Blind tasting is tough – tasting Bordeaux 2005 with Robert Parker

blind wine tasting
On Wednesday evening I attended a tasting of fifteen wines from Bordeaux 2005. The vintage was widely hailed as superb and pre-recession demand drove the prices into the stratosphere. Aside from the outrageous apparent quality of the wines, the tasting had two other attractions: the ability to taste some of the top wines blind and to do so in the company of Robert Parker.

Over 100 of us packed a room in a midtown hotel for the event, organized by Executive Wine Seminars. I arrived fifteen minutes early and it was already hard to find a seat at a table. Five wines were pre-poured into five ISO glasses, and there was some bread and cheese. At my table were people who had come in from Chicago, Wisconsin, Delaware and Napa. And they had paid a lot of money too: $795 each (I was fortunate enough to have gotten a ticket from someone who couldn’t attend). The air practically buzzed with anticipation.

Even though the tasting was blind, everyone knew the lineup of wines and it included some of the most heralded wines of the vintage as the Parker scores (in parentheses) indicate:
Angelus (98) • Cos d’Estournel (98) • Ducru Beaucaillou (97) • Haut Brion (98) • Lafite Rothschild (96+) • La Mission Haut Brion (97) • Larcis Ducasse (98) • Latour (96+) • L’Eglise Clinet (100) • Margaux (98+) • Montrose (95) • Pape Clement (98) • Pavie (98+) •Le Gay (95) • Troplong Mondot (99)

In addition to my excitement about tasting these wines, I was eager to see Parker engage in a blind tasting. Blind tastings are incredibly challenging, of course, and can humble even the most accomplished tasters. On the other hand, Parker is known to be a formidable taster, and he has made some impressive claims about his own tasting abilities. In the famous profile of Parker published in The Atlantic (that Parker displays on his web site) back in December 2000, the author wrote that Parker “stores the sensation of each [wine] into a permanent gustatory memory. When I asked him about the mechanical aspects of his work, he told me in a matter-of-fact way that he remembers every wine he has tasted over the past thirty-two years and, within a few points, every score he has given as well.”

2005 is a vintage that is obviously very fresh in his memory (and he has said it is the greatest Bordeaux vintage he has experienced in his storied career), and given his apparent total recall of the wines he tastes, I was obviously very keen to see how he’d fare in a blind tasting–particularly one involving his favorite wines of the vintage.

Parker himself was in good spirits, chatting and being photographed with many of the attendees. A burly man, he was wearing a black, open-necked shirt and a gray sport coat with red légion d’honneur pin on the lapel.

On his left, Parker had a “surprise” guest, Dominique Renard, a négociant from Bordeaux who Parker had been wanting to meet up with Parker so Parker invited him to join the seminar.

In his opening remarks, Parker placed the 2005 vintage in the pantheon of vintages that includes 45, 47, 59, 61, and 82. He also said that it was tough to taste Bordeaux that was so clearly meant for the long haul at this point in its evolution and praised the organizer, Howard Kaplan of EWS, for “taking time away from his family this morning” to double decant the wines (from bottle to a decanter, then back into the rinsed bottle). He said he hadn’t tasted these wines since 2007. He also touched on the probable quality of the 09 vintage (“looks superb”) as well as the 08s (“a much underrated vintage”) and the difficulties of 07 (“will be discounted very seriously”).

ews flight Finally, we dove into the first flight. It was clearly divided between two modern style wines, #1 and #3, that were quite popular (but that I didn’t really care for) and the others. The second wine was quite reticent and closed and some attendees, including Parker, dumped on it for that reason. I actually had a hard time deciding whether this was delicate or closed and, in the end, I decided on both. The fourth wine was a wall of tannins, but the tannins were elegant and the wine seemed quite like Cabernet. Parker opined after the flight that it was very definitely a Medoc and probably a first growth. The final wine in the flight was drinking the best right now, truly quite delicious. Parker suggested it was a Pomerol (on the right bank).

In his overview of the first flight, Parker discussed the powerful tannins of the wines and that these wines would likely outlive him. When he said, “the worst thing you could do is die with a full cellar,” the room burst into laughter and a smattering of applause.

mission haut brion 2005 Unfortunately, given that there were only five glasses, we had to dump what remained of the first flight to make way for the second. Wine number six was bursting with plump and juicy red fruits that I found to be stewy. The seventh wine had an alluring nose with just a hint of Brett (think earth and horses), and a gorgeous structure with a balance of tannin from both the barrel and the grapes. The eighth wine had a pretty nose of rose petal but, in my view, had a slightly confected quality on the palate. Parker suggested after the flight that it might be Cos d’Estournel.

The ninth wine was another beauty and, for me, the wine of the night. Although there was another big slab of tannins, the tannins were elegant undergirding a delicate layer of dark berry aromas. Tightly wound and clearly one for the long haul, I would gladly tuck this away in my basement to enjoy decades from now. Parker called the wine “virtually perfect,” and thought it was from the Medoc.

The tenth wine was another beauty, with a lovely herbal note on the aroma. On the palate, huge but graceful tannic structure proved that the best wines can have both power and elegance. Parker said it was “very Medoc and very cabernet” but likely not to be a first growth and suggested, specifically, Ducru. Overall, he called this flight a “really extraordinary” flight of wines.

The final flight started badly with a horrendously corked wine. Fortunately, Howard found another bottle and brought it to our table. I found this pour to have a sort of char brulée note, a juiciness on the midpalate but also a nice minerally quality at the core. Parker called it “shut down.” The twelfth wine was big, rich, luscious but the tannins were not a wall, rather rich, polished, and expensive, the Ferragamo loafer of tannins. I thought it was a good example of the modern style. The thirteenth wine was a lovely aromatically but on the palate had somewhat sweet tannins. Parker commented that he thought it was a first growth.

latour 2005 The fourteenth wine I found to be overblown, a wall of tannins with overripe fruit. Parker liked it, however, so much so that he hailed it as a first growth. The final wine was another gorgeous example of cabernet in a bit more modern style, rich, tarry but not to tarry. Parker didn’t have a comment on this wine.

The organizers of the Executive Wine Seminars like to have the participants vote on the top wines of the tasting. So we all filled in our top three choices, and with alacrity that would put many polling stations to shame, Howard ran the tallies, awarding three points to a wine for a first place finish, two for a second, and one for a third.

But before the unveiling, one of the organizers asked Parker if he cared to pick two wines out of the tasting. “Um, no,” was his immediate reply to an outburst of laughter from the room. However, he then decided to elaborate a few picks, as is the tradition at these annual EWS events. He said that his favorite wines of the evening were 9, 8, and 3 followed closely by 13, 14 and 1. As to specific picks, he ventured that wine #6 was Pape Clement, #8 was Cos, #10 Ducru, #9 Margaux, #13 Latour, #14 Lafite, saying that it was hard to confuse those last two but that they could be the other way around.

Here was the order of the wines with their popular vote tallies:
1. Pavie, St. Emilion (51)
2. Haut Brion (6)
3. Pape Clement (56)
4. Montrose (2)
5. Ducru (30)
6. Angelus, St. Emilion (57)
7. La Mission Haut Brion (43)
8. L’Eglise Clinet, Pomerol (53)
9. Le Gay, Pomerol (53)
10. Latour (86)
11. Larcis Ducasse, St. Emilion (28)
12. Margaux (40)
13. Lafite (28)
14. Troplong Mondot, St. Emilion (54)
15. Cos d’Estournel (39)

I note the appellations of the six right bank wines since they are mostly Merlot based as opposed to the Cabernet-based wines from the Medoc.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Well, for one, you could have ten bottles of Le Gay, Parker’s favorite wine of the evening, for the price of one bottle of Lafite.

A second conclusion is about the wines themselves. There are clearly some winemakers that have pushed a style of wine making that makes forceful, extracted wines, enhanced with new oak and the resulting wood tannin. Sometimes that style can obscure the grape variety or even the place to such an extent that one might confuse a cabernet for a merlot, a Medoc for a Pomerol. And in a blind tasting, a delicate and/or close wine such as Haut Brion can fare poorly when sandwiched between two opulent wines such as Pavie and Pape Clement.

A final issue is about points and the nature of blind tasting, a capricious undertaking if there ever were one. Although Parker did not rate the wines yesterday, his top wine of the evening (Le Gay) was the lowest rated in the lineup from his most recent published reviews. It goes to show that on any given night, one wine can show better than its “pedigree.” For all the precision that a point score implies, it is not dynamic, changing with the wines as they change in the bottle nor does it capture performance from one tasting to the next.

