Comments on: The humbling of Robert Parker A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: RaScott Thu, 29 Mar 2012 16:33:03 +0000 It was an eye opener to see how hard it was to tell cab, merlot and carmenere from each other at a blind tasting which included some people in the trade.

I always question numeric ratings because the point scores and price almost always go hand in hand. My $13 zin was three times more popular than a $30 zin at a recent blind tasting.

By: TheToothpick Tue, 27 Apr 2010 17:22:01 +0000 Parker creates a financial wave, just like any high-octane equity analyst. You can either choose to ride it, as investors do (including me), or you can ignore it.

If you happen to like the wines he likes, he can also highlight some good things that remain at drinking, rather than investing, levels – I have done this too. Whether he can taste blind, or ride a unicycle, is immaterial.

By: austinbeeman Wed, 10 Feb 2010 22:32:26 +0000 My favorite quote on blind tasting comes from Importer Kermit Lynch. “Blind Tasting is to wine drinking what strip poker is to love.” In other words, it is a fun game, but totally misses the point.

By: Carlos Brito Tue, 06 Oct 2009 13:34:03 +0000 My wine expertise is limited to knowing the best vintages of Charles Shaw and Boone’s Farm. I can however tell you with metaphysical certainty which Anheuser-Busch location crafted the bottle of Budweiser I am drinking before it is half way gone. I am not as precise with cans and my ability with kegs has decrease exponentially since my youth. Friendly tip: Avoid the Houston beer brewed during the summer and stock up on the Syracuse beer crafted in the fall. The Ft. Collins beer is good year round.

By: Mungo Bola Mon, 05 Oct 2009 23:16:19 +0000 Is there any empirical data on how much wines vary from bottle to bottle? I know I’ve had some wines that were so-so the first time I had them, and great the second, or vice-versa (same label, same vintage, same store). I’ve always wondered whether that was a result of variability in how I tasted the wine, or variability in the bottles.

By: Eric Arnold Mon, 05 Oct 2009 00:25:55 +0000 The only thing Parker has actually taught us is that he’s especially cavalier with his reputation. Any other critic, no matter how experienced, has as much potential to perform as poorly as Parker did at this particular tasting. They’re all just smart enough not to put themselves in such a situation.

This is also why normal blind tastings for magazines or websites are designed so that the taster doesn’t score erratically (re-tastings occur, wines of a certain region/variety/vintage are always grouped together). In other words, the very system itself is designed to protect the critic’s reputation as much as–or even more than–serve the consumer.

As much fun as it might be to attack Parker in this instance, consumers should know better than to bestow excessive trust and credibility upon wine critics. They’ll only wind up disappointed.

By: Tom West Sun, 04 Oct 2009 18:24:17 +0000 Two points:

The idea that there are 100 different discernible linear gradations of wine quality is ludicrous at best. If you were trying for repeatability of ratings, especially between experts, you *might* manage 10.

The point of ratings is not to provide factual accuracy, but to give some pleasure to the reader, which is why he or she buys the magazine. That the ratings aren’t accurate (or more likely, can’t be accurate) is irrelevant if the audience is pleased by seeing the numbers. If finding, buying and consuming that 98 or 99 rated wine pleases the audience, why is it important if all the ratings above 90 are more or less random.

After all, is it a crime that wrestling isn’t real? Is the audience being ripped off?

In both cases, the audience is buying *for* the fantasy. If they’re happy, then it’s good for all.

By: Tish Sun, 04 Oct 2009 14:56:06 +0000 This is not the first time that a blind tasting has gone “FAIL” – and it won’t be the last. SUch is human nature. What differs here is that the main failing is the proverbial infallible one, who has in the past claimed a near photographic palate memory of wines he has tasted, particulalry within his area of expertise (BDX).

The reverberations of this event will, I think, be different within and beyond wine circles. Within, most people who actually understand how wine criticism works will not be especially shocked; and they will continue to follow whatever system they do.

Outside wine-geeky circles, this will serve as a wake-up call to the fact that numbers are not only hopelessly imprecise and irreplicable. Robert Parker’s “FAIL” will help draw attention to eh failure of numbers in general, as well as the hideous practice of retailers and marketers plucking numbers and flaunting them as if they are in any way definitive. In nearly every instance that a wine rating is foisted upon the world, the number itself represent no more or less than one man’s preference based on one set of wines on one day — and arrived at without a crumb of food.

Wine criticism, involving not only ranking but also description and guidance for usage in context, will always be a welcome aspect of the Wine Life. But the proliferation and abuse of singular numbers is absurd. Let’s hope that the future of wine criticism and marketing alike come back to earth from the senseless 90-point stratosphere.

By: jonathan Sat, 03 Oct 2009 19:54:55 +0000 What wine needs is a little pill you take before drinking that conjures in your mind the ambience and mood which imparts a significant part of taste. Not a pill that turns dreck into gold but one an enhancer that mirrors the findings of behavioral econ.

By: Thomas Matthews Sat, 03 Oct 2009 19:03:34 +0000 Felix,

Thank you for quoting my remarks accurately and at such length.

I have read Dr. Vino’s report of the Bordeaux tasting, and while it must have been humbling for Mr. Parker not to have guessed a single chateau correctly, this (alas not uncommon) outcome does not in my mind invalidate blind tasting.

WoofWoof’s comment is apt. All the wines in this Bordeaux tasting were originally rated at 95 points or higher. That fact was known in this tasting. I would be more interested in the results of a second blind tasting if the original scores were not known, and were more heterogeneous. Would all the ratings again fall into the same score bands? And would the tasting notes be consistent? That to me would suggest a “good judge.”

Or say the original scores were given non-blind, while the subsequent tasting was blind. A “good judge” would give consistent ratings and tasting notes. Any significant inconsistencies between the two might be attributed to the externalities blind tasting eliminates (and might cast doubt on the quality of the judge).

Since neither case applied, the tasting Dr. Vino describes does not seem to be a good test of the validity of blind tasting. I will say, however, that if the tasting notes Dr. Vino supplied in his report were written before the wines were disclosed, then based simply on his descriptions, I would consider him a “good judge” of young Bordeaux.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator