Bias from Wine Critics?

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Daniel Posner
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Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #1  Postby Daniel Posner » April 16th 2009, 8:57am

In light of the questions I posed to Mark Squires that went unanswered on the now deleted Slate.com Aussie Thread, Tyler Colman, Dr. Vino, went straight to the source, Bob Parker, about alleged bias of his "contract" critics...

http://www.drvino.com/2009/04/16/change ... nd-miller/

Interesting that Miller would not answer any of Tyler's questions. Funny, I get the same responses from him on the boards when I ask a question.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #2  Postby Guillaume Deschamps » April 16th 2009, 9:15am

It was bound to happen one way or another.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #3  Postby Jorge Henriquez » April 16th 2009, 9:27am

Guillaume Deschamps wrote:It was bound to happen one way or another.


What was?
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #4  Postby Steve Saxon » April 16th 2009, 9:30am

Wow, what an article. It really questions the integrity of both Miller and Squires (I think we all knew Squires has no integrity). I shutter to think what will happen to that board when Parker retires, clearly there is no hier apparent.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #5  Postby M. Sai » April 16th 2009, 9:38am

With the same mind that I use to analyze (instead of just accepting) political news on a daily basis, I have to ask why Dr. Vino has an axe to grind with TWA?? Obviously he did everyone a service with yesterday's post, but today's follow-up just makes it look like he's on some kind of campaign...
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #6  Postby mike pobega » April 16th 2009, 9:38am

His field his ball blah blah blah.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #7  Postby Brian Loring » April 16th 2009, 9:54am

I really don't have any issue with a reviewer/critic attending dinners, hanging out with importers or winery owners, or even getting paid trips to visit wine regions. Wine critics can and should be wine lovers. Taking all the joy out of the job isn't good for the wine industry or the consumer. I want someone who's excited about wine doing the reviews. And it's not economically feasible for wine publications to search the world over for new wines and regions. If some winery/region is willing to pay to get a reviewer there, then why not? They still have to demonstrate that they make world class wine. And they're taking the risk that the reviewer might hate what they're doing. Providing excessive vacation opportunities (and/or hookers [rolleyes.gif] ) probably goes over the line. But paying for airfare and hotels seems reasonable to me.

The real issue I have is how and when the wines are officially reviewed.

As far as WA goes... I'm not sure how you remove bias when some wines are tasted blind in large groups, some are tasted at the winery with the winemaker providing commentary, and some are tasted over dinner. Scoring/reviewing wines like that seems very prone to bias. I'm not saying the critic can't be fair, but I'm not sure they don't end up being more fair to some.

Personally, I think Wine Spectator does the best job along these lines. Their editors will report on dinners and unofficial tastings without giving actual reviews. Scores and reviews only come out of controlled blind tastings - where every winery gets the same access and treatment. Basically a level playing field. It does have it's limitations since some wines really need to be tasted within "context" to create the most meaningful review (Brewer-Clifton Pinots for example since they can taste a bit "green" early on, but if you know their track record you could account for how their Pinots transform over a few years).

No matter what, there will always be bias. I'd just like publicatons to come clean on how reviews are done.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #8  Postby steffenpelz » April 16th 2009, 10:10am

Brian.

I disagree with you. The publication should be picking up the tab for everything. Otherwise the playing field is not level. What if the largest importers always fly you first class everywhere and the smaller ones don't (because they may lack the resources). Could that skew the playing field?

I agree with you that the Wine Spectator's current methodology is far superior to that of the WA. Too much monkeying around IMO.

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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #9  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » April 16th 2009, 10:13am

Brian, excellent points.

I guess my biggest complaint with Dr. Big Jay Miller is that there has been that albatros around his neck about reviewing wines while still ITB. Lots of folks posted that he was still schlepping that juice when he became officially on the payroll of TWA.

And I won't even start my rant on how much Leve shills for the BDX trade...even though he isn't a "contract" reviewer.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #10  Postby Yoni O v a d i a » April 16th 2009, 10:23am

Brian,
I agree with the fact that the joy shouldn't be taken out of wine to be a reviewer, but I disagree that hotels and airfaire's are OK.