Blind tasting removes preconceptions about wines while maintaining the ability to rate wines in a peer group setting. Wednesday night, Parker upended the order of his published ratings of the wines and, in the process, could not correctly identify any of these wines. In print, he awarded L’Eglise Clinet, a Pomerol, a score of 100 points. While he did call it his second favorite wine of the night, it is interesting to note that he could not pick out this wine in the lineup (he thought the actual L’Eglise to be Cos, a wine that is not only from across the river, but from St. Estephe, an appellation known for the extreme tannic structure of the wines). In that same vein, he mistook Lafite, a Paulliac, for Troplong-Mondot, a new wave St. Emilion. Blind tasting can be ruthless in its outcomes.

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118 Responses to “Blind tasting is tough – tasting Bordeaux 2005 with Robert Parker”


  1. I have had the chance to attend two other EWS Bordeaux dinners with Parker leading the tasting. For the record, I remember that at the blind tasting of 1990 Bordeaux Parker nailed a very high percentage of his guesses. And, in 1990, the Beausejour Duffau which Parker gave 100 points to was also the wine of the night, for him and the rest, to the best of my recall.


  2. Sounds like Parker is a victim of his own legend. The 100 point rating system seems flawed to me in that some of his ratings of lesser wines are incredibly high and wines in the 90 – 100 bracket are all over the place. For someone who can remember every wine (presumably blind – without the need of having it in front of him) and also his given rating, perhaps it he that is changeable rather than the wine “showing” on any particular tasting (especially within a short period of time).


  3. Hi Adam,

    He did say that he always guesses at the EWS tastings, adding: “the first tasting I did here I got them all right and I haven’t done very well since then.”


  4. Wow, does this mean 2005 BDX goes with humble pie?


  5. Yet more evidence that scoring wines–for fun at an event like this, as a blind taster for a magazine or in a competition format–is valuable only on that day, at that time and place. No more, no less. Ratings simply can’t be etched in stone, ever (except maybe Sierra Carche?).

    As much as we all love to holler, moan and extend virtual middle fingers to critics when they make mistakes, embarrass themselves or undermine their own credibility, we have to consider that it’s the consumers who bestowed this power and credibility upon them in the first place. The wineries, too. So long as winemakers continue to produce score-chasing wines, consumers will buy them. Maybe it’s time consumers and wineries stop putting such faith in the critics…though perhaps it’s just too much fun watching them slip up now and again. Have to admit, always gives me a laugh.

    Really well done, Tyler.


  6. Wow,Parker guesses. I feel better, so do I. Wish I was there to hear that.

    But, even guessing and getting close to half right is really impressive in that, or any, environment. Even for RP.

    Adam


  7. Adam,

    Makes you realize why he never tastes blind for reviews, though, huh?

    Troplong mistaken for Lafite?

    Imagine if that happened on a regular basis in Bordeaux reviews that he publishes.


  8. Great post, Tyler. Lots of food for thought on many issues from blind tasting to points to winemaking styles to Parker’s methodology. The Le Gay sounds delicious.


  9. My understanding is that the best Parker did at EWS was 10 for 12 his first time (79 Bordeaux):
    http://www.wineloverspage.com/user_submitted/wine_notes/3338.html

    Of course there’s the French TV story, which has been repeated a lot as the proof of his taste memory. About dozen years ago Parker made a post on the US site Prodigy (which was basically all American -remember the days before most people were on the web?). He said he was blindsided by a superstar of French TV with an audience of 16 million, with no warning tasting a dozen Bordeaux double blind, and then identifying every single wine he had ever tasted before (by chateau and vintage, including the ringer, a Montus) and getting within one point of his previous scores. It has been periodically posted it as an evidence of Parker’s incredible skill (and indeed, it’s the greatest blind tasting feat I’ve ever heard of). 

    Problem was it was always that one post. There’s a lot of problems with the post- no French person I’ve asked has ever heard of this “superstar” host Bruno de la Palme (he got one hit on Google without any bio), no French TV show has 16 million viewers except maybe the World Cup, etc. . When questioned a few times, his board moderator “oh, it was never shown” (that was never mentioned before in a dozen years of it circulating ) implying that the evil French thought it put Parker in too good a light. Then Parker said he had a tape of it, but it was in non-conforming format Oh, and maybe he misplaced it during office move. But he hoped to find to “relive the glory.” Just search “Bruno de la Palme” on eRobertParker.com. You can form your own opinions of validity of the oft-repeated French TV story. I’ll just say double blind is a lot harder than single blind, and that at the EWS tastings it’s all wines he has tasted within last couple years.

    Blind tasting is generally humbling, though I’ve seen some amazing calls by both pros and amateurs.


  10. Oh, I meant to add that while identifying wines blind is not the defining factor in being a wine critic (in a way it’s a parlor trick), the most important part is your point re what that implies about the supposed precision of the points system.


  11. Tyler I am sure will blog about another blind tasting we did yesterday; a New Zealand Pinot Craggy Range versus Pinots from around the world. I think the experienced tasters can tell Burgundy from other Pinot Noirs, but the results were very surprising.


  12. Tyler,

    Great piece! Blind tasting aside, IMO; any tasting of any wine is simply a snapshot of that particular bottle on that particular day by that particular taster shaded by his or her preferences and the limitations of the acuity of his or her palate.

    The relative unpredictability of each bottle that one opens is a great part of the fun!


  13. My thoughts while reading this went in a similar direction as Daniel’s. The Jay Miller scandals a while back cast light on 2 things:

    (1) boondoggles
    (2) disregarding stated blind tasting policies

    Although they’ve addressed the boondoggles, I haven’t seen The Wine Advocate address this second issue to my satisfaction. Therefore, I don’t subscribe to the publication.

    Great piece of writing. Very interesting.


  14. At some point we will look back upon scored wines and laugh. I truly believe that. I understand its utility as a marketing tool, but even the most erudite consumers are seduced by high scores these days. And yet time and again we see that the scores don’t mean much. Does this mean that Lafite and Latour are not two of the very best wines in the world? Of course not. But it does mean that those wines are not trophies that are so pure they can be seen and distinguished from miles around.

    We have no excuse to worship scores anymore. They have a purpose, but they shouldn’t matter to those who truly love wine. The greatest wine writers should be the ones telling the best stories of these wines. I’ll give credit to a critic like James Molesworth who writes prolifically when he travels and comes to understand the nuances of the wines he covers. Certainly there are others. But Parker will eventually be remembered as an anachronism, a false idol of over-wrought marketing and vinous worship. Wine isn’t a score. It’s a story.


  15. When we taste wine we should remember that we are sharing in it’s history. We have frozen a description of a season’s worth of growth and product in a glass test tube, inside of which is constant evolution, churning moments of pleasure and disappointment. The flaw made by many in the point scale system is that this is forgotten. Many drink for the 100 points to say that it is always perfect. In any composition there are moments of rest, quiet, angles that prompt more interest for a bigger reward that follows. That is the joy of reopening these wines through their history and your story, your reaction to that moment of time, adds to it’s tale. Give the wine you did not like a score for the night, another when we open it 5yrs, 10yrs, 20yrs later and average the total. Then you see why Robert gave it the score he did.
    In his wisdom, RP is judging the concert not just the song, the history and potential not just the photo moment.
    Bravo to the man for going out on the line.
    We all drank well that night even if the were not ready for the party.


  16. […] Over at Dr. Vino, probably the best wine blog on the internet, Tyler Coleman (who actually is the Doctor himself) gives the play by play of an exclusive blind tasting of some of the 2005 Bordeaux with the great Robert Parker. For those who don’t follow these things, Parker is probably the most influential voice and palate the wine industry has ever seen. He’s partly famous for his extraordinary powers of discernment and partly for his unyielding bombast and self-promotion (hubris is not scarce in the wine world). However, much of Parker’s reputation has to do with his purportedly unimpeachable integrity and independence: he never accepts any free gifts from winemakers and distributors, always pays his own way no matter what the cost, and even famously avoids becoming too friendly with those who work for wineries and distributors so he doesn’t create even the appearance that his judgment might be compromised. He even devised a much more nuanced and complicated one hundred point system for rating wines with greater specificity transforming the capricious art of wine tasting into a quasi-science. […]


  17. During a recent Burgundy dinner and tasting with Peter Wasserman, he said he believes ’05 Red Burgundies are starting to enter their “dumb phase” and not showing as well as they will. I wonder if that’s true for the ’05 Bordeaux vintage as well.


