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Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Covert » Fri Jul 21, 2006 10:40 am

I confess that I still read Wine Spectator, mostly because I don’t have a life.

In James Laube’s column (Aug. 31 Dining Guide), he notes that some California wineries are facing problems with quality. In his examples he states re Stag’s Leap Cellars Cask 23: “…it’s occasionally brilliant, but just as likely to be earthy and loamy.” Re Peter Michael Les Pavots Knights Valley (which I might eschew simply for its flatulent name): “…both the 2002…and 2003…are disappointingly earthy.” And Quintessa: “…often have distracting earthy flavors…”

In California, has “earthy” become a synonym for flawed, or is Laube’s disparagement of the term an example of the inexorable march toward the fruitpopization of wine in general? Since when is “earthy” bad? I thought it was an element of interest. It certainly is for me. I also wonder whether these properties mentioned place any ads in the mag.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by David M. Bueker » Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:13 am

Well I for one have no idea how Laube could taste anything other than oak in the Les Pavots.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Carl Eppig » Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:22 am

If I don't mention earth or dirt or some synonym thereof in a WTN it probably means I really didn't like the wine.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Jenise » Fri Jul 21, 2006 12:11 pm

Covert asked:
[is it] example of the inexorable march toward the fruitpopization of wine in general?


That's exactly what it is. In Spectatorland, high alcohol and sweet pretty fruit are the holy grail. In fact, a wine can't seem to have too much of either.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by James Roscoe » Fri Jul 21, 2006 12:37 pm

Covert wrote:I confess that I still read Wine Spectator, mostly because I don’t have a life.


The other two reasons I read it , besides the fact that I also have no life, is for Matt Kraemer's piece every month, and the photography. I love the pictures of the vinyards.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Covert » Fri Jul 21, 2006 2:56 pm

Jenise wrote: That's exactly what it is.


You know, Jenise, people say it lies in that direction, but I really didn't believe it was quite that far along, until I read the piece. Laube could have misspoken or made a Freudian slip, once, - but not thrice. Amazing, really.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Covert » Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:04 pm

James Roscoe wrote: I love the pictures


So do I. Beautiful exposition of of Languedoc in the same edition.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Otto » Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:23 pm

How odd. I've often before been amazed that so many are afraid of tannins and especially acidity, that these have too often become negative words in TNs. And now earth? What next, cigar? I love the savoury scents of earth and cigar in my wines, and if all wines become so spoofulated that they don't have them, I'll stop drinking wine totally: there will be no interest in it for me. I confess, that these few scents are some of the main reasons I bother with this beverage.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by James Roscoe » Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:31 pm

Covert wrote:
James Roscoe wrote: I love the pictures


So do I. Beautiful exposition of of Languedoc in the same edition.


Is this the most recent issue? If so I will look forward to it. There is nothing like beautiful pictures of French vinyards.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Covert » Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:47 pm

James Roscoe wrote:[Is this the most recent issue?


It's the August 31 Dining Guide edition. Arrived a couple of days ago. I don't know if there is a regular August issue, also. I really need to arrange a trip to Southern France soon. The restaurants look wonderful.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Covert » Fri Jul 21, 2006 4:02 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote: these few scents are some of the main reasons I bother with this beverage.


Me too. It's somewhat of an American thing, I think; and one that the rest of the world shouldn't try to emulate. Of course it happens somewhat automatically in the global quest for Parker points.

I recently dined with a business associate. When the wine list came, she said she liked anything, as long as it wasn't earthy. Directly after finishing dinner, she went into the ladies room to rince with mouthwash.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by jecastillo » Fri Jul 21, 2006 4:32 pm

Apparently "earth" is something that should only be found in old world wines. Maybe someone should call Laube and tell him that grapes are grown in the earth, even in California.

Even when I was a wine rep, the only thing we used Spectator for was the "ratings" that would help sell our wines. I had trouble reading the tasting notes and most of the articles, and was tired of people buying subpar wines because of the number Spectator put next to the tasting notes, while more interesting value-based wines got pushed aside. Wine distribution is a hard career choice for people who truly appreciate wine, and it seems to me that Wine Spectator perpetuates all that is wrong in the industry. I love when you see a wine getting 96 points, and five pages later there's a full page add for that winery. Gee, no conflict of interest there. Haven't picked up a copy in a few years, so maybe it's changed for the better...... but going by this thread, I guess not.