For all reviewers, it's fine with me if they are friends with winemakers, importers, etc. But don't review the wine when you are with your friends. Review them in a controlled seting (like WS) so there is no bias.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I believe that if someone is flown out and put up, there will probably be a bias (however small) towards giving a positive review. Maybe that bias is giving the wine a so called 90 instead of an 89. Something as small as that can help a wine sell and if someone is being taken care of, wouldn't they be so inclined to maybe help?

Again, I'm not questioning the integrity of any one person, it could be sub-concious, but I feel the bias may be there.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #11  Postby Brian Loring » April 16th 2009, 10:42am

Yoni Ovadia wrote:Maybe I'm in the minority, but I believe that if someone is flown out and put up, there will probably be a bias (however small) towards giving a positive review. Maybe that bias is giving the wine a so called 90 instead of an 89. Something as small as that can help a wine sell and if someone is being taken care of, wouldn't they be so inclined to maybe help?

I agree. And reviewing wines blind removes that issue. No wine should be reviewed at the winery or during ANY trip to a wine region.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #12  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » April 16th 2009, 10:44am

Brian Loring wrote: No wine should be reviewed at the winery or during ANY trip to a wine region.



Bingo.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #13  Postby Brian Loring » April 16th 2009, 10:47am

steffenpelz wrote:I disagree with you. The publication should be picking up the tab for everything. Otherwise the playing field is not level. What if the largest importers always fly you first class everywhere and the smaller ones don't (because they may lack the resources). Could that skew the playing field?

I agree with you that the Wine Spectator's current methodology is far superior to that of the WA. Too much monkeying around IMO.

I see your point. And just to be clear, Wine Spectator does have a policy of having their editors pay their own way (for everything).

But I only think travel stuff would skew the playing field if the wines were reviewed during the trip - or afterward in non-blind tastings. I guess it's how the whole process is done that matters. If you don't taste blind, then I'm not sure how you ever remove bias - even if you've never accepted any "freebies". Heck, just liking a winemaker would introduce bias.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #14  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » April 16th 2009, 10:53am

in this era, with all the information @ everyone's fingertips, i could no more imagine picking a wine based upon a professional critic's review than i would choose which movie to attend in a theater based upon a film critic's critique.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #15  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » April 16th 2009, 10:56am

Glenn Levine wrote:in this era, with all the information @ everyone's fingertips, i could no more imagine picking a wine based upon a professional critic's review than i would choose which movie to attend in a theater based upon a film critic's critique.



But Glenn, that review has the direct effect of impacting the price you will pay for said juice. If RMP gives a wine a string of 89 and 90 point reviews that you have enjoyed for ten years @ $20 a bottle...all of a sudden a 95 point or abouve makes it $100 on the open market.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #16  Postby Humberto Dorta » April 16th 2009, 11:07am

Yoni Ovadia wrote:Brian,
I agree with the fact that the joy shouldn't be taken out of wine to be a reviewer, but I disagree that hotels and airfaire's are OK.

For all reviewers, it's fine with me if they are friends with winemakers, importers, etc. But don't review the wine when you are with your friends. Review them in a controlled seting (like WS) so there is no bias.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I believe that if someone is flown out and put up, there will probably be a bias (however small) towards giving a positive review. Maybe that bias is giving the wine a so called 90 instead of an 89. Something as small as that can help a wine sell and if someone is being taken care of, wouldn't they be so inclined to maybe help?

Again, I'm not questioning the integrity of any one person, it could be sub-concious, but I feel the bias may be there.


Heh, Yoni, if you are in the minority, the majority are a bunch of idiots. There have been countless studies paid for by Big Pharma for the purpose of reseraching what works in direct physician advertising. They found that everything, from pens, to sticky notes, to trips, plane tickets, hand soaps, stress balls, sports events, dinners, bar tabs, good looking reps and everything in between is effective to increase the prescriptions of any given drug. Hence most of those are banned in the medical field [beatoff.gif] and the rest are on the way out. [suicide.gif] Any percieved gift (a plane ticket, hotel tab, dinner tab) is effective in creating bias. The importers know it, RP knows it, and we should all know it. Anyone who says "well not me, Im impartial despite the (insert gift or friendship)" is completely and utterly full of shit. As an aside, Ive never seen Jay respond without being defensive to any critizism....he has lost my respect.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #17  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » April 16th 2009, 11:13am

Humberto Dorta wrote:....good looking reps....most of those are banned in the medical field....