  18. So much for Parker’s claim that he can taste blind and unblind with the same degree of accuracy. In the old Prodgy days he claimed he had “trained” himself to filter our any possible influence when tasting unblind. Poppycock then, poppycock now. He just doesn’t get it.


  19. By the way, Parker did not “DEVISE” the 100 point scale. It had appeared years earlier in other wine publications. He certainly popularized it but he is NOT its creator.


  20. Yes I’m sure this will provoke plenty of debate – to the trenches one and all, collect your grenades on the way!

    In truth, we ought to expect such inconsistent results tasting blind. Even Burgundy mistaken for Bordeaux (as the cliche goes). Certainly right-bank for left-bank, especially in a vintage where some of the left bankers may have more bold fruit than normal.

    So it’s a non-story? Well it really ought to be a non-story.

    Why does it get raised then? Mostly because of the bold claims of consistently calling it right, having a very consistent palate and such a wonderful palate memory of these 30+ years of wine.

    Such tastings blow the myth. It doesn’t say he’s a better or worse taster than anyone else. If he didn’t make these bold claims, there wouldn’t be a story.

    regards

    Ian

    regards

    Ian


  21. If you have no defined method and criteria for awarding points, you will have difficulty arriving at the same scores. Especially if you do not taste the whole bottle.


  22. “By the way, Parker did not “DEVISE” the 100 point scale. It had appeared years earlier in other wine publications. He certainly popularized it but he is NOT its creator.”

    I am surprised to read this. As far as I knew, Parker did originate the 100 point scale for wine. Who then was the first?


  23. This is the first I’ve heard of Parker NOT inventing the 100 point scale. In fact, on the Amazon.com review page for the book “The Emperor Of Wine,” Booklist states “Parker’s initial role was as a skeptic and consumer advocate, a kind of Ralph Nader of the wine world; one aspect of his straight-shooting approach was his now-celebrated 100-point scale for rating wine.” – http://www.amazon.com/Emperor-Wine-Robert-Parker-American/dp/0060093684

    Of course it’s possible he didn’t invent it. If he didn’t who did?


  24. Also, Parker’s Wikipedia entry says this: “One of the most influential and controversial features of Parker’s wine criticism is his 100-point rating system, which he devised with his friend Victor Morgenroth.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Parker,_Jr.


  25. Dale,

    Great link, thanks!


  26. […] Vino blind tasting 2005 Bordeaux with Robert Parker here. Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments » Leave a […]


  27. Wow, they let you in?

    I like the contrast between the initial bluster: “he remembers every wine he has tasted over the past thirty-two years and, within a few points, every score he has given as well” and then not being able to identify a single wine in the blind tasting.

    The 100 point thing is just one part of it. More interesting is how his empire was built on bluster. He is human after all, and not a tasting robot.

    Great reporting, Tyler


  28. I think there may be some confusion over terminology.

    AFAIK Parker invented his own 100 point scale, but wasn’t (by many decades) the first to devise/use a 100 point scale.

    regards
    Ian


  29. Full disclosure: I unpopularly find a lot of value in continuing to follow Parker and for the most part find him to be consistent enough to know which of the wines he likes that I will or won’t like. Many of us like to disect each other’s comments, about Parker and in general, literally. Here is a paragraph from page 1 of every Wine Advocate for consideration and full disection:

    “…assigning a score to a beverage that will change and evolve for up to 10 or more years is analogous to taking a photograph of a marathon runner. Much can be ascertained but, like a picture of a moving object, the wine will also evolve and change….Scores, however, do not reveal the important facts about a wine. The written commentary that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information.”

    Is it impossible that some of these 2005s have changed since original reviews or does it mean that the EWS tasting yesterday absolutely rendered the original ratings as a blasphemous and and unreliable snapshot?

    Lots of people used to tell me to check out my girlfriends’ mothers to see the future and not lock in solely based on current appearance and characteristics:-)


  30. Ian S wrote:
    “AFAIK Parker invented his own 100 point scale, but wasn’t (by many decades) the first to devise/use a 100 point scale.”

    Please give me an example. The Brits used the 20 point scale, Broadbent used the 5 star. I am almost certain that Parker invented the 100 pooint scale. if I am wrong, I would like a minimum of one example of somebody who used it before he did.


  31. Determining who invented radio (Tesla or Marconi) has real implications, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have such a thing as radio and the impact it had on society and the way it communicates.


  32. Mark
    My understanding was that the earlier users of 100 point scale for wine were French (before my time and I suspect your’s). I don’t have the names to hand – but presumably out there on the web if you or I can be bothered to go hunting. Hopefully someone else will chime in with names/dates to save us the effort.

    regards

    Ian


  33. Mark
    Despite somewhat efficient search engines, searching for “100 point & wine” isn’t good for the soul ;¬)

    Here’s one quote:
    “By the 1950s numerical scoring was here to stay with the British Wine Trade using a 20 point scale while at the same time in Australia winemaker and writer Daniel Francis Murphy was using a 100 point scale for his wine tasting notes. ” Dan Murphy is a name well-known to Aussie wine enthusiasts.

    As I said, I don’t think this was the 1st use, but frankly such history isn’t of interest to me. I’m sorry if this info is a disappointment – I’m not looking to burst anyone’s bubble, however from your comment:

    [Quote] I would like a minimum of one example of somebody who used it before he did.[Unquote]

    I fear I may have done, so for that I apologise.

    regards

    Ian

    regards

    Ian


  34. Ian thanks for the search; Dan Murphy is not a name that is familiar but it does certainly work as one name that preceded Parker.

    BTW, I am no Parker apologist,but I do believe that the 100 point system and his overall impact to the world of wine hovers on the positive side. So I do like to give him credit where it is due.


  35. I love it. Parker reinforces that price is not indicative of quality!!

    Tyler – Did Parker know you were there?


  36. Tyler:

    Thanks for the nice writeup of the tasting, mentioning myself and EWS. I just thought that what was missing from the piece was capturing the sheer joy shared by most participants to be there.

    Or, to put it more simply, it was unbelievable FUN to taste those 2005s with Mr. P. This is why we drink wine as our hobby instead of collecting stamps!

    Howard


  37. The modern myth is that Parker was the first to use a 100 point scale to evaluate wine. Nope, first done years earlier by an Aussie. Here are the details:

    http://shirazshiraz.blogspot.com/2006/08/point-about-100-points.html


  38. So we should all go buy some Le Gay before the price rises toooo much?


  39. Tyler- very nice post. It is nice to hear that Parker is human, well at least as far as blind tastings go! Just further proof that reviewing and tasting wines is subjective and outcomes can change with the direction of the wind. The time of Parker is nearing the end as the rest of the wine world finds it wine tasting self confidence!

    Cheers!


  40. It has to be said that not being able to identify any of those wines is a surprise. It is not a disgrace–although given some of his claims, it is rather more of a small but not insignificant question-raiser.

    Identifying wines blind is a parlor trick, as noted above. It has nothing to do with judgment, and I have seen great tasters who can do it frequently, even when not knowing what was being tasted, and I have seen great tasters who can rarely do it.

    It would be a total non-issue here except for the big deal that Parker himself has made of it.

    That said, the preference order changes in this tasting are virtually insignificant and tell us next to nothing about the 100-point scale. With the exception of one 100-point wine, all the other wines were rated 95 to 98. It really does not matter if the next time they were rated the order changed. Scores at that level are other worldly, and if the wines continue to be other worldly, then there is no argument except for those who think that wine scores are scientific rather than subjective approximations.

    Finally, Parker identified three wines as his top choices. They scored 100, 98 and 95. I cant see how one can be totally upset with that result.

    No, it is not the qualitative judgment that is subject here. It is the claim to parlor trick wizardry that loses out.

    The range of wines tasted should suggest to all that it would be impossible to criticize Parker for getting the order wrong.


  41. Charlie,

    Good points, but lets not forget some things…Parker has put himself on a pedestal. He claims he never forgets what he tastes. He claims that all of his final BDX scores are based upon blind tastings of btls he has procured through retail channels. He claims he nailed 9 out of 12 wines DOUBLE BLIND in Paris 13 years ago on LIVE TELEVISION.He claims a lot, and when push comes to shove, and we all seek affirmation of his claims, there is no proof of any of it. The problem is not that he got all of the wines wrong. The problem is that he claims he always gets them right…and never does…


  42. “On October 2nd, 2009 at 5:41 pm, Colby wrote:
    “Parker reinforces that price is not indicative of quality!!”

