Brian’s string of questions from yesterday’s blog gives me a chance to expound on a couple of points.
My preference for “younger, fruitier” wines is a generalization. I do enjoy wines that are delicate, subtle and elegant. By “complex” in this context I meant wines that have evolved past their initial primary fruit flavors and have developed what are considered more mature, or secondary flavors, but are not oxidized or tired.
My ratings for young wines are based on what I taste now. I think it’s difficult to guess how a wine will age and that most people will be disappointed if they age their wines too long. That’s why I use tight drink windows.
The greatest wines retain their fruit character with age. The wine may soften, or gain nuances, or take on more complex flavors and a bouquet. But for me once a wine starts to lose its fruit complexity, and shows traces of oxidation, or starts to dry out (which is common with heavy reds) then it becomes less appealing. Exactly when any wine peaks or begins to fade is a similarly subjective view. One wine that straddled this delicate tightrope between holding its fruit and gaining complexity and remaining youthful beyond normal expectations was the 1941 Inglenook Cabernet, which I rated a perfect 100, after it had spent 47 years in the bottle. One great read on this subject is Emile Peynaud’s The Taste of Wine.
Everyone’s palate is different. What separates us is our experiences and exposures to different wines. People who taste thousands of wines each year have a different perspective than those who taste fewer wines.
Yesterday I tasted (and drank) three Napa Cabernets: a 2002 D.R. Stephens and 2004s from Hundred Acre and Scarecrow. Owners Bret Lopez and Mimi DeBlasio decanted the Scarecrow at 9 a.m. and I took my first sip at 4:30 that afternoon. It was supple and rich, with pure, delicious Cabernet flavors and a remarkable silky texture for such a young wine. The Hundred Acre, opened for an hour, was chunky and concentrated, with firm tannins. The D.R. Stephens, also opened an hour, showed more like the Scarecrow: smooth, complex, with supple currant and blackberry fruit and fleshy tannins. To me those wines are at ideal drinking ages. Of note: Both the D.R. Stephens and the Scarecrow were made by Celia Masyczek, who is one of my favorite winemakers. Her wines typically have great finesse, polish and impeccable balance.
Another way of looking at ratings is as a pleasure scale. Wines at 95 points are exciting; 72s are undrinkable.
As for differences in ratings among publications, I would expect different critics, with different tastes and experiences would have different takes on the same wine. It’s no different than why certain critics have different takes on movies, books or cars.
In the case of Robert Parker, I think we agree on wines more than we disagree. Some folks hone in on when one of us likes or dislikes a wine more than the other, rather than noting the times we’re in sync. When there are different takes I imagine that factors such as when the wine was tasted (sometimes we each taste a wine a year earlier or later than one another) or bottle variation might often explain our differing views.
My guess is that if we tasted the same wines from the same bottle at the same time, we’d agree more often than not. But in the instances where we disagreed, it would reflect our personal tastes and taste experiences.
Brian — costa mesa, ca — October 2, 2007 5:49pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — October 2, 2007 7:29pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 2, 2007 8:16pm ET
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — October 2, 2007 10:11pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — October 3, 2007 8:13am ET
John Wilen — Texas — October 3, 2007 8:44am ET
Jordan Horoschak — Houston, TX — October 3, 2007 11:51am ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — October 3, 2007 11:57am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — October 3, 2007 12:52pm ET
Hugh L Sutherland Jr-m — miramar beach, fl — October 3, 2007 4:27pm ET
Richard Hirth — Michigan — October 4, 2007 9:21am ET
Hugh L Sutherland Jr-m — miramar beach, fl — October 4, 2007 2:31pm ET
Richard Hirth — Michigan — October 4, 2007 9:47pm ET
Andrew Kiken — calistoga, ca — October 5, 2007 4:13am ET
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