Antonio explains score inflation...

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Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #1  Postby Jim Brennan » December 29th 2012, 10:33pm

From here, for those who still subscribe: http://www.erobertparker.com/bboard/sho ... p?t=243418

I suppose this is the statement that offers the most concise summary:

At the outset, my writing focused on a fairly small number of Piedmont estates that are mostly well-known today, with the exception of a few traditional estates that did not receive much coverage back then. As the years passed, my exposure to wines grew, but where? Was I tasting more great, iconic wines, or was the growth in mid and lower-tier properties? Mostly the latter. As a result of tasting hundreds and now thousands of wines a year that are average at best, my appreciation for what it takes to make a good wine, a great wine and a potentially historic wine has evolved. And that is why the scores for the best wines are higher today than they were years ago.


So it sounds like he's saying that he has now had so much experience with average and poor wines, that he realized he was actually scoring good wines too low in the past.

[stirthepothal.gif]

Sounds more like the proverbial "if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then baffle 'em with bullshit."

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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #2  Postby Larry P » December 29th 2012, 11:49pm

It would be so much simpler to just give his old boss credit for improving winemaking everywhere, resulting in universally higher scores.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #3  Postby Sanjay Nandurkar » December 29th 2012, 11:50pm

You mean he could have adopted Drew Carey's slogan from "Whose Line is it Anyway" ...This a tasting note where everything is made up and points don't matter!!
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #4  Postby brigcampbell » December 30th 2012, 12:00am

Larry P wrote:It would be so much simpler to just give his old boss credit for improving winemaking everywhere, resulting in universally higher scores.


Bravo Larry!
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #5  Postby Rick Gregory » December 30th 2012, 1:16am

Jim Brennan wrote:From here, for those who still subscribe: http://www.erobertparker.com/bboard/sho ... p?t=243418

I suppose this is the statement that offers the most concise summary:

At the outset, my writing focused on a fairly small number of Piedmont estates that are mostly well-known today, with the exception of a few traditional estates that did not receive much coverage back then. As the years passed, my exposure to wines grew, but where? Was I tasting more great, iconic wines, or was the growth in mid and lower-tier properties? Mostly the latter. As a result of tasting hundreds and now thousands of wines a year that are average at best, my appreciation for what it takes to make a good wine, a great wine and a potentially historic wine has evolved. And that is why the scores for the best wines are higher today than they were years ago.


So it sounds like he's saying that he has now had so much experience with average and poor wines, that he realized he was actually scoring good wines too low in the past.

[stirthepothal.gif]

Sounds more like the proverbial "if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then baffle 'em with bullshit."

That doesn't even make sense... (his explanation).
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #6  Postby Nate Simon » December 30th 2012, 1:24am

I see. So, the wines that were good back then didn't seem as good and the scores weren't as high as they should have been because he didn't realize how good they were, or how bad the others were in comparison, or exactly how much better the good ones were, but now that he understands wine more, he can see that more points should be given to wines like those to which he should have given more points back then, so if he tastes wines like those with scores that were too low, he will make amends by giving them extra-special scores in commemoration of those poor great wines that got scores that were lower than they deserved.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #7  Postby C Zeitler » December 30th 2012, 2:31am

The key word here is "evolved". I am baffled that you judge somebody so harshly who admits that his overview of the wine world has indeed "evolved", i.e. his tastings add to his experience and knowledge. Sounds sensible to me.I find this more honest than the usual "I am Mr. Perfect" BS that you hear everywhere now. But maybe I am just so tired of this because I see it in my corporate environement every day.

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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #8  Postby Marcus Stanley » December 30th 2012, 3:16am

One would think that there would be plenty of room in the never-used 0-85 point range of the Parker/WA 100 point scale to accomodate all the 'mid to lower tier' wines one could want. Hard to see why scoring more average to mediocre wines would make it necessary to further abandon the 85-90+ point part of the range and shrink it to a scale of less than ten points.

A more honest confession would probably have read something like "after tasting thousands of wines I realized that numerical scores for infant wines are bullshit, so I collapsed things to a four point scale of less than 90 (let's not even review), 90 (pretty good wine), 95 (really good wine), and 100 (awesome wine!). Then high-end producers learned how to ensure lots of glossy fruit in their barrel samples, and since most of what you can really be sure about in a barrel sample is fruit, all the young wines are tasting really good these days".
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #9  Postby Robert.Fleming » December 30th 2012, 6:36am

C Zeitler wrote: I am baffled that you judge somebody so harshly ....

Don't come here often, eh?
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #10  Postby Antonio Galloni » December 30th 2012, 6:47am

I explained what has changed in my formal tasting process. Over the years, though, something else happened, which I have written about in the past on our board. I started tasting and drinking the widely acknowledged great wines from all over the world more frequently than in the past. I remember a dinner where the wines were 97 Quintarelli Alzero, 1989 Giacosa SSR, 1989 Haut-Brion, 1990 Rousseau Chambertin and 1990 La Tache. Or another: 1970 Latour/Vega Sicilia/Monfortino, or the lunch meant to feature 1970s-1990s DRC Richebourgs where a 1998 Soldera Riserva stole the show. These informal get togethers, although infrequent relative to my formal tastings, rightly or wrongly, had a profound impact on my appreciation of Italian wines relative to the great wines of the rest of the world. And yes, this is around the time when my ratings for Italian wines started to inch up to reflect the view that the best Italian wines were every bit as great as the best wines from other regions.

I prefer to deal with facts. There can be no question winemaking has improved all over the world. Look at the 2005 vintage in Piedmont. Weather forecasting told growers a big storm that might last over a week was approaching towards the end of the season, so most people brought the fruit in before the rains, which ended up lasting 7-10 days, depending on the exact place. Before weather forecasting, that fruit would have been brought in under or after the rain, and the quality of the wines would have been totally different. Those great $20 Langhe Nebbiolos? Many of them didn't exist before the 2008/2009 crisis, but growers are being more selective as to what goes into their single-vineyard wines, so the Langhe Nebbiolos and straight (non-vineyard designate) Barolos/Barbarescos are better than ever. A famous Tuscan producer told me recently sales of his high-end red ($60+ retail) are down 75% from the go-go 1990s. Where is that juice going now? His sub $20 wine.