    …when you talk about wines selling at $100, $200, $300… Almost never true when you taste wines at $10, $25, $35, up to about $50. Unfortunately. :)

    James


  43. There is something we are all missing and that is how hard it is to evaluate Bordeaux wines at this youthful stage and surely even harder, if not impossible pre en primeur. If Tyler struggled to find fruit under all that tannin how does anyone, hand on heart, claim to be able to evaluate these wines at such a young stage of development. Makes you wonder how accurate early assessment of wines like these at bottling stage or even a few years after can be reliable. Not even Parker was able to produce any correlated scoring with his original ssessments and that cannot be due to dumb stages or bottle development. These have only just been in bottle a short time and the descriptions from Tyler sound just like you would expect – hard, harsh and unpleasant.

    One other point – we have to admire Parker for being willing to stand out there and make his assessments on which wine was which. Of course he is going to get some wrong and some right, but would any of us put our reputations on the line like that.

    And for thse who have never heard of Dan Murphy the original 100 point man, he has written a number of books in the 1980’s classifying Australian wines into quality gradations. He is well known Down Under and was for many years a reliable and major wine merchant.


  44. […] Dejar un comentario Les traduzco parte de un comentario colgado por “DaleW” en la más reciente entrega de Dr. Vino, sobre una cata a ciegas de burdeos 2005 con Robert M. Parker, Jr. Dale (si es en efecto quien creo […]


  45. When did Parker taste them the first time? He must have thought they were mature enough to evaluate properly. Now the wine is about 4 years old, young by many standards, but this is a vintage which is unique. It it can be drank very young and age very well. Most wines are drank very young these days and the winemakers know it. Are not the modern wines of France being made more approachable at a young age?
    Cudos to RP for putting himself out there.


  46. I m currently looking at the revised edition of Amerine & Joslyn’s Table Wines (copyright 1970). At pages 711ff., they discuss various scoring systems for wines, including several 100 point systems, a 50 point system, and a 200 point system!

    I am truly amazed at the credulity of those who think Parker invented, as opposed to popularized the 100 point system.


  47. Many interesting comments here–great discussion.

    Felix Salmon also continues the discussion over on his blog at Reuters.com.

    @Claude – that 200 point system sounds interesting!

    As to the point that the wines were in a dumb period now, yes, some of them were shut down but each was different. Never in the evening did Parker suggest that this would prevent him from venturing guesses.

    And as to some suggestions that the conditions on Wednesday made it difficult to taste, consider what Parker told The Atlantic further in the piece that I linked to above:

    “A wine goes in my mouth, and I just see it. I see it in three dimensions. The textures. The flavors. The smells. They just jump out at me. I can taste with a hundred screaming kids in a room. When I put my nose in a glass, it’s like tunnel vision. I move into another world, where everything around me is just gone, and every bit of mental energy is focused on that wine.”


  48. Thanks for the great post, Tyler.

    What’s amazing to me is not that he identified only a couple of the wines blindly, but that he put them in the wrong area — Left Bank wines on the Right Bank and vice versa — in four of the six cases where he guessed a wine:

    I’d forgive him for not nailing the wines, but it was much worse than that. Of the six wines he guessed, he was wrong about which side of the river they were from in four cases!

    Angelus (St. Emilion) – he had as Pape Clement (Graves)
    L’Eglise Clinet (Pomerol) – he guessed Cos (St. Estephe)
    Le Gay (Pomerol) – he guessed Ch. Margaux
    Troplong Mondot (St. Emilion) – he guessed Lafite (Pauillac)

    On the 100 point scale…. I’m not sure, but wasn’t Robert Finnegan using it in his newsletter, too, in the early 80s, before Parker became the dominant critic?


  49. No one should be apologizing for Robert Parker. He could apologize for himself, if he saw fit. He chose this theme and helped choose the wines as well.

    When 12 wines were poured double blind for him in 1996 in Paris on LIVE TELEVISION and he nailed 9 of them, they were 4 year old Bordeaux. Or so he claims that happened. No one saw the video…not even the 16 million viewers.

    He has chosen 2007 CDPs for his Rioja tasting in November as well. Why choose young wines?

    You will have to ask him, bhut to apologize for Robert Parker, the man who has claimed to be the one true voice of the consumer, sounds more ridiculous each time I read someone offering up an excuse.

    He guessed at the wines and got them wrong. he has tasted these 2005s a few times and has tasted each of these Chateaus hundreds of times. He ought to know their style after 30 years, no?

    ‘Nuff said.


  50. I should have added for those who don’t recognize the citation to Amerine and Joslyn, the first edition was published in 1951 and well into the 1980s, it remained a core text at UC Davis and other wine programs around the country.


  51. This is shaping up to be a more interesting and telling post than either of the previous “scandals” involving RMP, because what happened here is more black and white. Plus, this is about RMP himself, not the actions of his underlings.

    The most important conclusions I draw are from this “0-fer” are:
    1) There is virtually no distinction between wines that rate 96 and up on any person’s scale.
    2) replication of blind tasting results — for both identifying wines or bestowing scores — is a crapshoot (often yielding crap)
    3) I see no real point in pillorying RMP here; he is human and can err. I only hope he remembers this exercise before claiming again that his palate memory is practically photographic.
    4) Wine, especially those that evolve over time, should not be tagged with ratings that imply utter precision.
    5) If more critics were as willing as RP to RE-taste wines they have previously rated in publich, then the 100-point scale would be far more laughable among the common wine drinker.


  52. Tyler, the next time you can’t make something do you think you could offer me your ticket?


  53. Fascinating discussion, as others have said. Its not news that RMP couldn’t nail wines blind, and somewhat newsworthy that he put left banks in the right bank, and v.v.

    But these results in light of the rather amazing claims he made in the Atlantic Monthly are very newsworthy, IMHO. I hadn’t read that article before. What jumps out at me are the almost cult-like quotes they are–the kind of outlandish claims of almost supernatural ability often made by cult leaders. As a psychologist, I have studied some cults and what always stands out are the charismatic behaviors of the leaders with claims of superiority and beneficence. Very interesting. Its also remarkable that when the original Atlantic Monthly article came out, more people didn’t attempt to challenge the claims. It really reads like the behavior/statements of a leader of a cult.


  54. One of the things that this event need not turn into is a bashing of wine ratings. There was nothing here to rate. It is utter ridiculous to ever expect wines scoring at those levels to be precise nailable.

    The real question is whether at four years old, the judgments of supreme quality hold up. If you think they do not, then that is the issue. O

    Now, the questions about how Parker confused the wines from place to place is something that bears discussion. But let’s look at Pape Clement for a moment. Both it and Angelus are wines that now swear by high ripeness and loads of oak, and, by the way, Pape Clement is 40% Merlot, is aged in 100% new oak, is made by a man who makes wine on both sides of the river, in the Languedoc, as well as Morocco, Spain, Portugal, California, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. Is it any wonder that Pape Clement has an “international style”. And Angelus, to my palate, could come from anywhere. It is just ripe and deep. Nothign wrong with that. Some folks will hate it for its lack of terroir. But, it is not surprising that Angelus and Pape Clement could be confused. Neither is distinctive in its own right.

    Now, confusing Cos with Eglise Clinet is a lot more suprising. So, yes, there is probably room to second guess the man on that issue and the other confusions.

    The distinction between wines that rate at 96 and wines that rate at 98 are not likely to be distinguishable precisely on a regular basis. Yes, Tish, you are right. So what? Those are scores that tell me only one thing. The person who gave them loved those wines.

    It is also true that there is not a dramatic difference most of the time between wines that score 91 points and 93 points. And you could probably make that argument all the way down to 880 and 82 points. Your argument only holds water if you insist that the numbers have scientific validity instead of being what they are meant to be–and that is subjective approximations. Every scoring system from Yes or No to Three Stars (not puffs, dammit) to 20 points to 200 points have strengths and weaknesses. Yet, as Clyde Kolm has pointed out, systems of that nature go back decades and decades.

    Tish, your attacks on the 100-point system beg more from you than attack. Got an alternative that will be useful and accepted? If not, then I don’t see the point in slandering the system that millions of people accept.

    It is a little like dismissing all CA Chards.

