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Jul 27, 2011 08:41 AM

Next time a wine connoiseur looks down on your choice of wine....

....just remember this study:

"In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.
The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was "agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded," while the vin du table was "weak, short, light, flat and faulty". Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was."

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  1. Interesting, I could never figure out what the heck the experts were talking about when they described wines, this verifies that they make it up as they go along.

    1. Phooey! They charge to see that article.

      Frederic Brochet was one of my professors in my Masters Program at the Universite de Reims.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChefJune

        Try the link again; I got it no problem.

      2. Studies like this are fun to read and discuss. I am sure there will be many that will attack the study itself, methodology, yada, yada.
        However, I think that there is a very valid phenomenon with people and their ability to taste- that has to do with the environment/situation/emotion/belief.

        I have a "pretty good" and experienced taster :) I have a ton of experience with lots of types of wine. BUT, it never fails that if I am tasting in a winery that I am having a good time in (laughing, talking, connecting the with the owner, etc.) I buy the wine...get it it a week later....and..... meh. Seriously? What was I thinking? Was this the last wine in the line up? No? Why did it seem so terrific then?

        Same thing happens when I buy a cheap-o patio wine, have a great meal outside with friends, beautiful day, sunny and green here, really fun evening. I remember that same wine later in the week , open it up at a regular weeknight dinner....WHF was I thinking? This is not very good at all!

        Your brain and emotions have a lot to do with your "taster". You can be fooled- and so can your taster. That doesn't diminish the art, science and hobby of "wine tasting" in the least to me.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sedimental

          Indeed. Funny how much more ethereal, ambrosial a meal may taste in some exotic, idyllic setting abroad, versus one made from arguably better ingredients by a more talented chef closer to home.

        2. And this is news . . . why?

          This -- and the approximate 431,529 other stores like it -- are all irrelevant. Wine plays to our expectations, as do ALL things when it comes to our senses. Get a salad at __________ for $4.95, and the same salad at _________ as part of a $100 tasting menu and see what happens.

          Is it REALLY any big surprise that if you pour Chateau Cache Phloe out of two bottles -- one labeled as "Chateau Cache Phloe" and the other labeled (e.g.) "Château Lafite-Rothschild" -- that the tasters will taste two different things?

          Ambience and expectation always interplay with sensory evaluation. Letting tasters see the labels, or even the bottle shapes, give the individual clues, and those clues help to shape our perceptions of what's to come. So, too, the inside of a restaurant . . . walk into a fancy place, with price tags to match, and one EXPECTS greatness -- anything less, and one might say the "WOW" factor was missing. But walk into a casual place, or the proverbial "dive," and get served the very same food, and the "WOW" factor will be off the charts!

          Try tasting a flight of 6 wines -- served double-blind -- at 10:00 in the morning. Then try those very same wines again (and, again, served double-blind) right after lunch. I guarantee your rankings will be different.

          UC Davis regularly runs "T-tests," with three glasses of wine served double-blind, but two are the very same wine, and people barely do better than a "guesstimate" would yield.

          The human sensory organs are just that: human. They are not machines. As a result, they are influenced by all sorts of extraneous factors . . . including what they had for breakfast, or the fight they had with their spouse . . .

          35 Replies
          1. re: zin1953

            Why it seems important to those of us who enjoy wine but are not "experienced" tasters is that wine more than any other alcoholic beverage is run like a ponzi scheme. You don't hear about Scotch futures or the elaborate vintages of great beers. So when we hear about wine "experts" being fooled by common plonk, it re-enforces the idea that most wine-writing is mere bull and not to be trusted.

            1. re: budnball

              From the tenor of your post, I presume you don't really want a response to your post. If I am mistaken, however, and you *do* want an answer, let me know . . .

              1. re: zin1953

                This is not about or a reflection on you. It is about the unreliable writing on the subject. If the so called experts cannot be trusted, what good are they?


                1. re: budnball

                  Hi, budnball:

                  OK, I'll swing at that fastball.