Yeah right.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #18  Postby Todd F r e n c h » April 16th 2009, 11:14am

Bill Tex Landreth wrote:
Humberto Dorta wrote:....good looking reps....most of those are banned in the medical field....



Yeah right.

Yeah, Bill's still in the industry - HELLOOOOO!!!
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #19  Postby Michel Abood » April 16th 2009, 11:14am

Yoni Ovadia wrote:Again, I'm not questioning the integrity of any one person, it could be sub-concious, but I feel the bias may be there.


Whether there's bias on the part of the reviewer or not, there will always be the appearance of bias in the mind of the consumer, which then has an adverse effect on how they perceive the critic and their work. Which then, of course, puts into question their brand and power and whole raison d'etre.

So any semblance of bias, whether real or perceived, must be removed from the equation.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #20  Postby Humberto Dorta » April 16th 2009, 11:20am

Most Bill MOST! [gheyfight.gif]
Ive been talking to my reps about this though...the pharma guidelines noose is being tightened to squeeze reps out. Pharma figured out that they can do direct advertising by sending "surveys" and paying us to read them online. A lot cheaper. The economic downturn has given them a great excuse to push reps out...In my area at least one rep from each company has been laid off. It sucks, but it was happening with or without the government f*ck up the economy.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #21  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » April 16th 2009, 11:21am

Bill Tex Landreth wrote:
Glenn Levine wrote:in this era, with all the information @ everyone's fingertips, i could no more imagine picking a wine based upon a professional critic's review than i would choose which movie to attend in a theater based upon a film critic's critique.



But Glenn, that review has the direct effect of impacting the price you will pay for said juice. If RMP gives a wine a string of 89 and 90 point reviews that you have enjoyed for ten years @ $20 a bottle...all of a sudden a 95 point or abouve makes it $100 on the open market.


of course you're right but i don't have to read the review to find out i am taking it in the shorts. all i have to do is note the escalating price and then make a decision as to worth. the etiology of the rising price is of little interest to me really.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #22  Postby Steve Saxon » April 16th 2009, 11:22am

The nice thing about being on the Squres board is that you learn about the reviewers through their postings. And because of that I know that both Squires and Jay Miller are reviewers that I no confidence in and I believe both are bias.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #23  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » April 16th 2009, 11:23am

Bill Tex Landreth wrote:
Humberto Dorta wrote:....good looking reps....most of those are banned in the medical field....



Yeah right.


reps remain the fairway of my sex life.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #24  Postby Humberto Dorta » April 16th 2009, 11:25am

Glenn Levine wrote:
Bill Tex Landreth wrote:
Humberto Dorta wrote:....good looking reps....most of those are banned in the medical field....



Yeah right.


reps remain the fairway of my sex life.


What happens between you and Tex is none of my business.... [berserker.gif]
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #25  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » April 16th 2009, 11:29am

Humberto Dorta wrote:
Glenn Levine wrote:
Bill Tex Landreth wrote:
Humberto Dorta wrote:....good looking reps....most of those are banned in the medical field....



Yeah right.


reps remain the fairway of my sex life.


What happens between you and Tex is none of my business.... [berserker.gif]



Okay...for the record:

I am a consultant, not a pharmacy rep, that focuses on pharmacy automation and more specifically, point of care medication delivery and patient verification.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #26  Postby Humberto Dorta » April 16th 2009, 11:32am

Bah you dont count then ;)
Youll have a job long after mine is gone....youre one of the guys responsible for making my nurses have to scan everyone in the unit before they get their meds [emot-pwn.gif] at least you have good taste in wine and steak [highfive.gif]
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #27  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » April 16th 2009, 11:32am

and for the record i have been a devout heterosexual for the whole of my elongated dating career.

though i am sure Tex is really nice!
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #28  Postby Glenn L e v i n e » April 16th 2009, 11:36am

and i am telling you guys y'all should have seen the Davol rep in here Tuesday. man she had that tall, willowy, Cali-athletic thing going on! i would have gone Ronnie Lott and cut off my pinkie to have her.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #29  Postby Yoni O v a d i a » April 16th 2009, 11:37am

Glenn Levine wrote:and for the record i have been a devout heterosexual for the whole of my elongated dating career.