    Finally, to John Morris who asks about Bob Finnegan’s rating system, it was a simple four tier system of Exception, Above Average, Average and Below Average (the names are from memory since I would have to dig out his newsletter to be sure–but I do not recall that he ever used the 100-point system, even at the end of his publishing career–and certainly not uin the 1970s when he started publishing).


  55. Charlie,
    Unfortunately, debates about RP are always going to veer into debates about the 100-pt scale. But since you asked for an alternative, how about this: Maybe RP should turn the clock back about ten, 15 years to when his print mag had a clear statement on the front page declaring that no ratings were to be used without explicit reference to the WA issue # and date. I don’t know when he stopped that, but clearly that opened up opportunity for retailers and marketers to us them much more wontonly. And for their own purposes.

    I have said this before: It is not the use of points that are the problem; it is their extraction from editorial context (tasting note) causes problems. And the problem is more acute with the 100-pt scale than with stars and other systems because the numbers 80 on up falsely imply precision.

    Wine is not precise; it’s rich and varied and complicate. People are human. We can get that.

    If the 100pt scale were so dandy we would see critics in a lot of fields use it. But they don’t.


  56. Wow. Lousy editing above–by me.

    –Utterly and precisely (my eighth grade teacher would roll over in her resting place if she saw that)
    –80 to 82 points
    –Exceptional, not Exception


  57. Tish–

    Agreed. Wine is not precise. Most readers of wine media (the ones who actually read the words) understand that fact and understand that the number is as subjective as the judgment.

    Our star system (one to three with also zero stars and a downturned glass for utter failure) has the virtues you mention as regards lack of precision. That is also its weakness. There is simply no way to differentiate symbolicly between wines that fall on the cusp one way and wines that fall on the cusp the other way. I like 90 and 91 points for that more than trying to articulate the difference in long and precise sentences. Words themselves are not precise either.


  58. I’m just amazed that he didn’t try to kick your ass! :-)


  59. I remember during a blind tasting test, guessing one of the six wines to be a 1978 Barolo or Barbaresco, the Master Sommelier moderating made me choose one of the two appellations! Don’t remember what I went with, but it must have been one of the two ’cause I passed and people who went with old Rioja or something else did not pass (one of which eventually past the Master Sommelier Exam, while I still have not!).

    Anyhow as one Master Sommelier told us while practicing for the Blind Tasting exam, if you can’t learn this (did he mean RP Jr.), go take the Master of Wine Exam.

    Speaking of MW’s remember that Pavie 2003 blow-up between RP Jr. and Jancis?

    There is no way, regardless of ripeness, oak treatment or youthfulness that mixing up a right and left bank wine would be a pass in the MS or Advanced Sommelier Exams. And yet, there isn’t a single MS (or event MW) with as much market influence…hmm.


  60. Charlie, the difference between us is that you are OK with using numbers, knowing that they are incomplete and imprecise. I look at the imprecision — and the rampant abuse of the incomplete ratings (without context or descriptions)– and believe those are reasons to ditch the ratings.

    If numbers stayed within the realm in which they were created (i.e., magazines/sites where complete information is included) I’d have no problems. Unfortunately, such holistic use of ratings is rare.

    RP’s major “FAIL” at the EWS will likely not tarnish his image so much among his faithful, but it should make everyone outside the most geeky circles realize that numbers alone are woefully incapable of reflecting anything other than one man’s preferences for specific wines on a specific day, judged without food and practically impossible to replicate.

    That, to me, is a point worth continuing to make, because it is the truth.


  61. Tish writes: “… reflecting anything other than one man’s preferences for specific wines on a specific day, judged without food and practically impossible to replicate…”

    BINGO !! Or not.

    And, so what? There is no tasting methodology, no review mechanism that is anything but that which you have described–when it comes to the writing of a consumer publication that covers a very large number of wines.

    Even in the CGCW case, where we taste with other professionals as a means of looking for the best way to understand the wines we are tasting and where we limit the number of wines tasted to two flights of eight (yes, some whites get judged in flights of ten) per day and where we also taste wines with food after the tasting as often as we can, the ultimate published judgment complete with long descriptions, zero to three stars and points in the 100-point scale is still a judgment about one wine on one day. We do retaste all wines the score over 90 points or under 80 and those that are flawed–about 40% of all wines reviewed, but even then, there is no such thing as five hundred word essays on a longitudinal set of tastings of the same wine in a variety of contexts.

    There is a place in wine journalism for singular focus, but it is not possible in the realm of comparative analysis across a broad spectrum of wines. And, Tish, whenever Palate Press publishes several comments at once from one writer, regardless of the rating system or even the absence of a symbolic rating system, it is also a one-off judgment of each of those wines.

    Truth in wine tasting has its limits. We are not measuring horsepower here. We are making subjective judgments about wine. These are beauty contests and the judgments are never more than one person’s judgment. If you take your criticisms to their furthest nexus, there is no judgment that can ever be or should ever be rendered on anything subjective. That is a legitimate opinion to have, but it is not my opinion.


  62. You’re one of the good guys here, and we know that. It’s not the numbers, it’s the abuse.

    If every source of wine ratings were able and willing to ensure that the nature of its system were kept in the context of that particular critic(s), the wine world would be a much richer and more sensible place. I am sure that your system at CGCW is better than most; but the problem is still that all the numbers wind up being viewed by marketers, retailers and some of the public as the same: namely definitive grades. That, again, is the problem.

    Maybe RP will tap his law background and reinstate his policy of requiring any use of a WA score as coming from a specific WA issue. That would be a start toward separating his numbers from your numbers from those of retailers who actually make up numbers.


  63. […] ps. lisää matskua Bordeauxista, Parkerista ja sokotuksesta Dr. Vino-blogissa. […]


  64. I was there – EP did take a few guesses and I think he was mostly wrong. But he did nail the Haut Brion – and it was one of the few picks where he claimed it was the Haut Brion and why it was the Haut Brion. So at least where he was really stuck out his neck he was correct.


  65. Look, I probably don’t taste remotely as many wines as most professional taster in this “business” (which it mainly has become, especially here in the U.S., it loses its soul). But as someone who grew up with wine, whose family worked in wineries in Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf du Pape, and who actually made his career in the hard sciences, I can only say that this out of 100 ranking in such a subjective field is one of the most unscientific things I ever have encountered. It almost ranks before the simplification of wines into “Cabernet”, “Syrah”, “Sauvignon” and “Others” categories in my nonsense list. But anyway, glad you got to taste some of these beauties I won’t be able to afford.


  66. Those who are interested how some top tasters comment a blind tasting, just look at YOUTUBE :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1leRdKluE7I&feature=player_embedded

    Nothing is easy !


  67. @John

    I have talked to a few people, who were at the tasting, and he most certainly did not nail Haut Brion. He said wine #2 was closed down and said HB is usually closed down. When he gave his top 6 guesses, he did not mention #2 and HB at all.

    Nevertheless, we are knitpicking about 1 for 15 or 0 for 15.


  68. All of the above are interesting posts to read, but I can’t help but interpret this as insiders arguing with other insiders about issues the average wine drinker doesn’t care about. When I first started drinking wine, I relied heavily on Parker and Wine Spectator scores. I early on discarded Parker for, in my view, grade inflation, but continued on with WS for awhile until I got better educated about grapes and geography. I still am interested in what WS has to say – I know where my tastes diverge from theirs – but I rely much more on my own judgment and wines tasted in my travels (have a few cases in my basement from small wineries in Washington State that mostly don’t get rated by anyone).

    Most of us never have – and never will – drink the wines you are arguing about. They’re too expensive and, often, rare. The fact that Parker likes to brag about his unerring palate and comes up wrong is entertaining, but not relevant to buying and drinking wine on a daily basis. (The Sierra Carche discussion is MUCH more useful in that regard. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as wine lots up until that point.)

    What most of us want to know is whether we’re making a good decision at whatever our normal price tolerance is. We definitely want to know that if we spend, say, $50,on a bottle of wine that we’ll be happy with the expenditure and not be wishing we’d bought that $20 bottle instead. Parker and WS have both contributed to the understanding that there is no one-to-one correlation between wine and price.

    The truth is, it can be very hard to break into learning wine. People don’t want to feel stupid, especially when they’re spending money, and there’s a lot about wine culture that can make you feel that way. I accidentally intimidated a tableful of highly educated businesspeople the other night simply by knowing what grapes are in a Bordeaux blend. These are smart people who drink wine all the time, but will always order Cab, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay (and more recently Sauv Blanc) because they’re worried about looking like idiots if they order anything else.

