Nick Alabaster, Essex, England
|Some interesting points raised in response to this essay. A broad selection of these
are printed below. Where I had something to add to the debate I have also included my reply.
Thanks to everyone who took the trouble to respond.
Enjoyed you essay.
You made no mention of the appalling bottle variation that Robert Joseph ranted on about in a later copy of
Wine. Did they discuss it with you at the time of the TAD or challenge? Two examples I remember him
mentioning were 8 out or 12 bottles of E&G Turning Leaf '95 Zin which were undrinkable and no 2 bottles of
Torres Grand Sangre de Toro '89 were the same ! They resorted to mixing the bottles up just to get some
consistency for the TAD!
In fact I'm glad someone of position has spoken out so strongly. Many winemakers deny it (eg "no bottle
variation for Penfolds") Clearly it's as frustrating and obvious to 'them' as it is to 'us'.
John Holmes, London, England
|My response to Nick:|
Yes, this was noted and specially mentioned. At the TAD for example, 3 out of 4 bottles of Mumm Cuvee Napa Rose
were corked, and several bottles of the Gallo zin were faulty. In the "real" Challenge we were instructed to request a fresh
bottle if we had doubts over a particular wine. I would say we had, on average, to request replacement
for one in every 15-20 bottles. More often than not it turned out there WAS a flaw, or at least a big variation when we tasted from
the second sample.
I just read your essay on the IWC for 1998. I too took part in the challenge and was also suitably impressed. One thing
which I did find a bit disconcerting was the varying styles of the chairpersons with some seeming obsessively keen on
getting the right agreement down to the last decimal point whereas the others (and better ones) took consensus
views and marked it accordingly.
Bernard Leak, High Wycombe, England
|My response to John:|
I totally agree on the inconsistency of the chairpersons and that the "consensus" view is the correct method.
The contrast between my 2 chairpersons could not have been greater.
Charles Metcalf did make it quite clear in his morning briefings that a consensus mark based on agreement was the idea, not an
arithmetical averaging of scores. Nevertheless, my second chairperson couldn't be dissuaded from exact arithmetical averaging
of our individual scores - even when one of the judges gave a clearly "rogue" mark that would drag the average in the wrong direction.
I think the IWC is the biggest competitive tasting in the world, not
just in Europe - though doubtless the Australians are working on it.
The comment that great wine will sing out even at unfortunate stages
of its development seems a little awkward. Of course, as you
say, it comes down to experience: but even experience can be misdirected
when you don't know how old the bottle is. This is my main complaint
about competitive blind tasting: being given a vintage date for each
wine would be very useful, especially in deciding how (say) a balance
of fruit and wood is likely to evolve.
|My response to Bernard:|
Well made points as usual Bernard. I do think experience helps immensely in recognising the cause of a fruit/wood
imbalance: the symptoms of a wine that's out of balance because it's too young are usually quite distinct from
those of a wine that's fading. And of course there are other signs, such as colour, to help you establish
the likely age, and therefore development potential of the wine. Though I agree that disclosing the age of the wine to
the judges seems to have little down-side, I'm not sure this is true for the IWC specifically. The vast majority of IWC
wines are not old, but are on current release. In some
ways this makes vintage less important to the decision making process: I reckon if any of these wines is
obviously fading then that's a serious problem worth marking severely - certainly more severely than in a tasting of, say,