                  When you ask "What good are they?", you need to also ask "...and to whom?" Most of the reviewing wine experts are, directly or indirectly, involved in making or selling wine. They have interests to serve. They have their own favs and disfavs, prejudices, predilictions, theories blindspots in style, varietals, regions, processes, yada yada, that are shaped by their own varied (and variable experiences). They get it right a lot of the time, make mistakes occasionally, sometimes doozers. Just like the rest of us.

                  But still, there is a lot of *there* there, both in and out of the glass. These writers and reviewers can teach valuable things (if you taste enough of the same wines to learn what they're trying to describe and judge for yourself whether their reviews work for you). But few readers take that critical and expensive approach (think Prof. Baldy's "University Wine Course"). Most drinkers just want help picking a bottle or want to have a defense of a >90 rating. So part of the problem is of the public's making.

                  An amusing backward twist (in the Pike position) on this is the uptick in the hedonic calculus that buying a fawningly-reviewed wine can have. Just as studies have repeatedly proven that a drinker who is served identical glasses and is told one is from a $100 bottle and the other a $20 will almost always "enjoy" the "expensive" one more, so do drinkers who read reviews of a rare 98-pointer almost always rate it much higher than the 92 they drink in their kitchen. They actually would enjoy it more even if it were the very same wine. If they can wrap it up in a big confirmation bias ("Bobby P and I like it!"), so much the worse.

                  Where it slides from amusing to annoying to me is the aspect of a wine priesthood or elite. I'm especially dubious about learned prognostications over what wines will be like 5 or 10 or more years after the review. If someone talks down to you about wine or uses language you don't understand, play a little dumb and ask for explanations. If they really love wine, they should love explaining things in ways that make sense to you.

                  So I think the answer to your question is: They're of some good, provided you taste and judge for yourself. If the writings don't match your tastes, you find another reviewer whose reviews DO, or set about tasting a very large number of wines.


                  1. re: budnball

                    But bud, here is my take on it. The only "reliable" writing is still subjective. The writer can only be reliable (and consistent) only to his or her personal taste.

                    Robert Parker is slammed sometimes for his higher scoring of huge fruit bombs (which then influence the winemakers). Well, if you *like* the fruit bombs as much as RP does- you think he is spot on. You will very much pay attention to the scores and read his reviews and be able to "trust them" because he is so consistent. If you don't like them- you can hardly say you "don't trust" Parker...or that Parker is full of just might not agree with him about *liking* the wine.

                    I think when you taste wine and review it for a living, your emotions and "having a bad day" are less of an influence on your write up- than if you are a consumer or wine enthusiast.

                    Since Jason did this for a living, I am sure he has more to say. But for me, as a consumer and collector (for fun and profit), I *do* trust reviewers and have never found their "human-ness" to get in the way of trusting the review, it is just important to know if they are consistent.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      Hi, sedimental:

                      I mostly agree with what you said. Still, the Brochet experiment cited by the OP is still instructive of the brittleness of what experts "know". It may be no news to Jason (or Amerine or Peynaud) that sometimes experts can't even tell a red from a white. But it is very dissonant news to others.

                      I don't read a lot of reviews, but I've yet to read one where the reviewer says something like: "Hey, this is what this tastes like to me as I'm writing this, but considering that I got spoofed in a T-test last week, take it for what it's worth." Or somesuch nod to what we *don't* know, or can't tell for certain. It's the certitude that wears a little thin, especially after a fart in church like Brochet's.


                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Well, I think picking out a varietal with certainty is different than reviewing and describing a taste. Picking out the varietal correctly is what people think experts should "know"...while the descriptors is -and always will be- subjective.

                        Again, look at the comments from the Judgement of Paris Judges. Some were "certain" about which wine they were tasting and were quite snotty about it all. How humiliating. I think some "experts" forget that they don't have a handle on an absolute anymore than the rest of us, but that doesn't mean their experienced "tasters" are not helpful.