My view of wine criticism in general is different from that of some other critics out there. I have always strived to be exceedingly transparent and accessible. I think people deserve the truth. If the NYC Berserkers want to organize a small offline so we can discuss these issues mano a mano (just kidding!) I am in.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #11  Postby Scott Brunson » December 30th 2012, 7:27am

thanks Antonio--curious why you didn't review Lewelling this year after you said such nice things last year.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #12  Postby Marc Frontario » December 30th 2012, 7:30am

It would be so much simpler to just give his old boss credit for improving winemaking everywhere, resulting in universally higher scores.


Then we should just stop drinking wines from the past, they have now all become irrelevant!! ;)
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #13  Postby Alan C h a n » December 30th 2012, 7:49am

Antonio, first of all, let me commend you on coming here, into the proverbial lion's den to explain your scoring. It takes guts and you've always engaged in what can be difficult discourse adeptly (especially in comparison to your predecessor on certain beats with whom I've attempted to have conversations). Also, I did read much of your latest Napa report and I do think you've done a very good job rating the wines relative to each other in a way that's as good as anyone I can imagine - of course there are wines where we disagree but that would be the case with anyone's ratings, I would guess.

I'm not by any means an expert on your body of work so let me explain my understanding and perhaps you or someone else here correct me if I have anything wrong. My general understanding is that prior to you taking over duties for California for WA, you had never given any 99s or 100s (or was it 98-100?) to any Italian wines in your years of writing about them in the Piedmont Report or WA. I also think you gave few, if any, scores of that level in last year's Napa report. Now you have given dozens of wines that level of rating in the latest Napa report.

So, my questions: are you saying these latest Napa wines are better than anything that you tasted in Italy all those years, or that you probably underscored some of those Italian wines in years past? Also, I believe you scored many fewer wines in the 98, 99, 100 range in last year's Napa report, and I'm guessing the same holds true for your Italy reports last year, so even if your explanation is "evolution in your knowledge and views", it would seem to me that evolution seems not so gradual, but quite recent and sudden. (And thus, it feels like you might be caving into pressure to give scores that are either more Bob-like, or a competitive response to the ever-escalating scores of certain other critics.) Do I have that wrong?

(For what it's worth, this is a purely academic exercise for me. At some level I find splitting of hairs between a 95, a 97 or 100 to be silly. My view is that once you get to about 94-100 range, whether a wine feels like a 94 or 100 to anyone, even seasoned knowledgeable tasters, is almost entirely up to personal preference and not quality difference.)

Also, perhaps a more important question is, what is the status of your future at WA? No sense in overanalyzing this report if they are lame duck scores. Sorry if this is too direct on what I imagine may be a sensitive issue around WA these days.

Lastly, count me in for any NYC offline you participate in!
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #14  Postby Dan Hammer » December 30th 2012, 7:53am

Antonio Galloni wrote: If the NYC Berserkers want to organize a small offline so we can discuss these issues mano a mano (just kidding!) I am in.


February 25. viewtopic.php?f=8&t=75327
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #15  Postby Ken V » December 30th 2012, 8:56am

Alan, here are Antonio's 100s with the region and date of score:

Barolo: Feb 2010
Champagne: Jul 2011
Barolo: Oct 2011
Tuscany: Jun 2012
Burgundy: Aug 2012
2 x Cali Cab: Dec 2012

For 99 point scores from Antonio, there were 5 Italian wines, 2 Champagnes, and a Burgundy rated 99 before the one recent Cali Cab.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #16  Postby larry schaffer » December 30th 2012, 9:03am

Antonio,

Thanks for jumping on board - and thanks for your frankness. Truly appreciated. You say it as you see it - nothing more, nothing less. Just wish folks would let it be and appreciate it for what it is . . .

I also appreciate your comments about the likes of Maybach and others - if you like the wines, should one really care about an arbitrary score? Of course not . . .

Cheers.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #17  Postby John Morris » December 30th 2012, 9:13am

Thanks for the posting, Antonio, and for being so open about this.

I take it from what you said here (and I don't have access to eBob anymore) that you were referring to scores for Italian wines -- that your view of the best of them had changed after tasting a broader range of wines more intensely. Have I got that right?
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #18  Postby Andrew Kaufman » December 30th 2012, 9:14am

Ken V wrote:Alan, here are Antonio's 100s with the region and date of score:

Barolo: Feb 2010
Champagne: Jul 2011
Barolo: Oct 2011
Tuscany: Jun 2012
Burgundy: Aug 2012
2 x Cali Cab: Dec 2012

For 99 point scores from Antonio, there were 5 Italian wines, 2 Champagnes, and a Burgundy rated 99 before the one recent Cali Cab.


Ken are the scores out on ebob for Dec 2012? Two 100 pointers.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #19  Postby Alan C h a n » December 30th 2012, 9:40am

Thanks Ken - perhaps I have not framed the score cutoff correctly but I still have the same question whether we are looking at sdores from 98-100 or 96-100. Also, I think if you take into account the barrel scores given, there is a palpable shift upward in scores, as Antonio has admitted. To me it seems more shift than is warranted by CA vintage variation, and I'd like to square it with Antonio's past work in Italy, etc. If it is about evolution, perhaps Antonio or someone else with broad knowledge of his scoring can shed light as to whether that evolution was truly gradual or more recent and sudden as it feels to me.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #20  Postby Jim Brennan » December 30th 2012, 11:07am

Thanks for the insights Antonio.

If i understand you correctly, It sounds like you're saying that you were previously more conservative on the better/best Italian wines, due to having a limited frame of reference to the best wines from other regions?
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #21  Postby Ken V » December 30th 2012, 11:15am

Andrew Kaufman wrote:Ken are the scores out on ebob for Dec 2012? Two 100 pointers.

