One way for a wine critic to look like an absolute genius is for his barrel reviews to match up perfectly with his scores for the released wines.
Imagine how impressed everyone would be if every wine that scored 95-100 points out of barrel hit the same score range when it was released. And what if every wine that merely tasted good in its infancy just stayed that way and didn’t get better?
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
Wine changes from barrel to bottle, whether it's first-growth Bordeaux from a great vintage or grand cru Burgundy with astronomical prices. Wine also changes with time in the bottle.
Winemakers will tell you that there are times when they're surprised by how well a certain wine has aged, and then there are times when they're disappointed because a wine didn't meet their expectations.
For critics, it's not a matter of being "right." It's a matter of being honest about what you taste, whether it's from barrel or bottle.
I've just tasted retrospective horizontals from three vintages of California Cabernet—1996, 1986 and 1976—and the results are telling on a number of accounts.
I could stick to my original ratings, letting the scores stand for all time, not reporting on how the wines have aged. But tasting wines through the years and studying how they age is one of the more compelling elements in the connoisseurship of fine wine.
At times, the results are just what you expected from the very beginning. But there are also occasions when your great expectations aren't met. The entire experience is predictably unpredictable.
Those who find fault with reviews of older wines that don't jibe with the reviews of the wines when released simply don't have much experience with these kinds of tastings.
Otherwise, they would know how the process of doing multiple tastings of wines typically ends—with surprises and disappointments. That's just the way it is.
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — December 4, 2006 6:59pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — December 4, 2006 8:54pm ET
Robert Fukushima — California — December 5, 2006 12:16pm ET
Robert Noad — December 5, 2006 1:00pm ET
Jonathon Wagner — San Francisco, CA — December 5, 2006 1:26pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — December 5, 2006 2:30pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 5, 2006 5:22pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — December 5, 2006 6:56pm ET
Robert Fukushima — California — December 5, 2006 7:56pm ET
Mark Mccullough — GA — December 5, 2006 9:48pm ET
Gilbert Vasquez — San Diego — December 6, 2006 3:05pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — December 22, 2006 8:26pm ET
John Jorgenson — Seattle, — December 24, 2006 1:51am ET
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