                        Edit: I think I am a pretty smart cookie when it comes to wine, but I bet you could fool me into thinking a white is a red- if you were smart about it. I hate to admit it- but I think you could. However, I don't think you could get me to say I liked it - if I didn't like I know I would describe it influenced (in part) on my liking it or not.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          I am not a sharp cookie when it comes to wine, but I am sharp cookie. I understand that wine making is a moving target with year to year variables. But I also feel the language of wine, not only keeps people out, but actively tries to do so. I mean is anything more pretentious than the "Judgment of Paris". Can you imagine a "Judgment of Milwaukee" for beer? So when the pompous get a pin in the balloon, well those of us on the outside can give a Bronx Cheer.
                          Of course there is a bit of " if i can't join your club I'll make fun of it.
                          Enough with the Pinot Noir, Gimme some sweet merlot!

                          from the bleachers,

                          1. re: sedimental

                            I used to think that I was a "pretty smart cookie," and had exhibited some of that, but then did a blind tasting, where the wines were "stacked." We had PN's, that tasted like Syrahs, and Cabs, that tasted like Zins. On it went, and each wine was chosen by the host, as they seemed to be something else. I missed 80% of those wines, and hated that. Still, each was put into the list, just because they did not exhibit their normal varietal characteristics. They did their job!


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I do not doubt that you had PNs that tasted like Syrah, so many do these days. However, I've never had any problem telling a Cab from a Chard, even blindfolded.

                              1. re: dinwiddie

                                This is one mistake that I have not made - yet, either.


                          2. re: kaleokahu

                            To add to this, one must know what an "expert" likes, to temper their reviews.

                            If they like wines, that you, or I, do not, then only with some reading and research, can we utilize the reviews. If you know that reviewer A likes big fruit, but you do not, you can use their reviews for what you might not like. Conversely, if reviewer B likes subtle, earthy wines, and you do too, then you might well infer that their choices might be in line with yours.

                            That even some great palates might be confused by little twists, is but a "parlor game," and might not really tell us anything useful - or, it might, depending on the taster... [Grin]

                            If you like the same wines as Robert Parker, Jr, then follow his recs. If you do not, then look to the opposite end of the spectrum. Same for movie reviewers. Are the ones, that do not fall into your ideal wrong? No. They just like different "stuff."


                          3. re: sedimental

                            FWIW, and for the record, I started tasting and studying about wines in 1963, and was employed in various facets of the California wine trade/industry (production, retail, wholesale, importing, etc.) from 1969-2002. I was a wine writer for various magazines, newspapers, and radio from 1974-2000, and have written since online for fun. I've also taught wine classes privately and for university programs from 1974-2000.


                            1. re: zin1953

                              Jason, I am not a "professional" with wine in any way. However, I have probably "drunk" more than my fair share of the worlds most amazing wines. I am sure that I have more years of experience with tasting and storing wine than most....likely the worlds most famous auction houses would agree :)

                              Wine is a fascinating hobby. It is fluid (pun intended) and subject to opinions in every way.

                              I can't imagine anyone saying that they have absolutes on wine. I think (as you would agree) it should never be snotty.

                              1. re: zin1953

                                Last one and I will stop on this. I do not challenge your vast knowledge here and I am not trying to pretend to know much. You seem to feel a need to defend when I am not attacking. Maybe from the inside, it is hard to see how silly wine writing can be to non wine fans, no different than sports writing to non fans. However, the idea that wine must be studied to understand, to appreciate is only one view. Many of us just want to know how to pick up a pleasant red for a dinner party. Something other than beer for the ball game, or something fizzy just because. It just ain't that serious a thing.

                                1. re: budnball

                                  No. I don't know of anyone in the wine business who does NOT think wine writing is silly -- even those who make our living from writing "silliness." Just be cause we take it seriously, doesn't mean we take it TOO seriously. But it seems you fail to grasp the inherent silliness imbedded into the whole enterprise from the "get-go": it is IMPOSSIBLE to describe flavor. Yet an entire "industry" has grown up around just that very thing.

                                  And you don't think we realize it's silly?!?!?!?


                                  I apologize. I realize there are two more points/questions you made that I failed to address:

                                  >>> You don't hear about Scotch futures or the elaborate vintages of great beers, <<<

                                  Do you know why Bordeaux futures exist, and -- for example -- Burgundy futures do not? Cash flow. Historically, the châteaux in Bordeaux have made one wine, sometimes (in the case of Graves) two. That means they have no income on the new wine for three years, but lots of expenditures. Since the châteaux did not control the market directly the way they do know, they offered the Bordeaux bottlers / shippers / merchants a discount on the wine if they paid now for delivery in 12-24+ months.

                                  But over in Burgundy, the peasant farmers sold off their wines well before they were ready to market to négociants like Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, Bichot, and so on for cash on the barrelhead. It was the négociants who blended, aged, and eventually bottled the wine under their own names.

                                  Eventually, once the châteaux began to bottle their own wines, rather than have them bottled in Bordeuax, Libourne, Brussels, or London, there once again arose the need for cash flow. They began to offer the finished, bottled wine -- well before anything was in bottle -- to the major sellers of wine: the London wine merchants, as well as (but to a lesser extent) merchants in other European countries and, eventually, American importers. And in order for the merchants to recoup their money, they began selling "futures" to retailers and consumers.

                                  As for Scotch, actually there have been offerings of Scotch futures in the past. A handful of distilleries offered "futures" of single malts in the 1980s. But since a) there is no need to provide cash flow through futures -- they always sell off most of the production for blended Scotch whisky -- and b) Scotch isn't traded like wine, the idea fell pretty much flat on its face. It was all-too-clearly trying to capitalize on the sensation of wine futures, and didn't get very far. What actually worked better, IIRC, was the selling of stocks, so you, too, could own a barrel of whisky. (Germain-Robin, for example, does this with their California Alambic brandy, and various wineries have down this, too, selling the consumer barrels of wine, or even specific vines in their estate vineyard!) This is always driven by the need for cash flow.

                                  As for beer vintages, there are only a few beers that carry a vintage date, but -- trust me -- those that do get discussed! Samichlaus -- -- is one such beer. So, too, are the annual "Christmas Ales" from breweries like Anchor and Sierra Nevada. Certain barley wines get written up this way, as is Sam Adams Triple Bock -- see this post on Chowhound!

                                  Robert, if people make it, they'll write about it! ;^) And we ALL know exactly how silly it is . . .

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    Do you know why Bordeaux futures exist, and -- for example -- Burgundy futures do not?
                                    Ask and ye shall have. 2009 Faiveley pre-arrival is sold out on K&L. Still available at Wally's.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      I bought a few Bouchard wines "en premeur" last year, and that was not a bad deal. Next year? Well the jury is still out.


                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        "Pre-Arrivals" are not the same as "Futures." Two entirely different historical origins; two entirely different reasons for existence today.

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          K&L lists 2009 Faiveley as "pre arrival", Wally's lists the same Faiveley wines as "futures". Bill also mentioned buying Burgundy "en primeur" last year. Point being, there are Burgundy futures.



                                          Looking at Berry Bros it looks like in the UK you can also get Rhone and Port Futures in addition to Burgundy and Bordeaux futures.


                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            (Picked up from another thread)

                                            To answer your question, not every 2009 Burgundy is bottled, but most are (or are about to be, prior to the 2011 harvest; if not, they will be bottled Spring 2012). The point is that these are finished wines, in contrast to Bordeaux futures -- which are sold prior to the wine being finished, often even before the assemblage . . . .

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              in contrast to Bordeaux futures -- which are sold prior to the wine being finished, often even before the assemblage .
                                              So the notes/scores from barrel tastings that accompany each Bordeaux futures...are they the final assemblage or are they tasting notes/scores extrapolated from indivdual barrels yet to be blended into the final assemblage?

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                Depending upon the wine . . . the answer is "yes."

                                                Parker, for example, has long asked for barrel samples be sent to him from producers in California. Some wineries pull an assemblage together -- it may, or it may not, be the final blend -- and send it off to Maryland . . . or to the hotel in Bordeaux.

                                                In the meantime, some wineries which have refused to do so, claiming the wine is not finished, and to taste it now might not be -- would not be -- reminiscent of the final wine in the least . . . well, they may never have another wine reviewed by Parker again.

                                                This is not (necessarily) to pick on Parker alone. Other publications and reviewers make similar demands.