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Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by TomHill » Fri Jul 21, 2006 4:40 pm

Jorge,
I am probably the last person in the world that'd stand up for the WineSphincter but....
I suspect that there is NO quid pro quo for getting a high score on the review and the presence of the advertisement. Generally, the editorial department is kept well isolated from the advertising department.
However, if they happen to find a wine that they really like (by whatever perverted criteria they use) and it gets a high score, than I have little doubt that the ad department will take that piece of information and then go strong-arm the wnry into buying ad space. And I expect their ad department has some real goons in it. I've heard plenty of stories from winemakers about the WS's strong-arm tactics.
But you can find plenty of examples of high-scoring wines and nary an ad in the issue.
I think you may be a bit off base on this implied allegation.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Mark S » Fri Jul 21, 2006 4:46 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote:...I love the savoury scents of earth and cigar in my wines, and if all wines become so spoofulated that they don't have them, I'll stop drinking wine totally: there will be no interest in it for me. I confess, that these few scents are some of the main reasons I bother with this beverage.


C'mon Otto, absolutely NO fruit? Fruit appeals to me, but hopefully one finds other aromatics and tings in their beverage. I can still smell an old cheese aroma from a 1980's vintage Taurausi that was pure heaven. Other people might say it stinks. Still, surprised the Speck is criticising one of the main non fruit components of wine as a fault. Guess they don't really like Burgundy after all! :?
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Covert » Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:30 pm

Mark S wrote:[Still, surprised the Speck is criticising one of the main non fruit components of wine as a fault.


Mark,

To be fair, when I started this thread I maybe should have shared that Laube mentioned brett and TCA as two of the causes of problems in wine before launching into descriptions of less than great wines. But when he described the wines, he should have then said that they had TCA taint or too much brett, if such were the cases, rather than say nothing about flaws per se and only state a problem of earthiness. If he had any respect for earthy flavors, he certainly should have made the distinction, rather than use a word like 'earth' as a synonym for TCA or brett without explanation. I guess I did sort of disclose all that when I asked if the term "earth" is now a synonym for flaws.

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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Dave Erickson » Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:46 pm

If you don't believe The Wine Spectator is corrupt, then you haven't seen Mondovino.

Eric Asimov wrote recently in his blog that people who drink only California wines say it's because when they've tasted Old World wines they found them "dirty." There is nothing that can be done about such people, except to point them to the Caymus Cab, and be grateful that their palates suck, because consider the alternative: If they all liked earthy wines, the prices would go up even more than they have already, and I'd probably never be able to afford a big ol' Cote de Nuits again...
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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by Jenise » Fri Jul 21, 2006 7:27 pm

I think you may be a bit off base on this implied allegation.


Tom, you really think so? You think it's absolutely coincidental that no Top 100 list is ever without about two wines each from their major advertisers? Your scenario about how the ad people work is entirely believeable, but that the Speck makes a point of rewarding major advertisors is also evident.
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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by Covert » Sat Jul 22, 2006 10:37 am

Jenise wrote: You think it's absolutely coincidental that no Top 100 list is ever without about two wines each from their major advertisers?


Jenise, if I said to you that I don’t want to beat a dead horse to mincemeat, you would know immediately that I was lying. I like to rehash every story I deem interesting, or cute, at least 63 times: once for every year I have been conscious.

Whether the magazine tells fibs for money or simply out of genes for pathological prevarication – or worse, from genes for underdeveloped palates, I can’t say. (Disclaimer: I’m just having fun, lest somebody want to sue me for slander.) But when I actually paid money for two bottles of 1996 St. Jean Cinq Cepages on the basis of the 96-point Spec Wine of the Year Award, I felt totally hoodwinked. I knew from that day forward that there was something dreadfully wrong with the publication, even though I wasn’t sure exactly what.

Here’s another one I have told only about eight times: You will probably remember that I met a wine store owner in Wells, Maine, who sought the ’96 Cinq Cepages as if it were the Holy Grail. So enchanted of the myth was he that he shared his quest out of the blue when Lynn and I were simply picking up a bottle of cool Chardonnay to take back to our motel. When I told him I had one back home, he said he would trade anything in the store for it, if I would bring it back with me if ever I returned.

Taking inventory last week, I was reminded of this. The remaining bottle still occupies a berth that could be put to better use. We’re going to make a college try to get to Ogunquit this summer, which borders Wells. Poor guy, I’ll probably go to hell for perpetuating the fraud.
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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by David M. Bueker » Sat Jul 22, 2006 2:02 pm

Ok, for those who are into the conspiracy theory about the Top 100, remember that AVAILABILITY is a significant criteria in the rankings. Wines like Cinq Cepages (which was a very good value in Cal Cab at the time) and Guigal Chateauneuf reach the top of the chart for being very well made wine that is pretty easy to find. (By contrast, Germans wines are virtually ignored-maybe 1 or 2 ines a year-because of their availability issues.) Many of the wines that are advertised are also (not surprisingly) widely available, and while they are not generally to the taste of this crowd, they are very well made.

Now as to "earthy" being bad, Laube is using earthy when he most likely means dirty. He's not an old world reviewer, so earth is not a big thing for him. Don't take the word so literally just to be offended, understand what he is referring to. He thinks there was something dirty/amiss in the winemaking, not that the signature aromatics of the Rutherford Bench (or whatever) are destroying the wine.