No, I got them from a guy in Singapore. [snort.gif]

Yes Andrew, that's where I got them. The 12/12 issue was posted a few days ago.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #22  Postby Larry P » December 30th 2012, 11:45am

Antonio, re-reading it looks like you're trying to justify the greater number of 100-point wines recently. I can buy that more experience with great wines will build the confidence to award 100 points.

However, I had trouble understanding the meaning because to me, a greater problem with score inflation is the large number of very average wines scoring in the low-90s. When I got into wine about 25 years ago, a Wine Advocate 85 was a very good wine. Now it seems anything below 90 is not recommended, and 90-93 is loaded with mediocrity. Your comments seem to agree at least with the idea that there is a vast sea of very average (read: boring) wine out there. Care to comment about score inflation in the 85-90 point range? This is an area of great interest to me, since these are the wines I'm most likely to be buying and drinking on a regular basis. I don't have any interest at all in 100-pointers.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #23  Postby Jim Slatin » December 30th 2012, 11:52am

It's funny how some can attack the man for his opinion, which we all have one. He came on this site and explained that the way he analyzes and scores wines have evolved as of late as a result of new experiences. Haven't we all gone through that and do we get attacked for it. The question is do you agree with his palate or not and then allow him to do his work. I admire him for coming on here and it made sense. I personally agree with Tanzer more often then the others because i find my palate is more in line with his.

A lot of those who bitched about parker's high scores went out and payed top dollar for those wines so they could impress people or for future investments. Then they further complained about the climbing prices of those wines when they themselves are ultimately responsible for those prices. It's not RP's or Antonio's fault prices have sky rocketed--they don't force us as consumers to bend over. so lets give them a break and just drink wines we like instead of basing our purchase decisions off of one critics opinion. remember, the purpose of these write ups by critics should be to assist us in or searches for good juice and is not meant to be the holy grail that drives some to go out and buy cases of a wine that they haven't even tried yet. What are we sheep. We're supposed to be able to think for ourselves.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #24  Postby John Morris » December 30th 2012, 12:01pm

Jim Slatin wrote:A lot of those who bitched about parker's high scores went out and payed top dollar for those wines so they could impress people or for future investments. Then they further complained about the climbing prices of those wines when they themselves are ultimately responsible for those prices.


I'm with you that Antonio is being commendably open about this.

However, I think what you say confuses (a) complaints about score inflation with (b) complaints about high scores driving up prices, which are two separate things.

I think the tendency to give so many scores over 90 and 95 has debased the scale.

I don't really have an issue with consumers having information that affects demand, so (b) doesn't bother me. Moreover, for my palate, I find so many high WA and WS scores to be bizarre, that I find the inflation a positive factor because it steers a lot of money from the wines I like to things I don't.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #25  Postby Eric LeVine » December 30th 2012, 12:13pm

Antonio has always been amazingly and commendably transparent.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #26  Postby Doug Schulman » December 30th 2012, 12:21pm

John Morris wrote:I think the tendency to give so many scores over 90 and 95 has debased the scale.

I agree completely, especially about scores above 90. I and many people think that so many such scores from several major critics do not make sense. This doesn't seem to be what Antonio was discussing in the post that spurred the starting of this thread, and I don't follow his reviews so am unaware of whether or not he is anywhere near as much a part of the trend as most other major critics are, but I would be interested to know what he thinks of this common complaint.

As far as the explanation for awarding more 99 and 100 point scores recently, it makes sense to me.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #27  Postby Ken V » December 30th 2012, 12:58pm

My perception is that long ago (before Antonio came on the scene) both Parker and the Spectator rated plenty of wines in the 80s indicating wines well worthy buying at the right price, esp. in 85-89. But retailers noticed that many customers had a hard cut-off at 90. There was lots of discussion about little difference in sales between 88 and 89 points or between 90 and 91, but crossing from 89 to 90 made a huge difference. As time went on, both customers and winemakers viewed an 89 as the kiss of death. Some merchants even tried to play against this by having an "89 point sale". Lots of good wines at good prices. Sadly, I think it was mostly customer response that caused scores in the 80s to be undervalued.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #28  Postby Alan Rath » December 30th 2012, 1:10pm

Antonio Galloni wrote:I remember a dinner where the wines were 97 Quintarelli Alzero, 1989 Giacosa SSR, 1989 Haut-Brion, 1990 Rousseau Chambertin and 1990 La Tache. Or another: 1970 Latour/Vega Sicilia/Monfortino, or the lunch meant to feature 1970s-1990s DRC Richebourgs where a 1998 Soldera Riserva stole the show. These informal get togethers, although infrequent relative to my formal tastings, rightly or wrongly, had a profound impact on my appreciation of Italian wines relative to the great wines of the rest of the world. And yes, this is around the time when my ratings for Italian wines started to inch up to reflect the view that the best Italian wines were every bit as great as the best wines from other regions.

Antonio, your participation here is appreciated. I can see your argument for elevating a very few Italian and other wines, based on their quality level relative to the best wines of the world. But my own reaction the few times I have had the chance to tasted a truly great wine is to remind myself how many wines, even very good ones, do not reach those lofty levels. And that the score compression we've seen is really the opposite of what should be happening. I would urge you to consider a gradual expansion of the score range, pushing back down into at least the 80s. And personally, I reserve scores about 95 for wines that have clearly proved their quality, which can only happen over time with development in the bottle. You could easily institute a rule that no recently released wine can score over 95, and higher scores are reserved for retrospective tastings later in a wine's life.

I happen to think that rating wines very highly has at least a small component of narcissism on the part of the reviewer, bringing attention based on being the messenger, discovering some great new wine others don't know about, etc. That kind of thing happens all the time here on the wine boards, but is easy to filter or ignore when amateurs like us do it. When it infuses professional critique, it's much more difficult to filter. I would urge you to resist giving out such high scores, and try to gradually push scores back into a range where a very infrequent 98 or 99 actually means something.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #29  Postby mike pobega » December 30th 2012, 1:13pm

Antonio Galloni wrote:. If the NYC Berserkers want to organize a small offline so we can discuss these issues mano a mano (just kidding!) I am in.


