Wine critics are more important than ever because of the explosion of the number of wines over the last 20 years. But are they relevant? It depends on why you read them! If you are looking for the definitive answer on which wine is better than another wine you may be barking up the wrong tree. This became clear to me when talking with another winery owner. “Thirty years ago critics like Robert Parker were important because there were so many flawed wines that the good ones stood out like a sore thumb.” He went on, “but today the quality is so close that what the critic is giving you is their palate impression, not really the separating the wines in terms of quality. The frustrating part is that consumers really don’t understand that.”
While it’s a good exercise to rank wines in terms of quality, there is no doubt that science has evened the playing field. Is that 94pt wine really that much better than the 90pt wine or does the four points reflect the bias-well maybe just the palate- of the reviewer? More often than not I think the later so it’s important to understand the palate of the reviewer you follow. They may not like the same kinds of wines you like.
You would be surprised to find out that most wine critics don’t taste wines blind in a comparative tasting. Shocking? I think so but the wine world is so vast that it probably isn’t possible anymore considering how many wines are submitted for review and the logistics of comparing all of the like wines in a certain vintage. But you don’t have the same problem they do. You can find out which wines you like and have fun doing it.
Blind tastings are important not just for a reviewer but maybe more important for you. In the previous blog I laid out the logistics on how to taste blind and included a sample tasting sheet. My suggestion is pick a theme and invite a total of 16 people. Stick with the same variety from the same area from the same vintage. Ideally, have each person pick a wine given a great score by their favorite reviewer and let the fun begin.
If that is too much trouble you can always come to one of the blind tastings that we feature on a quarterly basis. Wineries generally don’t do blind tastings, comparing their wine to other like wines for obvious reasons. Can you imagine if your wine came in last in a blind tasting? Well it’s a risk we have taken for over ten years by comparing our Pinot Noir to some of Oregon’s top producers. We love it and thankfully have never come in last. You can attend our next blind tasting on June 25th when we will not only taste wines blind but compare 4 wines from the red soils of the Dundee hills and 4 wines from the black soils of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. It will be fun and you can sign up here.