Except for that one time in college, but that doesn't really count. You had too much tequila... [gheyfight.gif]
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #30  Postby Guillaume Deschamps » April 16th 2009, 11:40am

Brian Loring wrote:No wine should be reviewed at the winery or during ANY trip to a wine region.


How do you review Bdx futures?

Anyway the point isn't the existence, supposed or not, of a bias. It is obliterating the mere chance of a bias at the source. This is something the WA prides itself on, but they obviously talk the talk more than they walk the walk, as countless discussions about the transparency of how wines are selected for reviews, or whether they are really tasted blind, have shown in the past. So it's not really "news", but it's the first time it goes out in the open quite so much (mostly because there are many more vectors of information in the wine world rightnow than used to be).
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #31  Postby Todd F r e n c h » April 16th 2009, 11:41am

Yoni Ovadia wrote:
Glenn Levine wrote:and for the record i have been a devout heterosexual for the whole of my elongated dating career.


Except for that one time in college, but that doesn't really count. You had too much tequila... [gheyfight.gif]

...and they weren't technically 'dating'...
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #32  Postby Michel Abood » April 16th 2009, 11:50am

Yoni Ovadia wrote:
Glenn Levine wrote:and for the record i have been a devout heterosexual for the whole of my elongated dating career.


Except for that one time in college, but that doesn't really count. You had too much tequila... [gheyfight.gif]


Of course, there is the video of that on Youporn... [diablo.gif]
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #33  Postby Daniel Posner » April 16th 2009, 12:02pm

I think the point here is that Robert Parker has long said that he does not accept these "gifts" from importers, wineries, etc. He also says that he tasted blind whenever possible.

In these instances, Squires and Miller have clearly "violated" the "code of conduct" that Parker has worked for 25 years to create. he has remained independent. His "contract" employees, apparently, have not. By accepting airline tickets, dinners, hotel stays, etc from certain people, they have, presumably, left out other wineries, importers, etc, who are not able to afford such luxuries. That, above all, creates an automatic bias.

Brian,

To my knowledge, WS editors do not pay their own way on trips.

If you hold yourself to such high regard, you ought to hold your posse to the same.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #34  Postby Bill Tex Landreth » April 16th 2009, 12:12pm

Dan, not so fast there on RMP. Maybe not a violation of being unbiased...but he is often privy to getting wines very early on in their release. He has stated time and time again that he gets his Rhones, that score very highly, at "release" cost and yet nobody else in the country sees these prices. Wholesalers and/or retailers are giving him preferential treatment, IMHO, in this regard. That has to have some influence, no?
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #35  Postby Tony V e l e b i l » April 16th 2009, 12:18pm

I have no dog in this fight but this is from Parker's site regarding his tasting conditions:

When possible all of my tastings are done in peer-group, single-blind conditions, (meaning that the same types of wines are tasted against each other and the producers' names are not known). The ratings reflect an independent, critical look at the wines. Neither price nor the reputation of the producer/grower affect the rating in any manner.


I post this because I know he personally tastes with Manfred at SQN, John Alban for Alban, Wells at Copain, Pax when he was at Pax, he was scheduled to taste with Michael and Dan at KB at restaurant John Ash, Fred Schraders house in Calistoga with TRB, etc. These tastings are certainly not done single blind and the only "peers" are other wines from the same producer whose wine he is tasting at that meeting. The producers get to open sample bottles prior to his arrival to ensure they have a "good" bottle and that is served at proper temp, proper decant time, etc.

The producers that are lumped into the big single blind regional tastings are done single blind with the wines opened by soms or others in the biz so those wines don't benefit from the preselection that wines get when you get to personally taste with Parker.

BTW - in case you think I am singling out RP, I am not. Tanzer does it the same way.