Sounds great. I will happily bring the 2010 Maybach (see may avatar). I will be happy to set it up if you are serious. I have a little experience doing such tastings.
----email me at mike at pobega dot com if so. Awaiting your email.

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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #30  Postby Dan.Gord0n » December 30th 2012, 1:45pm

Ken V wrote:Alan, here are Antonio's 100s with the region and date of score:

Barolo: Feb 2010
Champagne: Jul 2011
Barolo: Oct 2011
Tuscany: Jun 2012
Burgundy: Aug 2012
2 x Cali Cab: Dec 2012

For 99 point scores from Antonio, there were 5 Italian wines, 2 Champagnes, and a Burgundy rated 99 before the one recent Cali Cab.


So, Antonio has rated merely 16 wines either 99 or 100pts from many regions and vintages and people are upset....seems odd. Given the quality of winemaking in those regions how hard is it to believe that there would be at least 16 wines made of that quality....particularly given the quality of some of the vintages reviewed. Either you have a full scale that goes to 100 or you pretend it doesn't and the greatest wines only get 98pts even though they are the best of the best.

I also have always thought there to be a different scale when it comes to Italian wines and Burgs compared to CA cabs, Bordeaux and Rhones...from most every critic. Has the WA in its history awarded more than 10 100pt scores to Burgs? What about Italy? Great winemakers and some great vintages over the years but very few (on a relative basis) high scores.

Gee, Parker gave 17 wines 100pts just from the 2010 Northern Rhone....even if that was far too many and it was cut in half of quarter still a lot from other regions.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #31  Postby Todd Tucker » December 30th 2012, 4:46pm

I find no problem with the scores that AG has had and the "inflation", especially with his forthright discussion of this in the past and having the guts to come here and reply. It actually seems pretty honest and practical. I should not be, but still am baffled by some of the WA bashing here. It seems at least from his previous explanations that he acted pretty damn smartly and humbly with the earlier Piedmont reports. It shows some humility and self awareness that I think is pretty impressive, to allow for the possibility that one does not know all: holding off the giant numbers because he was aware of not having been exposed widely to the non Italian icons of wine. His approach shows wisdom that avoids a myopic world view. It sounds like he tasted the best Piedmont wines and left room to spare figuring there may be some world famous wines he has not tried may be better than these Italian stars. Then with comparison, he realizes that they stand toe to to with the icons of Bordeaux and Burgundy et. al. Sometimes you need to see the world the realize how great something from your own backyard is. He has seen the vinous world now and has a yardstick that goes to 100 now.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #32  Postby Andrew Demaree » December 30th 2012, 4:57pm

Todd Tucker wrote:I find no problem with the scores that AG has had and the "inflation", especially with his forthright discussion of this in the past and having the guts to come here and reply. It actually seems pretty honest and practical. I should not be, but still am baffled by some of the WA bashing here. It seems at least from his previous explanations that he acted pretty damn smartly and humbly with the earlier Piedmont reports. It shows some humility and self awareness that I think is pretty impressive, to allow for the possibility that one does not know all: holding off the giant numbers because he was aware of not having been exposed widely to the non Italian icons of wine. His approach shows wisdom that avoids a myopic world view. It sounds like he tasted the best Piedmont wines and left room to spare figuring there may be some world famous wines he has not tried may be better than these Italian stars. Then with comparison, he realizes that they stand toe to to with the icons of Bordeaux and Burgundy et. al. Sometimes you need to see the world the realize how great something from your own backyard is. He has seen the vinous world now and has a yardstick that goes to 100 now.


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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #33  Postby Alan C h a n » December 31st 2012, 5:53am

Dan.Gord0n wrote:
So, Antonio has rated merely 16 wines either 99 or 100pts from many regions and vintages and people are upset....seems odd. Given the quality of winemaking in those regions how hard is it to believe that there would be at least 16 wines made of that quality....particularly given the quality of some of the vintages reviewed. Either you have a full scale that goes to 100 or you pretend it doesn't and the greatest wines only get 98pts even though they are the best of the best.

I also have always thought there to be a different scale when it comes to Italian wines and Burgs compared to CA cabs, Bordeaux and Rhones...from most every critic. Has the WA in its history awarded more than 10 100pt scores to Burgs? What about Italy? Great winemakers and some great vintages over the years but very few (on a relative basis) high scores.

Gee, Parker gave 17 wines 100pts just from the 2010 Northern Rhone....even if that was far too many and it was cut in half of quarter still a lot from other regions.


Dan, have you read the report? If you were referring to my posts, they were not just about 16 wines, but the scoring broadly. Not sure if Ken counted only wines with final bottle scores etc. for 99/100, but looking at wines rated 96 and above for final score, and wines with a barrel score of at least (96-98), how many do you think were in this Napa report? Over 100 by my quick count. Also, I'm not upset about that, I just want to know how to interpret these scores, because they seem to me to be markedly higher than AG's scores for Napa last year and I'm guessing they are markedly higher than he has scored the best vintages from Italian regions. When placed in the context of 1) Bob handing out big bunches of high scores as you point out, 2) critics like Suckling seemingly starting an arms race of high scores, 3) the hue and cry about AG's scores being too low last year by various high-score-loving Napa fans and 4) the recent sale of a possibly controlling interest in the WA, I want to know, has AG adjusted his scoring, or is this set of Napa wines that much better than those in last year's report, and that much better than any vintage he has tasted in Italy, etc. If it's an evolutionary process, how much of that evolution happened in just the last year since his 1st Napa report?
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #34  Postby Bill Klapp (deactivated) » December 31st 2012, 7:00am

Dan.Gord0n wrote:
Ken V wrote:Alan, here are Antonio's 100s with the region and date of score:

Barolo: Feb 2010
Champagne: Jul 2011
Barolo: Oct 2011
Tuscany: Jun 2012
Burgundy: Aug 2012
2 x Cali Cab: Dec 2012

For 99 point scores from Antonio, there were 5 Italian wines, 2 Champagnes, and a Burgundy rated 99 before the one recent Cali Cab.


