Friday, September 26, 2008

A wine by any other point, tastes as sweet...

Or does it?

Last night, I attended the first of what I hope will be many Project 89 parties, with The Brix Chicks Liza & Xandria, Ward Kadel of WineLog and others. During our tasting, we tasted matched pairs of American Chardonnay, New Zealand Pinot Noir, and Australian Shiraz. One wine was given an 89 rating and one was given a 90 or above rating by one of the major critics. As we tasted these wines blind, we didn't know as we were drinking them, which was the "better" wine and which was not. I asked our team to give them our own ratings first and then reveal the "expert" opinions afterwards, to see if we agreed.

All wines were purchased from and can be found at various sources for less (click the link to search on Vinquire!)

First up, Chardonnay from North America.
Medium golden lemon color, with a nose of butterscotch, oak and straw.
I found tons of lemon, custard, and a zingy lemon zest flavor followed by flinty mineral flavors with a bit of chalk and vanilla finish. I did see a little bit of a musty aftertaste, but over all really enjoyed this wine.

I gave it 88 points. Wine Spectator gave it 90.

Even though I'm not typically a chard person, I would buy this wine for it's ease of drinking, particularly for a party.
The MacRostie was again, a very pale yellow color which I love in a Chard. It signals to me that it will not be an overoaked, over malolactic fermentation Sundial type wine. Thank god for that! On the nose, again there were tons of lemon and lemon zest aromas, with a hint of caramel & sandlewood.

This wine had a lot of spritz to it, and was almost bitter with it's citrus flavor. I thought it tasted a lot like flat 7-Up. And not in a good way, since there was a sharp aftertaste on the long finish.

I gave it an 86, primary because of the funky finish, although it was much better with food than without.

Wine Spectator gives it an 89.

Next, the Pinots. Both were from New Zealand, but each from a distinct area known for Piont Noir. Now I love me a NZ Pinot, so I was really excited about this pair.
The Amisfield was a gorgeous garnet red color, with earth, cherry kir, ceder and a slight mint nose.

When I first tasted this wine, there was massive bright red fruit; it was definately a lighter more traditional style of Pinot Noir, and it's juicy cranberry, straweberry and cherry flavors really pop out. There was a long fruit finish, that kept my mouth watering after the wine was gone.

Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 91, Wine Spectator gave it a 90.

I gave this wine an 89.
The Te Kairanga was the first wine that brought out the Venturi, a handy dandy aeration device that forces a wine to act like it has been decanted and opens it up. Before we used the Venturi however, I noticed that this wine had a cloudy deep ruby color, much different from the first Pinot we tasted.

There were strong cherry cola flavors, with dried cherries and strong earth with musty leaves.
On the first taste, I really did not like this wine at all, and gave it an 84. After running it through the Venturi twice, I still found it to be lacking and had a strange finish, although I did increase my score to 85.

Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator both gave it an 88.

Finally, we threw in two big boys from Australia to really pack a punch.
This was a deep dark and brooding wine. On the nose, I found dark red fruits, and smoked meat.

It was lighter than I expected for the color and style, but was very pleasant with the cherry, raspberry and juicy fruit flavors.

I gave this wine an 89.

Wine Spectator also gave it an 89, while Wine Enthusiast gave it a lowly 86.
The deep blood red color of the Lodge smelled like dusty blackberries.
It was full bodied, but tasted slightly sour to me.

Even after running it through the Venturi, I still didn't care for this Shiraz, and only gave it an 87.

Robert Parker gave it a 90, as did Wine Spectator.

My question is, given that the Amisfield Pinot was $39.99, and the Te Kairanga was $19.79, is one point really worth a 200% price increase? I don't think so. If the Te Kairanga was given a 90 instead of an 89 would it be priced at $39? Probably. Are there other $20 wines that are undervalued? You bet.

I hope to do another 89 Project Party soon to taste more pairs!

The power of points is in marketing, not in enjoyment. So I say, points be damned and go out and drink what you like!

Happy Drinking!


dhonig said...

I just love this idea. I wish I could have joined you.

I am curious. WHY do you think the wines you reviewed got 89s from the media? Were they "good" wines from good regions or good growers, that got extra points for their names? Were they "bad" wines from less respected regions or unknown growers, wines that would have to hit a home run to get credit for a single? Or is it just a simple matter of different palates, that they really were very competent wines that simply lacked that something "extra" to get them over the 90 point hump?

dr_XeNo said...

Hey there WineBratSF! Great post and an even greater time...thank you for inviting me (to Liza's) ;-). I had some similar observations wine-wise but also some nice differences. I'll link back when I finish my post!

Xandria said...

Thanks for your comprehensive review! I just thought it was interesting how we tasters could tell which one was the "90" point wine even though it was not always the wine that we preferred. Interesting experience and yes, let's do it again!

The Wine Brat said...

Dhonig - that's such a good question.
As you can see from 2 of the participants comments, for the most part we agreed and guessed right at which was the 90 point wine.

But I think you have a great point. Even though some of the wines were lesser known here in the States, I wonder how much is marketing blitz / exposure vs. hard sell.

I didn't think any one wine stood out THAT much more than the other. At least not to get that prized 90+ rating...but, I can't wait to see what The Brix Chicks & Dr Xeno say!

Thanks for a great project, and next time. You have to come!

Vinogirl said...


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