I believe WS really does the single blind tasting in their offices for all reviewed wines, at least for CA.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #36  Postby Brian Loring » April 16th 2009, 1:40pm

Daniel Posner wrote:To my knowledge, WS editors do not pay their own way on trips.

I'm assuming you're being "technical" [friends.gif] with me here... since you're right, WS is really paying the freight. Or did you mean to say that industry people (wineries, associations, etc) are paying their way? Jim Laube has been through Santa Rita Hills a few times and he stays at a hotel that he or WS pays for and he picks up his own tab at dinner.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #37  Postby Gordon Fitz » April 16th 2009, 2:27pm

I don't understand many of the beefs. Some claim they get he wine cheap. The producers usually send them in 2-3 bottles of each wine to taste and rate for free! That's pretty standard. They only pay for those wines that they specifically want to rate but the winery doesn't supply. A minority of wines. The extra bottles are for a second taste if one is corked or thought off by the taster.

I'm not a Parker fan, but if you think he can be bought off with a measely steak dinner, you shouldn't be reading his notes. You could pobably try slipping him a couple thousand and it wouldn't change a rating. I'd say the same for Miller, et.al. If a steak will buy you off, I would take it as a reflection of your social economic needs at the time. But don't call someone biased just because another party picked up the tab at a particular event. Take a guess on the number of free tickets WS people hand out to ITBer's for Grand Tastings and other events returning favors. Favors such as shagging a hard to find bottle of wine for a blind tasting.

I do like WS's method of blind tasting. They are not necessarily single blind, as I pointed out above. But even the retastes are done blind.

Even WS people give you non-blind scores of wine, that they have had with the vintner. They are unofficial and reported as non-blind. Some of these non blind scores are all you will ever see, so you can take them or leave them. I have often found their non-blind scores to be comparative to their blind scores when both have been presented.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #38  Postby Gordon Fitz » April 16th 2009, 2:43pm

As an add-on, the kind of bias from Wine Critics I hate most is when they crucify a wine for the style that's it's made in.

Such as old style vs. new style; or fruit bomb vs. lythe and elegant, drink now vs. new bottle time.

I love Brunellos. The wines made in the more traditional style are, however, difficult to drink when first released. I rarely touch a BdM younger than 10 years old, unless at a winery tour, and many are twice that. After that period they often develop into true gifts of God. I respect JS's talents at WS. He has, however, developed a bias for the drink now BdM's and often rapes,imo, the traditional style ones rating-wise. Biondi-Santi is typically easy to identify because of its flavor profile. JS crucifies BS. He initally gave their 97 a 84 rating. In a blind taste last month, a group gave it the WON honors with 7 1st place votes and 2 second place. Overall, a 94. It blew away other 97's JS had rated well into the nineties. That to me is bias.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #39  Postby Daniel Posner » April 16th 2009, 3:03pm

Tony

The quote you use no longer applies to TWA. I am amazed it is still up on his site, although, it starts, "when possible"

THERE IS NOT ONE CRITIC (EXCEPT GALLONI POSSIBLY) THAT TASTES IN THE FASHION THAT RP CLAIMS.

IMPORTERS MAKE APPTS TO TASTE WITH THESE GUYS IN MARYLAND. THEY SIT THERE WITH THE IMPORTER AND TASTE THE WINES. NOTHING IS BLIND.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #40  Postby Eric Anderson » April 16th 2009, 4:45pm

Frankly, Scarlett.... Sure, they ought to be forthcoming about how they're reviewing the wines. It's the honest thing to do. And yeah, I sympathize with the bottle price going up on sombody's favorite juice. But really, don't you think if you're that wedded to the score, you're basically practicing 'He who lives by the score dies by the score?'
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #41  Postby Steve Manzi » April 16th 2009, 5:23pm

Ok, I'll say it. Imagine, a wine critic SO important and can move markets certain markets, say Bordeaux or Rhone wines.

Now, this "gal" goes to France and does "her" thing. Is anyone really going to tell me that this "gal", knowing that she is going to score certain wines 100 pts, and knowing that the price will SKYROCKET in price, is not buying extra of these wines, at the very least.