So, Antonio has rated merely 16 wines either 99 or 100pts from many regions and vintages and people are upset....seems odd. Given the quality of winemaking in those regions how hard is it to believe that there would be at least 16 wines made of that quality....particularly given the quality of some of the vintages reviewed. Either you have a full scale that goes to 100 or you pretend it doesn't and the greatest wines only get 98pts even though they are the best of the best.

I also have always thought there to be a different scale when it comes to Italian wines and Burgs compared to CA cabs, Bordeaux and Rhones...from most every critic. Has the WA in its history awarded more than 10 100pt scores to Burgs? What about Italy? Great winemakers and some great vintages over the years but very few (on a relative basis) high scores.

Gee, Parker gave 17 wines 100pts just from the 2010 Northern Rhone....even if that was far too many and it was cut in half of quarter still a lot from other regions.


Antonio's 100-pointers are not a suitable yardstick, because he is not, and never has been, Parker in that regard. Here is the yardstick for Napa wines in WA issue 204:

Of 895 wines covering a little less than 18 pages, the first sub-90 score shows up on page 17. "Firm" sub-90 scores are 27 89s, 27 88s, 12 87s and 4 86s, for a total of 70 of 895, or 7.8%. (There are also 5 89-92s, 13 89-91s, 1 88-91s, 5 88-90s and 2 89+s, for a total of 26 that could go either way.)

At the top, we find the following (I arbitrarily used the POSSIBILITY of 96 or more as my cutoff, to track Parker's 96-100 "extraordinary" category):

100-2
99+-1
98+-7
98-100-2
98-13
97-99-1
97+-8
97-25
96-98-7
96+-15
96-31
95-97-13
95+-19
94-96+-1
94-96-12
93-96-2
93-95+-1

Total 160, or 17.9% are potentially "extraordinary" wines. (Of those, 13 were from the 2011 vintage, 95 from 2010, 48 from 2009, 1 from 2008, 2 from 2007 and 1 from 2006.) For those for whom 95 is the psychological cutoff for greatness (despite the published scale for WA "extraordinary" wines being 96-100), there were 40 95s, 15 93-95s and 8 92-95s as well, meaning that over 25% of the 895 wines tasted were potentially 95 points or more. And before there is any whining about the inclusion of bracketed scores as potential 95s or 96s, please count how many of Antonio's 2009 scores achieved either the top number in the bracket or exceeded the top number in the bracket.

I will have more to say on this later, and without meaning to rain on the parade of what apparently is a majority on all wine boards of those who drink CA wines dominantly or exclusively, and may honestly believe that they are superior to Old World wines, it is patently absurd for any critic to assert that there could be that many "extraordinary" wines coming out of Napa over a two-year period. None of Antonio's rationales hold any water in that regard...
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #35  Postby Joe B » December 31st 2012, 7:16am

As a coin collector I have been really puzzled by the rating system for wine. Coins are graded by professionals on a scale of 0-70. There are practically very very few 68-70. Very very very rare. They also have or use the scale all the way down to zero. You never see sub 84 wine ratings so what is the point with the system. Also. Far too many perfect scores. It's rediculous to me. Something in the wine industry smells fishy to me. If this guy gives out less perfect scores I would be more inclined to believe him
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #36  Postby k s h i n » December 31st 2012, 7:25am

I have no issue with Antonio’s rating. There is no right or wrong way to use 100 point scale which is never meant to be a precise tool. It isn’t like anyone can consistently rate the wines in +-1 point range, even if poured from the same bottles. Factoring the bottle variation, it is absurd to discuss as though a wine has a rating. Those who love 61-100 scale, it really becomes impossible to replicate, if tasted blind. In order for Antonio to remain relevant, it is wise to utilize the 100 point scale like Bob does as a 99 point wine is a lot more exciting for most people than a 93 point wine.

P.S. I have been pondering for a while regarding how I rate the wines and I tend to rate Bordeaux, Cal cabs and Northern rhones higher than Burgundy and Barolos despite preferring the latters.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #37  Postby Bill Klapp (deactivated) » December 31st 2012, 8:25am

Kevin, once you use a scale, there MUST be consistency and relativity. There is simply no chance that almost 20% of Napa wines over a two-year period are going to stack up as "extraordinary" when measured against the backdrop of finer vineyards, finer grapes and finer producers, all of much longer standing (sometimes centuries) elsewhere in the world. Antonio seems honest, transparent, passionate, all of the above. What he lacks is relevant experience and perspective. He does not meet many wines that he doesn't like these days, and he is not alone in that. Parker, Suckling, Dunnuck, the list keeps growing...
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #38  Postby D@vid Bu3ker » December 31st 2012, 8:33am

Bill Klapp wrote:Kevin, once you use a scale, there MUST be consistency and relativity. There is simply no chance that almost 20% of Napa wines over a two-year period are going to stack up as "extraordinary" when measured against the backdrop of finer vineyards, finer grapes and finer producers, all of much longer standing (sometimes centuries) elsewhere in the world. Antonio seems honest, transparent, passionate, all of the above. What he lacks is relevant experience and perspective. He does not meet many wines that he doesn't like these days, and he is not alone in that. Parker, Suckling, Dunnuck, the list keeps growing...


20% of Napa wines don't stack up. You are analyzing a selected sample. Consider the entire spectrum of wines coming from Napa valley, then re-do your analysis.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #39  Postby Anthony Lombardi » December 31st 2012, 8:55am

My only exposure to Parker & co are the threads on here these days. I did just read Posner's e-mail from today where he pointed out that Parker gave 17 100 point scores in the N Rhone and that Antonio gave 96 or better on 95 different wines from the 2010 vintage in Napa.

