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  • Alexander Smith

You get a car!

We all remember this video, and if you don't here is another sneak peak....

So what does Oprah and getting a car have to do with wine? Well not a lot, yet I am often brought back to this sketch when seeing scores of other wine critics.


A certain American wine critic is well known for giving inflated scores, this is a marketing play with his aim of being on as many wine bottles as possible. He does not seem to mind that his point system is 3-4 points higher than everyone else, in Quebec we don't really take him seriously, however he does have a strong following and his approach seems to work. There are two others who have also recently started giving inflated scores or even given first growth ratings to South African wineries??


A recent example is when a critic gave Kumeu Village 2019 a whopping 93 points! Now Kumeu Village is a great basic Chardonnay from my favourite New Zealand winery Kumeu River, yet 93 points seems a little high. I have tasted a previous vintage of Kumeu Village at $15, and whilst it might be a very well made wine, I am not sure how it gets up to 93 points. But for the average consumer, is there a lot of difference between 90 and 93 points? Probably not, except the average consumer will be happy to share that he drinks 93 point wines with all his friends. This would lead to more people drinking Kumeu River's basic Chardonnay and eventually maybe their more high end products? So maybe this technique of high scoring basic wines helps to showcase a wider selection of producers to the average consumer?


At the beginning of this article, my thoughts towards these individuals was not positive, yet as I write this article, the more I am thinking this might be a good for the industry as a whole. Will I start rating wines at 3-4 points higher than what I believe they should be? No, because I want to keep a certain credibility, as I try to rate the wines on my technical judgment of them, and not whether I want to be on the front of every bottle, or maybe Josh Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is a 100 point wine ;)


The takeaway from this article is that wine critics are there to help guide consumers and not tell consumers what they should or should not like. yet, with so many wines and 'critics' out there, it is often difficult to wade through the trees without being hit by branches! Wine is as complicated as it gets and more often than not, marketing will force you to drink wine which might not even like. Trust your palate and follow critics who you believe have a similar palate to yours. Finally when the situation allows, go into your local liquor store to see if they offer tastings of new products.


In an upcoming article I will focus on wines which I have graded 90-99 points and look at why they are at that level and I did not grade them higher! So that should be fun.


Here are some excellent wines which won't break the bank and all scored a solid 90 points!


Palacios Remondo Rioja La Vendimia 2018

2018 was a cooler year in Rioja and I feel this helps bring out a certain brightness in the wine. This is a blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo. The nose was quite perfumed with red berry fruit, wild herbs, licorice and White Pepper. The palate was bright, lush and juicy with spicy berry fruit, a little stemmy with bright acidity and a spicy lingering finish. I really enjoyed this and for less than $20 this makes me re-think Rioja's


Tenuta Arbeta Langhe Nebbiolo 2018

This punches way above its price with bright candied cherries, clay pot, and anise seed on the nose the palate was bright and joyful with sweet red berry fruit, light herbs, licorice with a well-balanced mid-palate and an easy, sappy finish.


Vietti Roero Arneis 2018

Always a solid wine and QPR. This Roero has the classic touch of Almond which I always find in northern Italian white wines (easy when performing blinding tasting), Aromas of jasmine, white flowers and white ripe peaches. The palate was bright and fresh with ripe orchard fruit, lemon oil, almond notes with a medium finish.


Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Le Volte Toscana IGT 2018

This is certainly more enjoyable than the 2017, rich and full-bodied, bouquets of plush red and black fruit, licorice, spice with good acidity and a smooth and easy finish. Rather enjoyable and gets me excited about the vintage. Drink now


Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2018

Le Vieux Pin Syrah Violette with a blend of 99% Syrah and 1% Viognier was a more approachable and one could say a feminine style of Syrah. Aromas of crushed violets, blackcurrant crumble, blackberry pastry, and fresh herbs. The palate was fresh and lush with waves of dark berry fruit, silky tannins, light structure, bright mid-palate with an enjoyable finish. Drink this now over the next couple of years. This is better than 2017.


So what is a 90 point wine? I wrote about this a while back but let us refresh our memory in the coming week with my next article on the subject


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