Now, does one actually believe the friends of this "gal" do not really know, or get a hint that these wines are wines that you should seek out NOW, before these secret scores are published? Give me a f*ck break!

Um......has anyone ever thought about how much money this would involve??

Where there is money, there is corruption. Where there is BIG money, there is big corruption. Pulleeeeze! [rolleyes.gif]

Now, IF only there were someone that powerful. [emot-words.gif]

I can't for the life of me begin to think of someone that powerful. So, I guess this is all just an exercise in futility. [rofl.gif]
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #42  Postby Roy Piper » April 16th 2009, 6:55pm

The only bias I fear with Miller, et al, is their bias TO MAKE THEIR BOSS HAPPY. This is the only thing I worry about. If Miller went in and scored at least a few of Parker's scared cow Aussies 10 points lower than him, it would have impressed me. But the scores seem at first glance to be predictable in their correlation to Parker's old scores. None of them seem really independent.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #43  Postby L e o F r o k i c » April 16th 2009, 7:09pm

Glenn Levine wrote:and for the record i have been a devout heterosexual for the whole of my elongated dating career.

though i am sure Tex is really nice!


Then why are you wearing cowboy hat?

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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #44  Postby Mary Baker » April 16th 2009, 7:35pm

Tony V e l e b i l wrote:I have no dog in this fight but this is from Parker's site regarding his tasting conditions:

When possible all of my tastings are done in peer-group, single-blind conditions, (meaning that the same types of wines are tasted against each other and the producers' names are not known). The ratings reflect an independent, critical look at the wines. Neither price nor the reputation of the producer/grower affect the rating in any manner.


I post this because I know he personally tastes with Manfred at SQN, John Alban for Alban, Wells at Copain, Pax when he was at Pax, he was scheduled to taste with Michael and Dan at KB at restaurant John Ash, Fred Schraders house in Calistoga with TRB, etc. These tastings are certainly not done single blind and the only "peers" are other wines from the same producer whose wine he is tasting at that meeting. The producers get to open sample bottles prior to his arrival to ensure they have a "good" bottle and that is served at proper temp, proper decant time, etc.

The producers that are lumped into the big single blind regional tastings are done single blind with the wines opened by soms or others in the biz so those wines don't benefit from the preselection that wines get when you get to personally taste with Parker.

This is indeed a fact of which most subscribers will remain blissfully unaware. There is a positioning game that goes on that rivals that of big league sports. Many winemakers, of course, just want to make their wines in their own style and accept what critical regard comes their way as a bonus. But there are many more, especially recently, who jockey themselves into the limelight by choosing pedigreed facilities, winemakers, grapes and techniques. The ultimate goal is a seat at the captain's table when a critic arrives for a onsite tasting. Unlike the mass tastings, these wines are personally presented by the winemakers, in the context of their craftsmanship, and have been decanted. Which is not to say that they are not fine wines deserving of their scores and praise, but they are seldom--if ever--tasted in open competition before the scores are handed out.

Some time ago, a new producer mentoring under a friend of ours (whose wines are tasted privately every year by Parker) brought his first releases to me for tasting on the eve of Parker's visit. He had double-decanted them, and wanted to know if he should present them, as he had been offered the opportunity but didn't know if the wines were ready. I loved them, and recognized them as a style Parker would also praise. I posted my personal impressions on eBob, and tried to let members know that this is a producer Parker would doubtlessly favor. Of course, no one paid any attention to me. [cray.gif] Six months later, the WA reviews came out, and the new producer had scores in the mid-90's. When the scores were published, the producer's phone and fax rang off the hook. These wines, however, had been double-decanted the night before Parker's visit and tasted in the presence of the fledgling winemaker and his mentor.

I think Parker does an admirable job, really, of making it clear in his writeups when he is visiting a winery and talking to the wine producers. But the truth is, due to the sheer volume of wine out there, he does rely on presentations by acknowledged producers and trusted distributors to bring new producers to his attention. Loyal followers of the WA, however, miscontrue his focused attention on some producers as a prescient act, instead of what it really is--focused PR on the part of the winery, and regional habit on the part of the critic.