TWA would never have become a respected publication if it had begun this way. It feels as though they are tasting these with the assumption that the bottles begin at 100 points and then gently work backward.

I guess reading this stuff has just reinforced my happiness that they ran me & everyone else off.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #40  Postby C 0 R E Y M. » December 31st 2012, 8:59am

The numbers seem high for Napa but you have to take into account the very small production of a number of these wines. Would anyone be shocked if there were 10 Left Bank Bordeaux wines that broke 95+ in a very good vintage? At 15,000 case productions that's a lot of wine. Most of the Napa wines getting high scores are made in much smaller quantities, often 1/10th or less than what the Bordeaux chateaux do. So the idea that there might be 100 of them is not entirely unfounded. If, say, LLC got bought by Andy Beckstoffer, stopped bottling its own wine, and divided its grapes among 15 different wineries, would anyone be surprised if at least 10 of those wines turned out to be great? But suddenly you have 10 95+ scores were previously you only had one.

The real inflation is Parker giving out 17 100 pt scores in his latest Northern Rhone report. That's just patently ridiculous on its face.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #41  Postby Peter Kleban » December 31st 2012, 9:10am

Joe B wrote:As a coin collector I have been really puzzled by the rating system for wine. Coins are graded by professionals on a scale of 0-70. There are practically very very few 68-70. Very very very rare. They also have or use the scale all the way down to zero. You never see sub 84 wine ratings so what is the point with the system. Also. Far too many perfect scores. It's rediculous to me. Something in the wine industry smells fishy to me. If this guy gives out less perfect scores I would be more inclined to believe him


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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #42  Postby Antonio Galloni » December 31st 2012, 10:41am

Let's deal with facts. I reviewed 895 wines in the Napa article. As I explained on our board, because of delays caused by Hurricane Sandy, an additional set of reviews will be published in late Jan. That will take the total number of Napa Valley reviews to just north of 1,000. I tasted approximately 500 other wines that did not make the cut. There are 2 100 point wines in this article, or less than 1% of both wines reviewed and tasted. If there are 100 wines scored 96 points and above, that works out to 10% of total reviews and 6.7% of total wines tasted. It is not my job to decided if those percentages are reasonable or not, it is up to our audience. That said, on the surface of things, I don't think those numbers are egregious in any way.

I think the greatest problem for people - and I know it is an issue for me - is to grasp the sheer enormity of CA and its major appellations, Napa Valley included. I read recently that CA, if it was a country, would rank as the 4th largest wine producing country in the world after Italy, France and Spain.

Consider the Napa Valley has great weather in most vintages, with a much less capriciousness than is typical of Northern European wine regions (which means a lot of France and Italy), a high percentage of valley floor vineyards that are relatively cheap to farm and also capable of carrying high yields, and irrigation basically everywhere. Then add that in global terms Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are relatively easy to farm and vinify. On paper, Napa Valley has all the ingredients to turn out large amounts of wines of consistently high average quality.

Now, let's look at Italy's equivalent top regions (Piedmont and Tuscany), since a lot of people are drawing comparisons to my work there. Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are much more difficult to farm, as they ripen only in the best places, viticulture in the great appellations is almost all on hillsides (which reduces the number of sites some varieties can be planted), vintages are much more variable, and irrigation is not allowed. The presence of Dolcetto and Barbera in Piedmont, two humbler grapes) means that an article of mine on Piedmont will naturally have a much large range of scores, a range that reflects everything from everyday drinkers to world class wines. Same thing in Tuscany. But in Napa Valley, the focus of the region is largely on prestigious wines or wines that are seeking to enter that realm. These are very different playing fields.

Lastly, with regards to the question of score inflation at the 85-90 point end of the range, it is quite obvious to me that quality in this part of the market has improved dramatically. It has nothing to do with winemaking or vintages, but is simply a reflection of the economy. Market demand for expensive wines remains weak (with a few exceptions) which means that estates are taking a significant amount of juice they were previously bottling under their top labels and putting it into their lower priced wines, thereby improving the quality of their less expensive offerings. It really is that simple.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #43  Postby Anthony Lombardi » December 31st 2012, 11:00am

Antonio-

Thank you again for participating in the discussion. In two posts, you really have set yourself apart from many of your peers. I mean that sincerely.

It isn't your responsibility, but part of the frustration many, including myself see in score inflation is the inevitable price inflation- again, not your responsibility. The question remains for many also- why were 85-90 points something that needed to inflate?

I stopped following this stuff in large part due to the previous writer who covered Washington state assigning what were in my opinion, absurdly high scores to the same producers each year which produced the rather unfortunate outcome of other producers chasing the style rather than their own distinctive quality to become part of the 10% rather than the other 90%. Good business decision in the short term, not sure what it gets them in the long term.

Anyway- I do appreciate the explanation. It certainly provides some perspective I didn't have before reading it, and on many levels it does make sense. I hope you continue to participate here as your schedule allows as I have a good feeling that you would add a lot beyond this discussion.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #44  Postby Roberto Rogness » December 31st 2012, 11:01am

Antonio, do you still think that Toscana and Piemonte have such a towering edge over the rest of Italy?

The Veneto makes the most DOC wine and the sheer number of staggeringly good Amarone and VDT's there is amazing.

Alto Adige may have the highest average quality level of any wine production zona on the planet. I have NEVER tasted a less than quite good wine from there.

The rise of top class Montepulciano based wines from Conero in Marche and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo a bit further south has been nearly exponential. Ditto Aglianico based wines from Campania and Basilicata.

Montefalco Sagrantino has been making scores of great wines for several decades.

Sicily may be the new Spain (especially Etna).

That's just about reds, when you add in Soave, bianchi from Friuli and Alto Adige and the stunning Greco, Fiano and Falanghinas from Campania (and don't forget Franciacorta!), it'shard to make a case for the old guard in Toscana and Piemonte being the only things that matter anymore....
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #45  Postby Howard Cooper » December 31st 2012, 11:16am

Kevin Shin wrote:P.S. I have been pondering for a while regarding how I rate the wines and I tend to rate Bordeaux, Cal cabs and Northern rhones higher than Burgundy and Barolos despite preferring the latters.


