alcohol level and described the wine as ‘heavy’ and ‘muddy’. How do we like our reds?

And yes, in a survey where n=2, we need more people to wade in - not that I can talk; I never post reviews on the website, so I’m as guilty as many others on that count.

Which of the current two reviews would be the outlier if there were others…?


I think I need to put in a word for wine retailers here. I have never been one, nor do I have any interests in the trade.

I do agree that I don’t expect to hear from them that they made some major error in buying a wine. But I do expect them to do something about it when it happens, as it inevitably must from time to time.

The society’s promise is one example of how it deals with a part of this issue - that should cover bad bottles and even personal dislike for whatever reason. What it won’t cover is wines deemed unacceptable before they are even listed. Normally we won’t hear about this, but occasionally word slips through - as for example with prematurely oxidising white Burgundies.

In fact, I know of two other merchants who have taken action likewise. In one case, an entire consignment was rejected due to being unstable and re-fermenting. In another case, a rather spiffy Italian wine which was being matured for later offering started to mature very atypically. It was fine but not what a customer might expect. In this case they sold it off at 75% discount and with an explanation as to why.

I only mention these things as I expect a quality merchant would be dealing with all such matters behind the scenes. What can never be covered is differences in the palates of buyers, both trade and consumer. I sometimes think we radically underestimate how different our palates can be. And I am inclined to think the reviews last quoted may be an example, if only for the reason that in some sense, the poor review is downgrading certain aspects of what makes a S. Rhone what it is. For what it’s worth, I am not a huge fan either, but at least I can see where both sides are coming from.

Anyway, I would still say “know your own palate”. Treat crowd-sourced reviews with a degree of circumspection, bearing in mind differences of taste. As to professional reviews, if you can find a reviewer whose palate aligns with yours on particular wines, then great! But don’t give them a pass on anything else. And let me say it again-



What would really help here, and increase the usefulness of TWS reviews more generally, is to have reviews of past vintages included somehow - either a separate tab or just listed underneath with headings. Two reviews is nothing and next to useless. And every year the number will reset. I’m aware of the vintage variation, but looking back at how the wine fared each year gives a very helpful guide in terms of style, quality, and what to expect.

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That information should actually be available, @tom. A good example of a “palatally contentious” wine (!) would be the society’s red burgundy.

If you click on the “reviews” tab, you will see on the left that reviews of previous vintages become available.

Your suggestion is a good one though, I think!


As @Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis says, these are made available where we have them:


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TIL! Shame the star ratings are missing though.

Now if only we can make it easier to find our own reviews, I might be more inclined to contribute…

Yes! And at the risk of sounding banal, we really do all perceive the world in our own unique ways, and I think it’s very easy to forget it - a source, I fear, of all sorts of misunderstandings in life. It reminds me, for some reason, of when I was training to be an EFL teacher - one of the tutors was always trying to press home something oddly similar: WHAT YOU TEACH IS NOT WHAT THEY LEARN.

I have a bottle arriving today, and although there are some much posher ones in the order, this is the one I can’t wait to try, because it’s clearly so bloody polarising it could, in this day and age, run for public office.


Generally, I’m not too worried about one bad review. Wine can be corked, or otherwise defective and the taster just doesn’t know. Odd things like temperature, weather, food and just a crappy day at work can alter your taste.
The other problem is a value judgement, often the review includes negative comments on the value over a cheaper wine they know. We all know how subjective this is and how inexperienced drinkers can be bad at spotting nuance.

@Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis, I’ve looked through those burgundy reviews and they’re really something. I think the advice to start higher up is a good one, possibly also with some age. Or just not start if you respect your wallet.

@tom isn’t there a link to previous vintages reviews down the left hand margin of the review box?

The reviews on the TWS site most be of some use as I look at them regularly and try to post some too.