So it all comes back to what others have said ... anyone who relies solely on critical scores is just shortchanging themselves. A point that Parker himself has made many times.

Do you know what annoys me? It's not the recognized critics, or their practices and protocols. It's the score vampires! They have no brains. It's ... eerie.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #45  Postby Joshua Roberts » April 16th 2009, 8:35pm

Hi all. New to the board. Finally joined after getting fed up by Squires (I was particularly annoyed by the Cellar Tracker thread) and then followed the chaos at Dr. Vino.

This is quite an interesting topic. One of the most frustrating things from my consumer perspective is that it has become so difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff -- or to separate those critics who are truly independent and those critics who have been in the industry too long (or have too much invested in it) and, as a result, can no longer be truly independent. So, with that in mind, one of my favorite critics is Allen Meadows. Maybe I'm being naive, but I believe in him and believe in his independence. I copied and pasted his "mantra" and post it below. He is one person and operates in one geographic area. Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that as a result, he is better able to manage his affairs and ensure his independence. The buck begins and ends with him -- as opposed to Parker, where there are several chefs in the kitchen and I do not believe the buck stops with Parker anymore.

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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #46  Postby Steve Saxon » April 16th 2009, 8:41pm

Joshua Roberts wrote:Hi all. New to the board. Finally joined after getting fed up by Squires (I was particularly annoyed by the Cellar Tracker thread) and then followed the chaos at Dr. Vino.

This is quite an interesting topic. One of the most frustrating things from my consumer perspective is that it has become so difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff -- or to separate those critics who are truly independent and those critics who have been in the industry too long (or have too much invested in it) and, as a result, can no longer be truly independent. So, with that in mind, one of my favorite critics is Allen Meadows. Maybe I'm being naive, but I believe in him and believe in his independence. I copied and pasted his "mantra" and post it below. He is one person and operates in one geographic area. Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that as a result, he is better able to manage his affairs and ensure his independence. The buck begins and ends with him -- as opposed to Parker, where there are several chefs in the kitchen and I do not believe the buck stops with Parker anymore.

My Promise to You:

In addition to unmatched breadth and depth of coverage, what follows is of special importance to me, and to you, too:

• I have no conflicts of interest

• I accept no subsidies of any kind, including airfare, hotels, gifts and effectively all meals

• I am completely unaffiliated and have no interests, financial or otherwise, in any winery, importer, distributor or retailer

• I guarantee that every wine reviewed on the pages of Burghound.com has been personally tasted by me

• The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone

• Burghound.com accepts no wine advertising

• In short, I offer completely independent reviews and opinions


• I guarantee that every wine reviewed on the pages of Burghound.com has been personally tasted by me


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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #47  Postby c fu » April 16th 2009, 9:10pm

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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #48  Postby Guillaume Deschamps » April 17th 2009, 6:00am

Roy Piper wrote:But the scores seem at first glance to be predictable in their correlation to Parker's old scores. None of them seem really independent.


Well, you might expect that Parker will try to pick people whose "palate align with his". So I'm not too surprised. Its not like that there is anything objective in the process of wine-tasting.
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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #49  Postby Jorge Henriquez » April 17th 2009, 6:21am

Gordon Fitz wrote:if you think he can be bought off with a measely steak dinner, you shouldn't be reading his notes. You could pobably try slipping him a couple thousand and it wouldn't change a rating. I'd say the same for Miller, et.al.


I dunno Gordon; Dr. BigJay doesn't look like a man who's said "no" to too many steak dinners. [rofl.gif]

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Re: Bias from Wine Critics?

Post #50  Postby Daniel Posner » April 17th 2009, 6:22am

For all of the "naysayers" out there...

How can you assume a critic will be unbiased about certain wines when any of the following occurs:
1) Your good buddy makes the wine
2) Your good buddy imports the wine
3) Your good buddy distributes the wine
4) Your good buddy that is a 1, 2 or 3, takes you on trips (to the wineries or not), takes you out to dinners, sends you free cases, etc.

How many wine critics that allow this to happen can really be unbiased?

As my football coach used to say, "Get your head out of your ass!"
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