Sunday, March 16, 2008

Four Critics - One Wine

Here are reviews and scores by four respected critics on the same wine - 2003 Leoville-Poyferre.

Robert M. Parker, Jr. – 98 points
I have had this wine three times out of bottle, rating it 97 once and 98 twice. It is a colossal success and a potential legend in the making. Its saturated, dense inky/blue/purple color offers up notes of crushed rocks, acacia flowers, blueberries, black raspberries, and crème de cassis. A synthesis of power and elegance, this multi-layered wine has spectacular concentration, sweet but high tannin, and low acidity A stunning effort that showcases this legendary terroir, it is a brilliant, brilliant success. The quintessential Leoville Poyferré? Anticipated maturity: 2009-2030.

James Suckling – 95
Pure cassis on the nose. Impressive. Full-bodied, thick and powerful, with loads of fruit and big, velvety tannins. Goes on for minutes on the palate. Huge wine. Very, very impressive. This is one of the big surprises of the vintage. Best after 2012.

Stephen Tanzer – 92
Medium ruby-red. Extravagant aromas of currant, loam, leather and graphite; like the 1990 in its roasted character. Then sweet and dense but with surprising aromatic lift in the mouth, not to mention considerable power. Liqueur-like black fruit, licorice and mineral flavors really stain the palate. Cuvelier maintained that this vintage was not acidified. The cabernet acidity, he said, was healthy and the grape skins gave up their acidity slowly during the vinification. A very impressive showing, and built to last.

Gary Vaynerchuk – 97+
Dark color. Classic bell pepper on the nose. V8 juice, black cassis, black currant, musty (like an attic). On the palate, incredibly silky from the attack through the finish. This is a polished Old World wine with beautiful extracted New World fruit (2003 was a hot vintage), perfect balance & harmony, extremely good, black currant & cassis, red cherries, beautiful raspberries, secondary layers of smoked tobacco, really ripe candied flavors on the finish, smooth as a wine gets, this is Ultimate Bordeaux


Here are some groups of similar flavors:

  • crushed rocks (RP) mineral, graphite (ST) musty (GV)
  • crème de cassis (RP) pure cassis (JS) currant, liqueur-like black fruit (ST) cassis, black currant (GV)
  • roasted character (ST) smoked tobacco (GV)
All of the critics felt the wine was “big”:

dense (color), power, multi-layered (RP)
full-bodied, thick, powerful, huge wine (JS)
dense, considerable power, stains the palate (ST)

Three of the four critics noted the wine’s sweetness:

sweet (RP)
sweet and dense (ST)
ripe candied flavors (GV)

However when it comes to acidity and color, the critics don’t quite agree:

strong acidity (inferred from comment about cuvelier) (ST)
low acidity (RP)

saturated, dense, inky/blue/purple (RP)
medium ruby-red (ST)
dark color (GV) – the most recent review.

It is hard to draw any strong conclusions from the reviews about this wine – after all, it’s just one wine, and one that is incontrovertibly an excellent effort (contrast with the infamous Chateau Pavie!). However it is clear that while the critics largely agree, it is very difficult for any single critic to claim objective truth. For example, the Wine Spectator maintains that their numeric scores are extra-accurate because during each tasting they “calibrate” their palates with a previously-rated wine. Is this implied accuracy truly warranted? My gut feeling, from reading these reviews, is no. More on this soon.