                                                Keep in mind that some vineyards are planted in field blends. Some vineyards are planted in blocks. The difference is (to simplify it), if you want a wine that is a 70-30 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, you plant seven Cabernet vines, three Merlot vines, seven Cabernet, three Merlot, seven . . . three . . . seven . . . three . . . . When planted in a block, this entire block is Cabernet; that entire block is Merlot. The blending is done later. And 70-30 may or may not be the final blend (maybe 80-20 is better).

                                                Now, one final thing to remember: EVERY barrel of wine is different. Many wineries use more than one type of barrel (e.g.: Limousin, Nevers, Allier, Tronçais, Saône; West Cumberland, Appalachian, Missouri, Oregon; Slovenian, Russian; chestnut, redwood, etc.).

                                                If I present to you "a barrel sample," what wood am I giving you? If I give you a barrel sample from Allier oak -- what good is that if the final wine will have some Allier, some Nevers, and some Saône? AND since the same wine going from stainless steel into two different barrels of the same oak will end up tasting *differently* from each other, NO barrel sample is/will be EXACTLY like the final wine!


                                        2. re: Porthos

                                          (Whoa, déja vu!) ;^) I'm not trying to argue with you, but there is a significant difference in the terms and (generally) they are NOT used interchangeably within the wine trade. It's not my fault if Wally's and K&L use the language "sloppily" . . .

                                          Bordeaux FUTURES are sold by the château to Bordeaux négociants, British merchants, US importers, and other big players. This was originally at auction, although lately the châteaux have simply announced the prices. Theoretically, Bordeaux futures are offered in three "tranches," at three different prices. Bordeaux futures are sold PRIOR to bottling . . . prior to the wine being finished. And historically -- important to me; perhaps not to you -- were based upon the need of the aristocracy of Bordeaux's need to raise money (cash flow). Bordeaux futures were not sold directly to consumers.

                                          Pre-Arrivals are sold as wines already in bottle, but not yet in inventory BY THE RETAILER to the consumer. They are finished wines, and may still be in Europe, or may already be on the water headed this way.

                                          As I mentioned previously, vignerons in Burgundy sold off much or all of their wines to négociants (like Faiveley) the spring after harvest --for example, the 2011 vintage wines will be sold by Domaine Jean Deaux to, let's say, Faiveley in the spring of 2012. So when Faiveley bottles these wines in the summer of 2012 through the summer of 2013, they will first be offered -- *especially* if it is a great vintage and Faiveley can capitalize on the hype -- as "pre-arrivals." In lesser vintages (i.e.: no hype), little or no pre-arrivals will be sold.

                                          That is in contract to Bordeaux futures, which are sold each and every year.

                                          I mentioned above that some California wineries offer "futures," but -- obviously -- the historical reasons behind such offers are completely different. It was started by Joe Heitz, TTBOMK, who -- in the days of California Fair Trade -- would sell his Cabernets at the winery and to the mailing list for $xx starting on February 1st every year, and would not release the wines to retailers until March 1st, at which point he would post a new, higher price with the ABC. Heitz realized that this would drive more sales to the winery, so he could sell more wines at retail rather than wholesale yet his customers would still get a bargain!

                                          This was the "birth" of California Cabernet Futures, which remain largely dominated by wines already in, or just about to be, bottled -- rather than unfinished wines merely a few months old (like 2010 Bordeaux Futures). Another difference is that there is little chance, if any, that the California Cabernet price will DROP -- this is in contrast to Bordeaux Futures, where the market has dropped/crashed several times in the past, meaning people who bought on futures paid MORE for the wine than people who just walked into a retailer 2+ years later and picked up a bottle off the shelf.


                                      2. re: budnball

                                        **It just ain't that serious a thing.** --budnball

                                        "And Mt. Everest is just a really big pile of rock. And 'Crime and Punishment' is just a long story about a student who whomps some old lady upside the head with an ax. You know, I agree with you; life is just too damn good. I'll be right there to help you suck all the blood out of every possible transcendent moment just so we can make our lives more paltry and diminished.

                                        "No. We care because we want to. We care because human being are made to care. Caring feeds a hunger. Caring affirms our lives. It doesn't matter what we care about, whether bridge or crossword puzzles or lacrosse or twelve-tone music or sitcoms or sustainable agriculture or gardening or wine. You don't have to care if you don't feel it naturally. But don't let anyone tell you not to care, or that caring makes you some kind of geek. Everyone's a geek about something.