Ok, that's my one and only defense of the Speculator for this millenium.
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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by James Roscoe » Sat Jul 22, 2006 2:23 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Ok, that's my one and only defense of the Speculator for this millenium.

In the next millenium you will BE earth. Maybe you can be planted in a vinyard and future drinkers of the wine can say that it has a very "Bueker" feel to it. It would be like living forever!
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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by Dale Williams » Sat Jul 22, 2006 3:53 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Ok, that's my one and only defense of the Speculator for this millenium.


Well done, David. I'm not a WS subscriber any more, but my opinions are similar.

This comes up periodically. I'm no fan of WS. I don't like panel tastings (no one to "calibrate" to), I don't think that Suckling or Laube match my
tastes very well, etc. I don't subscribe, though I did in my more innocent
years, and have long list of problems I could name with the "Speculator". But while I've often heard the complaint that they trade points for ads, I've never seen anyone try and really analyze it, except Jon Reuter.

Jon, a poster on WCWN who is apparently a statistician(he was a
frequent and respected poster who has no apparent connection to WS) posted this a few years ago:

"I've actually done a fairly technical (and therefore boring) review of WS
advertising and ratings (using WA ratings as a sort of control group) and found only a slight bias at WS. For the majority of wines, the WS and WA ratings are statistically indistiguishable. However, it does appear that WS is more likely to retaste wines from advertisers and that these wines as a group benefit from being retasted (to the tune of 2-3 points). To put that effect in context though, less than 5 percent of wines are retasted so the overall average bias is quite small.

Furthermore, conditional on price, production, and actual WS rating, there does not appear to be any bias in who receives the various awards. So the earlier post by a former WSer claiming that advertising and awards are unrelated appears to be dead on."


There was a disclaimer that he only did the analysis for US wines for a 3 year period I believe.

Of course, an extended analysis AFTER a winery scores high would probably show a bigger correlation, because if WS scored one's wine a 94 wouldn't you think of advertising there to remind readers once that issue has passed?

Now, the entry level restaurant awards are another thing. About 85% of the restaurants that pay the $100 fee gets an award entrants according to their own website a couple years ago.
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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by Covert » Sun Jul 23, 2006 12:50 pm

David M. Bueker wrote: remember that AVAILABILITY is a significant criteria in the rankings.


David, I admit that I don't know anything about California wines (except for Chardonnay) so I am asking, not refuting. My boss at the time of the Wine of the Year ranking decided that his inner circle should all buy '96 Cinq Cepages. I wouldn't have dreamed of it on my own. He said he could not find it anywhere from a store or distributor and arranged for us to purchase it directly from the property, only we all had to order individually, since the limit for an individual was one or two bottles. And we had to have the bottles shipped to our California office, which in turn shipped them to New York. Thus it took us a lot of effort to get these bottles, which intensified the disappointment upon tasting one.

Are you saying that many people across America could have just walked into wine stores and purchased these bottles?

BTW, the same boss bought a case of '95 Margaux after the WS 100 score; that's how I happen to have one: he graciously gave it to me. I am hoping that when I open that bottle, finally, I will be delighted and can thus post a tribute to WS for making the experience possible.

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Re: Conflict Of Interest In WS....

by David M. Bueker » Sun Jul 23, 2006 3:59 pm

Covert wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote: remember that AVAILABILITY is a significant criteria in the rankings.


David, I admit that I don't know anything about California wines (except for Chardonnay) so I am asking, not refuting. My boss at the time of the Wine of the Year ranking decided that his inner circle should all buy '96 Cinq Cepages. I wouldn't have dreamed of it on my own. He said he could not find it anywhere from a store or distributor and arranged for us to purchase it directly from the property, only we all had to order individually, since the limit for an individual was one or two bottles. And we had to have the bottles shipped to our California office, which in turn shipped them to New York. Thus it took us a lot of effort to get these bottles, which intensified the disappointment upon tasting one.

Are you saying that many people across America could have just walked into wine stores and purchased these bottles?

Covert


Yes they could have, but a while AFTER the WOTY award. For a brief (2-3 months) after the award the wine was essentially pulled from the market. It then came back out with an attractive new price of $65 instead of the $40 it had previously cost.

I still see this wine around at retail occasionally. Last time was in Homer, Alaska in September 2005. Asking price: $99.
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Re: Wine Spectator against disgusting earth…

by Paul B. » Sun Jul 23, 2006 6:33 pm

Covert wrote:I recently dined with a business associate. When the wine list came, she said she liked anything, as long as it wasn't earthy. Directly after finishing dinner, she went into the ladies room to rince with mouthwash.

That's bad! But I've seen worse: rinsing with mouthwash before a wine tasting! :roll:
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