Kevin,

I think you tend to rate weight too highly. It does not show up in your preferences, which I have some familiarity with from all the times we have tasted together. I think of weight as an attribute of a wine, not necessarily a positive or a negative. Some of my favorite wines are wines that somehow put together a lot of flavor intensity in a lower-weight package. I tend to think that you prefer these wines also, but for some reason believe that objectively wines with more weight are better when you are scoring wines.

Am I close?

Frankly, this is part of why I have stopped rating wines when I post tasting notes. I don't want to rate wines purely on my tasting preferences and yet feel like I would be lying to rate a wine that I don't like as much higher than a wine I like better.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #46  Postby Bill Bøykin » December 31st 2012, 11:22am

Roberto Rogness wrote:Antonio, do you still think that Toscana and Piemonte have such a towering edge over the rest of Italy?

The Veneto makes the most DOC wine and the sheer number of staggeringly good Amarone and VDT's there is amazing.

Alto Adige may have the highest average quality level of any wine production zona on the planet. I have NEVER tasted a less than quite good wine from there.

The rise of top class Montepulciano based wines from Conero in Marche and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo a bit further south has been nearly exponential. Ditto Aglianico based wines from Campania and Basilicata.

Montefalco Sagrantino has been making scores of great wines for several decades.

Sicily may be the new Spain (especially Etna).

That's just about reds, when you add in Soave, bianchi from Friuli and Alto Adige and the stunning Greco, Fiano and Falanghinas from Campania (and don't forget Franciacorta!), it'shard to make a case for the old guard in Toscana and Piemonte being the only things that matter anymore....


blahblah

Nowhere in this post did Antonio say,"that Toscana and Piemonte have such a towering edge over the rest of Italy"........rather as:"equivalent top regions (Piedmont and Tuscany)"........soooooo [scratch.gif]

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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #47  Postby Roberto Rogness » December 31st 2012, 11:28am

What I was disputing was that those are the top regions of Italy any more. Taken as a whole, I wold put the Tre Venezie (Veneto, Alto Adige & Friuli) on top based on quantity of top wines.

Plus, how is anything I said advertising???? I mentioned no cantine, importers or brands, just internationally recognized zones where great wine is made.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #48  Postby Howard Cooper » December 31st 2012, 11:31am

Antonio Galloni wrote:Let's deal with facts. I reviewed 895 wines in the Napa article. As I explained on our board, because of delays caused by Hurricane Sandy, an additional set of reviews will be published in late Jan. That will take the total number of Napa Valley reviews to just north of 1,000. I tasted approximately 500 other wines that did not make the cut. There are 2 100 point wines in this article, or less than 1% of both wines reviewed and tasted. If there are 100 wines scored 96 points and above, that works out to 10% of total reviews and 6.7% of total wines tasted. It is not my job to decided if those percentages are reasonable or not, it is up to our audience. That said, on the surface of things, I don't think those numbers are egregious in any way.

I think the greatest problem for people - and I know it is an issue for me - is to grasp the sheer enormity of CA and its major appellations, Napa Valley included. I read recently that CA, if it was a country, would rank as the 4th largest wine producing country in the world after Italy, France and Spain.

Consider the Napa Valley has great weather in most vintages, with a much less capriciousness than is typical of Northern European wine regions (which means a lot of France and Italy), a high percentage of valley floor vineyards that are relatively cheap to farm and also capable of carrying high yields, and irrigation basically everywhere. Then add that in global terms Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are relatively easy to farm and vinify. On paper, Napa Valley has all the ingredients to turn out large amounts of wines of consistently high average quality.

Now, let's look at Italy's equivalent top regions (Piedmont and Tuscany), since a lot of people are drawing comparisons to my work there. Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are much more difficult to farm, as they ripen only in the best places, viticulture in the great appellations is almost all on hillsides (which reduces the number of sites some varieties can be planted), vintages are much more variable, and irrigation is not allowed. The presence of Dolcetto and Barbera in Piedmont, two humbler grapes) means that an article of mine on Piedmont will naturally have a much large range of scores, a range that reflects everything from everyday drinkers to world class wines. Same thing in Tuscany. But in Napa Valley, the focus of the region is largely on prestigious wines or wines that are seeking to enter that realm. These are very different playing fields.

Lastly, with regards to the question of score inflation at the 85-90 point end of the range, it is quite obvious to me that quality in this part of the market has improved dramatically. It has nothing to do with winemaking or vintages, but is simply a reflection of the economy. Market demand for expensive wines remains weak (with a few exceptions) which means that estates are taking a significant amount of juice they were previously bottling under their top labels and putting it into their lower priced wines, thereby improving the quality of their less expensive offerings. It really is that simple.


Antonio,

Thank you for your honesty and transparency in how you are rating wines, how your approach to rating wines is evolving, and for coming here to discuss your methodology. My question has to do with your approach in rating even two wines 100 points is the following. Over time, given the number of wines you have tasted, I am sure that there must be a handful of wines that are just better than anything else you have drunk. Call them 1947 Cheval Blanc, 1945 Mouton, 1945 Comte de Vogue Musigny, whatever. They don't come along one or two or ten times a year. They come along maybe 10-20 times a lifetime. Clearly, these would be 100 point wines. Even if you limit your universe to Napa wines, there have to be a few legendary wines that are just better than anything else you have had and that are not replicated every year. If these legendary wines are 100 point wines, then does this mean you think the wines you have just had and rated 100 points are as good as these? Or to you does 100 points encompass a larger range of wines, not all of which are equal?

The issue kind of is do you rate lines on a linear scale or a bell shaped curve and if the latter how steep of a bell shaped curve. All of this is a kind of long-winded way of asking when you rate a wine 100 points, are you saying it is one of the top 1%, 1/2% or whatever of the wines you taste (which would be consistent with what you said above and a more linear approach to rating) or are you saying that these wines are equal to the greatest of legends. To me, either is legitimate, but until I know which you are saying I don't know how to evaluate your ratings.