    You have to get some self confidence before you’ll order a wine made from a grape or in a country you’re not familiar with. Ratings aren’t the only way to gain that self confidence, but they’re the way that’s the most accessible to the most people. Some may never move away from relying on ratings, and they’re missing out on a lot, but for many of us, they’ve been a very useful launching point.


  69. Brilliant post, Christina, but think about this. I taste thousands of California wines and also a fair number of foreign wines for a living. But if I want to know about German Rieslings on a compreshensive basis, I have to get my information somewhere other than my own tastings. So, I read Tanzer and Parker on that subject.

    I like to taste what is new and interesting. I got lots of good information about Gruner Veltliner from others–ultimately decided it was not for me, but I did not have to taste hundreds of wines to do it. Took the advice of reasonable voices and tried a few of their favorites. Maybe they were wrong, but the leading critics (save for a small handful with whom I simply do not agree) are generally close enough to be helpful most of the time–and none of us is right all the time, even when we stand on our hindlegs and proclaim that we can pick out wines blind.

    Reading the views of others is one way we learn without having to try everything. Many folks do move away from ratings, but they also run the risk of not hearing–and not hearing is part of not even knowing the landscape.


  70. Thanks, Charlie:

    I completely agree that it’s better to add to your sources of knowledge than it is to abandon them. It would have been more accurate for me to have written about moving away from relying solely on ratings, not moving away from them entirely. Too much wine, too little time to do otherwise than get good information anywhere you can find it!


  71. […] si acaso no se han dado cuenta aún, esto vuelve rapidito hacia el artículo de Dr. Vino sobre la reciente cata “a ciegas” de burdeos del 2005 en la que el gran gurú norteamericano del vino y catador “a ciegas” de legendaria […]


  72. Daniel,

    When RP listed his six wines at the end of the tasting, he just said they were his favorites – he didn’t attempt to identify them. During the tasting he rarely guessed at the wines although he did speculate the regions on a few. In fact, he was fairly evasive on speculating in general. Several specific wines that he guessed at were the Cos (wrong – actually Leglise Clinet), I am pretty certain the Margaux (wrong – Le Gay) and definitely the Haut-Brion (correct). For me, of the three he guessed at, the Haut Brion was the wine which he seemed most confident about since as you alluded he felt they often seem to shut down. To say he was 0/15 or 1/15 is disingenuous since he didn’t actually attempt to identify all the wines – for those who are reading this blog and were not at the tasting and who care – they should know that under no circumstances did Bob guess at each wine. I am not a RP apologist – I could care less if he can identify all of the wines or none of the wines. Just trying to state the facts.


  73. Reading Dr Vinos post again I honestly don’t remember his speculating on his top 6 – perhaps I am wrong – but again – its not like he guessed at every wine – and he did get the Haut Brion correct. Suffice to say blind tasting is tough.


  74. I didn’t notice much about the price of these wines. Talking about how great these 2005 Bordeaux are – great if you have the money.

    The classified growths from Bordeaux have been wildly overpriced for years. Let’s deal with reality here.


  75. Christina wrote: “(The Sierra Carche discussion is MUCH more useful in that regard. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as wine lots up until that point.)”

    To be honest, I’m still quite puzzled that this wasn’t already ‘general’ knowledge – especially among wine reviewers.

    As a matter of fact, I’m currently in the process of producing JKI’s very first ‘wine video’ in which I will be able to SHOW! viewers the difference between two lot numbers. One is still highly enjoyable while the other one is on its way out. It’ll be eventually online at http://www.wineday.com

    Regarding the topic on hand, I personally like to put the wines I taste into the following categories:

    1. Flawed/bad wines | 2. Drinkable (commercial) wines | 3. Enjoyable (estate) wines | 4. Palate Trainer & Story Tellers | 5. ‘Willed’ wines | :)

    James


  76. Wilfred – thanks for joining in. Fascinating observation.

    Christina – great comment!

    John – Did you perhaps leave early? Parker was asked if we wanted to guess two. He said, “um, no.” Everyone laughed. He then said his faves were 9, 8, 3, 1, 13, 14. Then he ventured guesses six wines specific wines. They happened to be all inaccurate. As to the Haut Brion comment, he did remark on the first pass that wine #2 was shut down and that HB can be that way, but I did not hear him say that it was HB.


  77. I remember at a blind tasting some years ago that featured most of the 2001 first growths that a wine I brought, a 2001 Smith Haut Lafitte won as the best red of the night. Why?
    Simply because it was the most ready of all the wines to drink and it benefited the most from being drunk young. The next day, I had re-tasted some of the 2001 1st growths from the remainder of one or two of the 1st growths and they tasted better than the WOTN. So, it is not entirely inconceivable that a more ready to drink bordeaux or one that is more approachable young may come out on top in these kind of tasting events.


  78. Mimik :

    Of course, this happens many times. The interesting point is when a “not so well known” wine beats some first growths when these famous crus cannot say “we are not ready yet”.
    Example : Sociando-Mallet winning over many classified at the tasting of the GJE in Las Vegas with the vintage 1982.


  79. […] roadside bomb planted by Tyler Coleman intended for Parker’s motorcade exploded in his follow-up post where Coleman outlined his version of the tasting’s three highlight characteristics: Aside […]


  80. […] -The $795 wine tasting. And that was just to get in. People traveled from all over the country to taste wine with Robert Parker. How many did he correctly identify in the blind tasting? Some debate if he was zero for 15 or 1 for 15. […]


  81. I’ve tasted some 05s (decanted only once) and they are too early in their evolution to judge, let alone identify. They are currently giving so little of themselves that they are terrifically boring drinks. They are dense, packed and not cooked so I dare say they will be delightful around their 10th birthday.


  82. I want to acknowledge Christina for leaving her grounding comment here on the consumer agenda. Inadvertently or otherwise, it underscores the value social media is playing in exposing trade and consumers to each others points of view. Her comment and this entire discussion motivated me to expand further at my blog, WineZag.


  83. A few points…

    1) I disagree that it is impossible to judge these wines at such a young age. Will they taste better in 10 or 20 years? Presumably yes. Can we still see how they progress until that point? You betcha!

    2) Christina had an excellent post about whether consumers care about these issues. Would they care if they heard that an importer was making milliions of dollars just because his best friend is a wine critic? Are we that far removed from that discussion. How about a Chateau in Bordeaux cashing in, because a wine critic gave their wine 100 points, when (possibly) it did not deserve it?

    This may be in inner circle discussion, but I would rather discuss this than whether Yellowtail made 10 or 20 million cases this month.


  84. Daniel,

    I think its cool to have the inner circle discussion out in the open and leave the bulk Australian plonk on the sidelines. I also don’t think a lot of even the most saavy wine consumers care if one Chateau or another is cashing in on results that might not be totally aligned with the absolute quality of their product. It’s amusing, but it is the way the ball bounces when consumer advocate reviews are part of the market making equation.

    I believe consumers mostly care about spending their money wisely, increasing their education about wine in all regards, and drinking the best wine possible for their buck. I think in the balance, with all kinds of exceptions as you point out, The Wine Advocate checks more of those boxes than not.


  85. Daniel–

    While I long ago decided that tasting newly fermented wines in barrel was a good way to be wrong, and thus do not do it, But, I absolutely agree that distinct differences and personality directions do emerge when wines are still quite young–usually by the time they are put in bottle.

    The new paradigm of ripe wines with tannin means that character is more developed and accessible under the structure than years ago when long-aging wines were almost universally dumb, closed-in potions at two years of age. That is why it is so bizarre that Eglise-Clinet cannot be separated from Cos at four years old. Different cepage, different soils, different structures.

    As to Chateaux cashing in when they did not deserve it, I have to disagree with your underlying assumption. Did not deserve it in whose opinion? Yours, mine or the reviewer’s? Unless you are directing that comment at the reviewer’s ethics, as opposed to his palate, you miss the point in my view. Opinion is opinion. Any reviewer whose honest opinions vary from the group norm over time is going to find no one listening.

    That is the way it should be–and it is a very different situation from an importer who wines, dines, spends thousands and thousands of dollars on one reviewer who also happens to be a personal friend, especially when that reviewer seems never to taste anything blind. I do not pay attention to that reviewer and have a hard time figuring out how he is still in business.


  86. Interestingly enough, Parker issued his newsletter and it seems he may have flip flopped his likes at the tasting…according to Dr. Vino…”He (Parker) said that his favorite wines of the evening were 9, 8, and 3 followed closely by 1, 13, and 14.”