                                        "Let me be clear: no one has to like wine the way I like it, or the way any 'expert' likes it. If wine is a casual beverage to you, then the discussion ends. Wine is complicated and therefore intimidating, but I'll make you a deal: you promise not to lash out at me for what I know because you feel intimidated, and I'll promise not to guilt-trip you into acquiring expertise in a subject you don't care that much about." --Terry Theise

                                  2. re: budnball

                                    Robert, using words like "so-called," and "unreliable," along with expressions like "Ponzi Scheme" and "cannot be trusted" makes it pretty clear to me that you've already made up your mind and there is little point in trying to explain anything to you. (This wouldn't be the first time.) HOWEVER, in light of the other people who *have* responded, and the other members of Chowhound that may benefit from an increased understanding, I will continue the conversation and add my own 2¢ -- it's probably worth far less, and you are free to keep the change . . .

                                    You may very well ask "What good are restaurant reviewers?" " . . . movie reviewers?", " . . . theater reviewers?" and the like. Each is attempting to convey to you, the reader, what the wine or food tastes like WITHOUT you ever having tasted it; or to tell you what they thought of the movie/play WITHOUT you ever having seen it, and to tell you whether you should or should not spend your money for a ticket. But in each and every case, it is THEIR taste and sensibility that determines the words they use, their opinion(s), and their recommendation(s).

                                    In this, a wine reviewer is no different than any other person who reviews _________ for a living.

                                    But the one thing that cannot be stressed enough is that this is SUBJECTIVE -- neither I nor Parker, Suckling, Laube, Broadbent, Coates, Meadows, Tanzer, nor any other wine reviewer on the planet has YOUR taste buds in their mouth. They have THEIRS. I have MINE. You are the only one, Robert, who have YOUR taste buds. And so what I think of Chateau Cache Phloe may be similar to what you think of it, or I may have a completely different opinion of it. Who knows?

                                    NOTE: a wine reviewer is different than a wine writer, or (IMHO) a wine critic; all are different than a wine judge. Or, at the very least, they are different "hats" to be worn at different times.

                                    As a wine judge, or -- to a slightly lesser extent -- as a wine critic, I have to "attempt" to remain as objective as possible. This is NOT the same as being objective, period. Complete objectivity is absolutely impossible. We are not talking about a machine analyzing the tensile strength of some newly invented compound. We are talking about smells and tastes, about the human senses and there is no objectivity allowed. Yet as a wine judge or (again, to a lesser extent) as a wine critic, one attempts to suspend one's own opinion as much as possible in this way: if I am to judge a flight of (for example) off-dry California semi-generic white table wines -- not my favorite wine type -- I still have to be able to say "yes, this is a good example of its type" or "no, this is not a good example of its type," etc., etc.

                                    But as a reviewer, I can simply say "yum" or "yuck," and elaborate as to what is making me say that. But what is making me say "yum" might make you say "yuck," or vice-versa.

                                    For example, I am very sensitive to sulfur in wines -- SO2, H2S, mercaptans. I am less sensitive to volatile acidity and Brett. So there are times when I have preferred Wine X to Wine Y, despite the fact that X has a higher lever of VA to it; meanwhile, the person next to me might slam the same wine for its high levels of VA . . .

                                    Sometimes you may see me speak (write) of "Pinot-as-Syrah." Now, to me, Pinot Noir isn't at all like Syrah, but several California wineries make it (IMHO) as if it were. Clearly this is a style that I'm not crazy about, and let the wines sell really well, lots of people love it. So . . . who's to say what's right and what's wrong? I can only say that *I* don't like it, and the people who do can say, "Good! That means more for us!"


                                    Above, I asked "redfish62" to describe how chocolate tastes. I would ask you the same thing. Tell me what chocolate tastes like. Go ahead. I'll wait . . . . .
                                    Generally, that conversation will go something like this:

                                    Q: What does chocolate taste like?
                                    A: It tastes sweet.
                                    Q: You mean like honey?
                                    A: Uh, no. It's bitter.
                                    Q: You mean like tea that's been brewed way too long?
                                    A. No, no. Hmm, well, it's creamy.
                                    Q: You mean like half-and-half?
                                    A: No. It's . . . .