Thank you very much and have a happy and healthy new year.
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Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #49  Postby Bill Klapp (deactivated) » December 31st 2012, 11:46am

Antonio, I do not have the time right now to share all of the thoughts with you that I would like to, but I don't think it changes anything to gross up the numbers by throwing in more wines that weren't worth reviewing. Your boss (or former boss) has long been on record that the vast majority of CA wine is bargain-priced plonk, coming from overcropping, poor choice of varietal for the site, sites better suited to fruit and vegetables than to wine grapes, etc., so the truth is that WA reviews, for Napa and elsewhere in CA, have long been only of the top tier. (The same is true of Bordeaux and the southern Rhone as well.) Thus, I think that we can rule out the sample size as a rationalization for anything, and I, for one, am not much impressed with the attempt to diddle the numbers in that way.

While I would agree that Napa is not a static situation, there is only so much quality land available there, and most that can be developed for wine production has been. I also have serious doubts about Napa having an endless supply of winemaking geniuses with limited track records who strike pay dirt with their first offerings. That is not true anywhere else in the world, and there is no reason why that would be true in Napa alone, great weather notwithstanding. I am also doubtful that there has been the radical escalation in quality that you seem to be claiming since Bob Parker stopped covering the region. For a few producers, you can make the "second wine" argument, but not for enough to justify your stratospheric scores. What you see more often is producers making ever-growing numbers of single-vineyard wines, which at this point is not going to have much of an impact on quality, and might even hurt some of what were previously successful blends from multiple vineyards. (Cory Miller, I also need to observe that there is ZERO correlation between small production and quality, even if a high number of great wines do, in fact, come in small quantities. Old vines and low yields matter, at least in some cases. Not being able to buy but so much land or fruit is a very different thing. I do agree with you, however, about the northern Rhone score inflation.)

Antonio, I cannot accept your Piemonte/Tuscany arguments, either. There is no difference between the presence of Dolcetto and Barbera in the Piemonte, or all of the foreign varietals grown in Tuscany, and the poor-quality Cabs, Merlot, Chardonnay and other varietals grown in Napa. None of those wines count in any meaningful comparison of scores. You measure only top to top...Barolo and Barbaresco against Napa Cabs (blended and unblended seems fair to me) against the top Supertuscans (there not being enough truly great Brunellos or Chianti Classicos to allow a top-to-top comparison with those wines). Since there are fewer, say, Barolo and Barbaresco producers working less land, and not all of the producers are making high-quality wines, it is reasonable to assume that there will be fewer great wines made. However, I am hard pressed to think of any Cali Cab that you could prefer to the wines from the greatest vineyards of the greatest producers in the greatest vintages in the Piemonte. Ditto Burgundy, measuring top to top. California has no G. Conterno and no Giacosa, no Aubert de Villaine, no Lalou Bize-Leroy. It has no soil to match the soil that those producers work. And what about the extraordinary, almost unbroken string of strong vintages in the Piemonte? Indeed, the Piemonte and Burgundy would not be the only regions filling the bill in my line of argument above. And is not Italy, rather than just the Piemonte or the Piemonte and Tuscany, every bit as vast as California?

California is an infant wine-producing region in the grand scheme of things. It suffered years of dreadfully wrongheaded advice from UC-Davis wonks and all sorts of trial-and-error experimentation with soils, varietals and clones. It is a work still very much in progress, and the region whose wine styles have been most influenced (dominated really) by Parker's insistence on ripe, fruity, high-alcohol, oaky wines. I am not her to say that CA wines have not come a long way; they surely have. I am not here to say that there are not many excellent wines, regardless of my personal preferences. I am saying that there is virtually no chance that the quality of the wines that you have tasted is so dramatically and uniformly better than those from the rest of the world. Lastly, the notion that your lack of tasting experience earlier gave rise to lower scores stands logic on its head. If that is the case, then, with all due respect, why would I want the scores and notes from your on-the-job training in Burgundy, Champagne and California? I appreciate very much your appearance here and on the Squires board, and your openness and willingness to share your views. However, I must also observe that doing so has obviously been an attempt to defend against the criticism that your work has engendered, which is part of the broader criticism of Bob Parker and the Wine Advocate in recent years. I applaud the effort, but for me, it has not succeeded...
Antonio Galloni
 
Posts: 40
Joined: August 30th 2010, 8:47am

Re: Antonio explains score inflation...

Post #50  Postby Antonio Galloni » December 31st 2012, 12:24pm

Roberto - It was just a general example. Don't worry...I have a huge passion for the wines of all of Italy, and hopefully my work at TWA reflects that.

Bill - I know we will never agree so that is fine. If you want to ignore the facts surrounding the number of actual wines reviewed or tasted, no problem. I didn't say the larger number of wines weren't worth reviewing, rather they just fell short of our 85 point cutoff. Many of those wines have no real flaws, they just aren't distinctive. You can also choose to look past the number of new estates that did not exist a few years ago that are now making great wines, OK.

You can make the argument that the vast majority of wines in any region is crap. The total annual production of Barolo? Around 10million bottles. Brunello? About the same. Chianti Classico? 35 million. Yet how many of those wines do we and most of the world truly care about? A handful or two..

I fundamentally disagree with your opinion that CA has no visionaries or terroirs that are as great as the best in Europe, but I do agree with you that the CA wine culture is much younger. That is why this is such an exciting time.

As to my 'on the job' work that you have no regard for...you have previously spoken highly of my Piedmont Report, which is my first professional work. I had far less experience then than I do now, yet you speak glowingly of that early work and are so dismissive of some of the other things I have done more recently. I am curious, should we view the work you were doing as an attorney when you were in your early 40s in the same light? Was that 'on the job training' too?
Last edited by Antonio Galloni on December 31st 2012, 12:53pm, edited 1 time in total.

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