    Here is what he just wrote up, as you can see, La Mission HB, now a 100 point wine, was not in his top 6 on that evening. In addition, I got numerous phone calls for Le Gay, as everyone said it was his favorite wine, but here, he says it placed third…Why the change of heart two weeks later? Did he go back and retaste them?

    1. Château Pavie: Rated 98+ from the bottle, and 98-100 in this tasting. I found it to be massive and incredibly impressive. It received a total of 51 points.

    2. Haut-Brion: Rated 98 from the bottle, and 85? in this tasting. It received a total of 6 points.

    3. Pape-Clément: Rated 98 from the bottle, and also 98 in this tasting. It received a total of 56 points.

    4. Montrose: Rated 95 from the bottle, and 96+ in this tasting. It received a total of 30 points.

    5. Ducru-Beaucaillou: Rated 97 from the bottle, and 98 in this tasting. It received 57 points (a very strong showing).

    6. Angèlus: Rated 98 from the bottle, and also 98 in this tasting. It received 57 points.

    7. La Mission Haut-Brion: Rated 97 from the bottle, and 100 in this tasting. It received 43 points.

    8. L’Eglise-Clinet: Rated 100 from the bottle, and 99+ in this tasting. It received 38 points.

    9. Le Gay: Rated 95 from the bottle, and 99 in this tasting. It received 53 points.

    10. Latour: Rated 96+ from the bottle, and 98+ in this tasting. It received 86 points, and won the tasting.

    11. Larcis Ducasse: Rated 98 from the bottle, and 97+ in this tasting. It received 28 points. It seemed more backward than I remember it from several years ago.

    12. Château Margaux: Rated 98+ from the bottle, and 98 in this tasting. It received 40 points.

    13. Lafite Rothschild: Rated 96+ from the bottle, and 97+ in this tasting. It received 28 points.

    14. Troplong Mondot: Rated 99 from the bottle, and 100 in this tasting. It received 54 points.

    15. Cos d’Estournel: Rated 98 from the bottle, and 94+ in this tasting. It received 31 points.


  87. I agree on the quality of the 2005 vintage. We’ve been tasting with a small group of wine-loving friends through lower-cost wines (Gloria, Citran, La Tour Carnet, D’Angludet, De Fieuzal and La Tour Figeac). All under $35 at futures. And all scoring over 90 now, with wonderful styles and years of pleasure ahead. And several in the next price range under $60 at futures (Batailley, Bechevelle, Clerc Milon, Giscours, Prieure-Lichine and Du Tertre) are even better — more refined and balanced. Our best value pick of all of these: the La Tour Carnet.


  88. Daniel – thanks for drawing this to my attention.

    At the event, he did not score any of the wines “real time.” But when a member of the audience asked him, “Bob, what were your three votes,” he stated:

    “I went back and I was a big fan of 9 and 8 and 3. And then I think 13 and 14 are right up there…I can’t forget eight and nine. I had six wines that blew me away tonight: 1, 3, 8, 9, 13, and 14.” (I embed my audio recording.)

    La Mission Haut Brion, which received 100 points in the e-newsletter, was not among his top six that evening.


  89. Parker is in his sixties. It is only natural that his ability to taste would be eroding. So, claims about how good he was when he was young are not necessarily inconsistent with his current capabilities.

    He sounds like a pretty good sport for someone who is a bit pompous. Good luck to him.


  90. […] Felix Salmon comes this amusing anecdote about Robert Parker’s blind tasting of 2005 Bordeaux, which he has declared the best vintage […]


  91. […] Parker tastes 2005 Bordeaux blind. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sordid LinksA Sordid LinkPlay Golf Online For A Trip To The Links Tagsart banana seeds blog books boston california chicago coffee computers crime current events economics education evolution family financial crisis food and wine friends funny game theory incentives iPhone kludge language law marriage maths movies music obama politics psychology publishing sandeep has bad taste sanitation sport statistics teaching terrorism the web travel TV vapor mill war winter […]


  92. Robert Parket has an economic interest in the market power that is assigned to his rating. As such everything he does is geared towards “reinforcing the RP brand”.

    There is a certain amount of Schadenfreude (sp?) that is derived from watching someone “seemingly” step all over their esteemed sense of value/geneius/_______(fill in the blank…you name it).

    A couple of analogies…setting aside all technical discussion of scoring approaches, aging wines, etc…

    1. I remember a game show from back in the 70’s: “Name That Tune”…contestants would battle back and forth…”i can name that tune in x notes”…”oh yeah? I can name that tune in x-y notes!!”…they would go back and forth until one of them said essentially “prove it turkey” and the onus was on the contestant who made the final claim of note nameing superiority.

    2. There is a certain amount of Control that he employs to perpetuate the brand such that when the control is not in place…the brand simply withers without the support that the control allows.


  93. “If every source of wine ratings were able and willing to ensure that the nature of its system were kept in the context of that particular critic(s), the wine world would be a much richer and more sensible place. I am sure that your system at CGCW is better than most; but the problem is still that all the numbers wind up being viewed by marketers, retailers and some of the public as the same: namely definitive grades. That, again, is the problem.”

    Bingo. The biggest crime of the 100-point system is that it conveys a false sense of precision.


  94. Um, let me try this again:

    Two thoughts: First, anyone, even Big Bob, can have a bad day. It’s worse for him, because he has hyped himself so shamelessly for the past decade, but otherwise it could happen to anybody. I taste blind about once a week; once in a while I nail something (Donnafugata Ben Rye!), and once in a while I am so incredibly far off I tell myself I should just give it up (recent example: Tasting a ’94 Nuit St. Georges and deciding it was Grenache from Sardinia).

    Second, Charlie is saying the 100-point system isn’t meant to be precise, but that, to me (and Tish, obviously), is exactly the problem: People who don’t know any better assume there’s some real quantitative difference between an 89 and a 90; and people who do know better exploit this ignorance to their profit.


  95. ‘Sup, Little Brother!
    Boy! give some of these “wine clowns” a platform to shout from, and you’ll get hot air in the face, and smoke blown up your ass! Gaw! What windbags! Anyway, I salute the wines of Pomerol and St.Emilion for their great showing at the tasting of the ’05 Bordeauxs. Take that, Merlot haters!


  96. Tyler,
    My wife Maureen and I were the two sitting directly to your left at the tasting. I didn’t realise who you were until my favorite wine reailer in Milwaukee told me he had read about the tasting on your blog. When I started reading it and you described the geographical makeup of the table I was almost sure it was you or the person to your right. When you mentioned the corked wine that iced it. Your picture on the blog did the rest.
    Parker made two points in addition to the one’s you’ve noted that I found most interesting. First he is beginning to feel that some of the big 05’s are so tanic that they may never smooth out satisfactorily. Secondly that if you don’t like a wine now you won’t like it in 10 or 15 years even if the tanins do smooth out and if you like it now you’ll still like it later after ageing.
    Speaking of aging one of your commentators noted that Parker is now 60, the age when the sense of smell and thus tast starts to fade. I’m 67 and my favorites were 3,8 and 9 so perhaps Parker and I are fading at a similar pace.
    I enjoyed our brief exchanges during the tasting, next time you’re in Milwaukee drop me a line and we can pull a few bottles out of my cellar.
    Mike


  97. <>

    People age differently. There is not much proof that I can supporting the notion that Parker has lost it. His palate is no different today in terms of style than it ever was.

    I have been in this business for 35 years, and I will admit that I sometimes have to work harder than I used to, but I also have a wealth of knowledge, analytical tasting skill, data bank of tasting memories that combined make me in many ways a better taster than I was earlier in my career.

    So the question of “fading” is a tricky one at best and a red herring at worst. In this case, Parker did mix up Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, high ripeness with left bank fruit, and those to me are more critical eyebrow-raisers than his preferential choices.

    But, as the saying goes, “the last time I confused Burgundy with Bordeaux was at lunch”.

    Mr. Parker has come in for a lot of heat this year–much of it deserved. But, I don’t see that his performace at this tasting has warranted the depth of criticism that it has seemed to engender.