                                    You get my point? It is IMPOSSIBLE to describe a flavor or taste. All you can say is that this particular wine *reminds* me of cherries, or of blueberries, or of earth, or spice, or vanillin, or . . . or . . . or . . . or . . . .


                                    Wine reviewers are only as good as they are consistent. Inconsistency renders any wine reviewer completely useless. But if you read _______________, and get to know his/her palate preferences, AND they are consistent, then they can be of great use to you in separating the wheat from the chaff (or the gems from the plonk). This has been discussed at length on these pages before.


                                    And since we are speaking of subjective evaluations among humans -- as I asked above . . . .

                                    >>> Is it REALLY any big surprise that if you pour Chateau Cache Phloe out of two bottles -- one labeled as "Chateau Cache Phloe" and the other labeled (e.g.) "Château Lafite-Rothschild" -- that the tasters will taste two different things? <<<


                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      i have no problem with reviewers, it is the fact that the wine market has a very "speculative market" aspect to it that major wine critics are party to. Which leads to a certain amount of hucksterism. Which makes them suspect. This is what I react negatively to.

                                      And YES it is a surprise that tasters cannot tell the difference. That is the whole point! If they can't tell the difference, what difference is there? Won't the people getting the Stag's Leap enjoy it more because it is a "known" bottle? Does that make it a better wine than they think it is?
                                      I don't have these issues with scotch. LOL
                                      my answers are short because I'm a crappy typist

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        Hi, Jason;

                                        Really good explanation.

                                        I actually think "reviewers of _______" have a much easier time of it than reviewers of wine. I think the ineffables and nearly-sos with wine are dramatically more, and more complicated. If there are pro cocktail evaluators, maybe they face the same difficulties.

                                        Apropos of your chocolate example, I once had a serious lawsuit involving the flavor and palatability of Turkey Tetrazini MREs for the military (pair that). The written specification, exclusive of objective measurements such as fines sizes and proportions, ran upwards of 100 pages. The jurisprudence required objectifying something that simply couldn't be. My unfortunate client lost a lot of money chasing after something that wasn't there.

                                        I have a question for you: What do you think the % is of consumer buyers-from-reviews, who actually taste critically, maybe drag out an Aroma Wheel, try to put meaningful descriptors with perception?


                                  3. re: budnball

                                    There are futures for oil, gas, corn, wheat, coffee and virtually every crop
                                    under the sun. Futures are about hedging economic risk. Why should
                                    that instrument not be available to wine producers?

                                    1. re: bclevy

                                      The petroleum futures market is responsible for much of the recent gasoline price increase. You want that to happen to wine?

                                      1. re: Akitist

                                        And you don't think it already has???*

                                        Poor analogy:
                                        1) ALL petroleum is available on futures, with some "spot market" reselling.
                                        2) Only Bordeaux -- and a) NOT each and every château, nor b) all of a "participating" château's wines at that -- is sold on futures.
                                        3) A *very* small number of California Cabernets are sold "on futures," but it's a totally different market and handled in a completely different way.


                                        * While it has nothing to do with the futures market per se, 1961 Château Lafite sold retail for $4.50; 1970 Lafite sold retail for $19.99; and the 2010 is $1,649 as a pre-arrival!

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          Poor analogy? I think not. (However, unlike Descartes I won't disappear.)

                                          My point was that since not all wines are sold on the commodities market the way petroleum products are the prices aren't as speculation driven. Some may be. For the others the prices more realistically reflect actual costs of production and distribution.

                                        2. re: Akitist

                                          The petroleum futures market is responsible for much of the recent gasoline price increase. You want that to happen to wine?

                                          Already has. See Bordeaux.

                                          1. re: Akitist

                                            You have obviously not followed oil for very long if you think prices
                                            on oil futures markets only go up. Oil crashed all the way down
                                            from $30 to $10 in 1998. Look at current nat gas futures which
                                            lost 75% since 2007-2008.

                                    2. ...kick 'em in the face. :)