Category: Wine Criticism

On the Value of Wine Criticism: a Conversation with the Blind

Let’s admit it, there are a lot of wine words that raise eyebrows.

The esoteric jargon leaps to mind: “This wine has lift. Excellent palate tension”. “A laser-like focus”. “This wine is rather foursquare”. “Très nerveux”, quoth the French wine critic, often when sampling a dry white wine they like. Can a wine be nervous?

Then there is the dauntingly precise collection of fruits, flowers, and other non-edible aromatic descriptors in tasting notes.

  • Sous bois, or mushrooms.
  • Stones.
  • Latex or Band-Aids.
  • Violets.
  • Saddle leather.
  • Barnyard (or manure).
  • Stalky.
  • White pepper.
  • Pine.
  • Mint.
  • Green bell pepper.
  • Mimosa.
  • Honeysuckle.
  • Geranium.
  • Cat pee.
  • Red currant.
  • Wet dog.
  • Toasty.
  • Tar.
  • Soapy.
  • Nail polish.
  • Apples.
  • Corn.
  • Lactic.
  • Orange blossom.
  • Mousy.
  • Cranberries.
  • Brioche.
  • Bubblegum.
  • Egg.
  • Cheese.
  • Lemon.
  • Magnolia.
  • Lime.
  • Cherries.
  • Apricot.
  • Toffee.
  • Pear.
  • Plums.
  • Peaches.
  • Tobacco.
  • Lychee.
  • Cedar.
  • Petrol.


And finally, there’s the troubling lack of consensus between critics regarding exact descriptors for the same wine. What one critic might consider to be a “full” wine with “bilberry, truffle and red currant”, another critic might dub “angular yet fresh with a core of Alpine strawberries”.

If the critics can’t even agree, what’s it all worth? How can it be right?

Deep breath: I vehemently defend these practices and descriptive tools. And, I’ve had it with the parade of Philistines (Click to Read more)

Dark Secrets of the 100 Point Wine Scale

Even if the 100 point wine scoring system is not going away anytime soon, wine consumers are getting wise to some shameful flaws. Yet another ghastly pair of endemic faults which are seemingly never discussed?

Glass ceilings for certain wines, and perhaps more insidiously: the invisible, deleterious effects of moderation drinker rationale.


“Once the Wine Spectator wrote a story on Beaujolais.  The top wine had a score of 86 or 88.  I sent them a note saying I’d read the article and thought the wine might be to my taste, ‘But could you please tell me the names of people who really know how to make Beaujolais as I’d like to taste some 90+ point wines.’  They wrote back saying ‘You don’t understand. (Click to Read more)

Here Lies the Carcass of Napa Valley Winemaking



The Tragedy of Napa Valley,

as Seen Through the Lens of

BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve

Two weeks had passed, and I still couldn’t bring myself to pour the 2010 Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Georges de Latour Private Reserve down the drain. It had been offered to me as a gift, and I knew damn well how much it cost. After relegating the bottle to my fridge and checking in periodically hoping that either the wine or my palate would change, I tried one last time and then finally accepted the inevitable.

BV 2010 outclassed by Marmandais malbec
Who better accompanied smoked duck magret? You guessed it.

This $100 bottle of wine is an undrinkable monstrosity. The $10 2011 Château Terrebert Cotes du Marmandais aside it is a far more alluring wine. The Terrebert was finished; the BV was poured down the drain.

Even if there’s no correspondence between price and quality in wine, it’s a bit shocking: how did BV end up crafting a wine that was impossible to drink? And what could the BV have tasted like?


André Tchelistcheff is a deity among California wine enthusiasts. If Georges de Latour — a French businessman who founded the Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa Valley in 1900 — was the visionary who selected the vineyard site and European vine clones to plant, Tchelistcheff was the humble master technician who (Click to Read more)