  98. Nicely done, as usual, Tyler. My issue with these tastings is slightly different than the obsession w/ points or id’ing the wine. The larger trouble seems to me that such a short time spent on tasting, without the benefit of food, cannot do the wine justice. Every fine wine I have ever had has evolved over the course of a meal. The evolutionary quality may be one of the essential qualities of a fine wine. It seems that rating wines in flights w/o getting a chance to go back to the wine over time (preferably over the course of a meal) cannot possibly “nail” it. I remember one informal tasting I attended in a wine writer’s home where we tasted 8-10 bottles before dinner, took notes, ate dinner and then returned to the wine again. None of the tasters/note takers were able to correctly identify more than half of the wines tasted before dinner. I fear that blind tastings often treat wine as if it is dead. It is not.

    As for points, I believe they do more harm than good. Too often, the scores are the first words to fall from the lips of wine consumers when talking about wines. Nothing about the qualities or sensations of the wine. Reminds me of the museum goer who looks at the tag naming the artist before bothering to look at the painting. Doesn’t seem like the right place to start.

    Was the taster at your table from Delaware from Moore Brothers? Is there another Delaware place I should investigate?

    Glad you were able to attend, and I enjoyed reading about it through your eyes.


  99. […] A mí lo que me resulta particularmente digno de consideración son las implicaciones de todo esto para el crítico puntuador más influyente del mundo, el “Emperador del Vino” que hace y deshace las fortunas de bodegas a base de puntos. Porque  Robert M. Parker, Jr. como que no la está pasando muy bien últimamente. Hace un par de años, su ex-traductora y ayudante en Burdeos sacó un libro en que lo acusaba de un montón de conflictos de interés con respecto a grandes nombres de Burdeos. Luego explotó aquello de que sus asociados aceptaban viajes de lujo de ciertos grupos de la industria del vino, que puso en duda si Parker en realidad aplicabal código de ética que él mismo estableciera para su propia publicacón. Las diversas controversias en torno al “affaire Campo” y la participación de Parker en Wine Future Rioja 09 por un honorario desconocido, pero rumorado como altísimo, tampoco ayudaron. Y encima la reputación de Parker como “supercatador” se ha visto en tela de juicio por aquella cata de burdeos del 2005 para Executive Wine Seminars en la que Mr. Parker, por así decirlo, no puso una. […]


  100. […] } Never, never NEVER do a blind tasting without cheating!  Especially of things that you’ve tasted and rated before, using an elaborate point system, […]


  101. […] This was in evidence in Tyler Colman’s recent post about the Robert Parker lead 2005 Executive Wine Seminar tasting which Mlodinow also references in his WSJ piece and I wrote about here in a post entitled “A […]


  102. I’m neither pro-Parker nor anti-Parker, but the guy’s 62, and everyone’s senses deteriorate with age–eyes, hearing, taste. Is it possible that, at 43, he just had more acute olfactory nerves than he does now?


  103. Hi,

    I stumbled upon this blog while searching for some explanation of RP scoring system and really enjoyed reading both article and the debate which followed. While I am astonished that he struggled to distinguished between left and right bank wines, I am more concerned about “grade inflation” and/or narrow range in his ratings whatever 100 point scale says.

    I drunk 2 bottles of Bordeaux over Christmas with few friends: one was 1985 Gruaud Larose (purchased for £60; real bargin) rated at 90 points by RP and the other Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, 2000 Chateau Potensac (£35) rated at 89 points. Everyone present (apart from me not really used to wines above £20 price point) rated GL much higher then CP. I would struggle to find one attribute where CP would score higher then GL. What is more I would struggle to justify paying again £35 for CP. I might declare slight “prejudice” here: apart from Chateau Poujeaux and Mayney I always struggled to find value in higher priced Cru Borg wines always prefering second wines of Leoville Burton or Leoville Les Cases or Langoa Burton.
    Still it does not explain why scores are so close for 2 wines which are NOT even in the same league in quality in MHO. Funnily enough the real measure of value here is the price. While at usual price of £100 (in London, UK) for GL, the better value can be found elsewhere it is still a bargin at £60, whereas I would not pay more then £25 for 2000 CP again. But at least price differential is better reflection of the respective quality of both wines then very close RP score.
    Finally, I am not sure that RP scores are really driving the market especially for older wines. Otherwise how would we explain the wines from same estate rated by Parker in low 80s selling at 2-3 times more then wines he rated at low 90s?. Mytical status of some vintages and supply and demand balance have more influence then RP ratings.

    thanks and regards,

    Andrew, London, UK


  104. […] that a lot of other people have had the same question. Some great discussions online, notably at Dr. Vino and Fermentation, show that everyone has an opinion.  I’ve listened to the debate, read the […]


  105. Nice article but in the end it’s the drinker who decides is this wine satisfying for me or not. I’ve always felt that these Parker scores are somewhat over-rated, and lead to much over-valued wines. On a side note, how come no Petrus, Cheval Blanc, or Ausone on that list? I only ask because I’m a huge Right Bank lover myself:)


  106. Dr.Vino, you are a great disapointment. This was not about EWS and the 2005 Bordeaux but you personal feelings about RP.
    You would do well in the Obama administration.
    This is my first and last time at your website.
    You are a petty man.


  107. Rama

    Obviously, cost would play into not having Petrus, etc. @ $2500/btl, add an extra $200 per person to the event, and you get Petrus…Throw in $50 for Cheval, and $150 for Ausone…OUCH!


  108. I agree with the conclusion from drvino, and I would conclude saying that rating is “one experience” and like all experiences the whole contest has to be considered. I have been saying it on my blog per decades, http://www.italyabroad.com/italian-wine-blog, and the problems with rating is that they are considered too much, especially the ones from Parker and friends, and this blind tasting proves that be taken for what the are, impression on a wine on a certain day under certain circumstances.


  109. Folks, double blind means neither the taster nor the pourer knows which wine is in which glass. Just like in a clinical experiment where the doctor doesn’t know if he is giving you the real drug or a placebo. It doesn’t matter if you know what wines are in the line-up.

    Its not very blind if you just put bags over the bottles since most bottles differ and can be identified by just the top. The proper way to do a double blind test is to decant the wines into identical bottles numbered 1-8, then leave the room and let someone else come in and put labels A-H over the numbers. Now the tasting is “double blind.”


  110. Being Irish and living in St. Emilion since 1988, I understand the Parker predicament. In my first decade here locals were astonished at my ability to recognize and remember wines and vintages.22 years on and it is much more difficult as quite simply I have more references to select from. Parker initially had few references and this increased his percentages of success in blind tastings. The Parkerisation of wines has added to the difficulty of properly assessing wines and vintages. We drank “Vieux Chateau Certan” 2006 this weekend and it was lactic. Parker rated this wine 96 points and it sells for €150 plus. It was disappointing to say the least, in fact, one of our Spanish wine-makers was with me here in St. Emilion for the weekend and he preferred an organic “Cotes de Francs” at under €10 a bottle! Parker’s rating system is a good tool but is nonetheless based on his palate, which is American, and is certainly not flawless.


  111. […] Did you read on Dr. Vino’s blog the fascinating story of blind tasting 2005 Bordeaux with Robert Parker? […]


  112. […] since he conducts both barrel and bottle tastings at the winery.  In 2009, Parker conducted a 2005 Bordeaux blind tasting during which he misidentified most wines and proclaimed wines he had previously given lower scores […]


  113. […] reviewing process. Robert Parker, perhaps because of the scope of his influence, is subjected to almost microscopic analysis which, though entertaining at times, is not constructive for either his believers or […]


  114. […] can’t tell that high priced wines are better than low priced wines, and even Robert Parker gets a ton of wines wrong when he does a blind taste test. So I don’t pretend I can distinguish between different types […]


  115. […] approach?  Robert Parker may say he can distinguish between a Pauillac and a Saint-Émilion, but there is room for doubt; the electronic nose, on the other hand, has proven success in distinguishing Coke from Pepsi, […]


  116. […] on a thread in 2009, a commenter flagged Dan Murphy, an Australian, as pioneering a 100 point system. The retailer that […]


  117. […] Looking at the details of the study published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, the authors had volunteers identify themselves as wine experts or not. Fully a third of them were classified as “experts,” which seems not quite a representative sample of America (or perhaps Canada, where the data collection occurred.) Moreover, these self-selected experts showed a higher rate of detected the bitter compound, PROP, thus possibly making them “super-tasters.” As Mike Steinberger pointed out in his lengthy (self-)exploration of the physiology of taste, having a sensitivity to PROP does not make one a supertaster and being a supertaster does not make more of a wine expert. (As we’ve seen, blind tasting can have more bitter outcomes than PROP.) […]


  118. […] the claim that he is a super-taster and that he can remember every wine he’s ever tasted. Um, blind tasting, […]


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