CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

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Dan Sch
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CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#1 Post by Dan Sch » March 9th, 2020, 5:06 pm

First; while I read tasting notes from publications, I have never bought a wine because of its score.

Second, I get that sometimes/often these are different reviewers for the two regions.

However, if you’re running a publication that uses the old 100-point scale, and you’re reviewing pinots from all over the world, wouldn’t you want a 95 to always be better than a 92?

And there is simply no way that there are tons of great and world class pinots (95 points?) in CA for $50 if there are hardly any in burgundy for less than $200... if that were the case, no one would bother chasing good/great burgundy.

Again, I am by no means an expert, but I’ve tasted my thousand or so pinots. I’ve never been afforded the chance to taste much burgundy in the $150 and up category, but in the $50-150 range it does often seem as or more compelling per dollar than the CA counterparts.

Tell me why I’m an idiot. Thanks in advance!
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#2 Post by Mattstolz » March 9th, 2020, 5:13 pm

I have always wondered this as well. its not just true for professional reviewers I feel though. CT does the same thing. consider this: average CT ratings for Rivers Marie old vine Summa are about the same as Domaine Leroy Nuits St Georges.

im gonna get pushback on that, so I'm gonna qualify with it was just an example based on a very fast CT search.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#3 Post by Ian H » March 9th, 2020, 5:18 pm

It's pretty much an objective fact in my own mind that Burg scorers (pro and and amateur alike) are the toughest of the bunch. I don't know why that is.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#4 Post by Jeff P » March 9th, 2020, 5:24 pm

Ian H wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:18 pm
It's pretty much an objective fact in my own mind that Burg scorers (pro and and amateur alike) are the toughest of the bunch. I don't know why that is.
Definitely are. Reason Suckling doesn't really do Burgundy haha. Also, it could have something to do with cost? However, prices should be absent cost/QPR and the note should state if a wine punches above or below its price point IMO
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#5 Post by Sc0tt F!tzger@ld » March 9th, 2020, 5:39 pm

I think many burg lovers are tough scorers because they tend to be more experienced drinkers. They’ve tried all the other wines (started on cabs, etc.) before the road led them to Burgundy. But I agree with the OP’s observation - lots of expensive red burgundy out there with low ninety scores.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#6 Post by Richard T r i m p i » March 9th, 2020, 5:51 pm

Dan Sch wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:06 pm
First; while I read tasting notes from publications, I have never bought a wine because of its score.
Lucky you, I've bought hundreds.

Second, I get that sometimes/often these are different reviewers for the two regions.
Yup,

However, if you’re running a publication that uses the old 100-point scale, and you’re reviewing pinots from all over the world, wouldn’t you want a 95 to always be better than a 92?
Trick question? This has been ground covered almost since professional wine scores began. Scores typically apply to the specific regions being tasted, relative to the best wines from that region...allegedly.

And there is simply no way that there are tons of great and world class pinots (95 points?) in CA for $50 if there are hardly any in burgundy for less than $200... if that were the case, no one would bother chasing good/great burgundy.
Points are relative to each region. Supposedly. Maybe. Sometimes.

Again, I am by no means an expert, but I’ve tasted my thousand or so pinots. I’ve never been afforded the chance to taste much burgundy in the $150 and up category, but in the $50-150 range it does often seem as or more compelling per dollar than the CA counterparts.
Maybe you've just learned to appreciate Burgundy more?

Tell me why I’m an idiot.
No can do. You seem to be expecting scores to be valid between regions rather than solely within them.

Thanks in advance!
De rien.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#7 Post by C. Keller » March 9th, 2020, 5:53 pm

This was sort of brought up on another site...

Weather is a big factor and sub scale production (Parcel size). You bottle that dam grand cru know matter what!
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#8 Post by Chris Seiber » March 9th, 2020, 5:55 pm

Ian H wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:18 pm
It's pretty much an objective fact in my own mind that Burg scorers (pro and and amateur alike) are the toughest of the bunch. I don't know why that is.
I agree, that just seems to be the culture of scoring Burgundy, or at least red Burgundy. Maybe it's because red Burg tends to be so reserved in its youth, it doesn't give the wow factor to the critics who are blind tasting new releases. But I agree it feels like there is more to it than that.

The flipside is sweet wines. Critics always seem to give those really high scores. Solid middle of the road $20-ish Kabinett starts at 91 points and goes up from there. Port, Sauternes, Tokaji, ice wine, it all gets right up into the middle 90s. I guess that would somewhat track with my Burg theory, in that sweet wines make a big impression, including when they're new releases.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#9 Post by R. Frankel » March 9th, 2020, 5:59 pm

My impression is that the scales are just not the same between regions. In other words, a score of 95 for a Sonoma Pinot doesn’t equal a 95 for a Red Burgundy. Let alone comparison of different varieties, colors of grape, sparkling to still, etc. Or any other comparison you might make. I’m not going to judge whether one set of drinkers has different experience/skill/etc., than any other. They’re just different.

For each region/variety/type (i.e still vs sparkling vs. sweet) a set of scores need their own unique interpretation. To really be useful you need to have some kind of grasp of the kind of wine, the critic’s palate, range, and history. And even then for some critics the scores are inconsistent or even nonsensical!

I find scores to be useful. I use them myself. I’ve thought a lot about what my own scores mean (for me, as a tool for remembering my own wine experiences) and have written down a fairly detailed summary of my wine scoring methodology so I can try to be consistent.

The problem that many of us have with scores is either inconsistency, or a blind use of scores to make decisions without context for them. In these cases, I just don’t use them (e.g. looking at wines in a store with scores from a critic I’ve never heard of).
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#10 Post by R. Frankel » March 9th, 2020, 6:03 pm

Back to then exact original question - maybe it depends on the critic. Take a look at Alan Meadows (Burghound). His CA and OR Pinot scores seem to track way lower than his Burgundy scores. I think he’s using a relatively consistent scale for his palate, or at least trying to. But not many reviewers spread their attention across so many regions.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#11 Post by brigcampbell » March 9th, 2020, 6:05 pm

If only the reviewers tasted blind the problem would be solved.

Much to their surprise.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#12 Post by Glenn P » March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm

Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#13 Post by R. Frankel » March 9th, 2020, 6:16 pm

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
I hate this kind of excuse making, but Burgundy famously goes through a closed period starting a few years after release. Maybe your event suffered from that. Or small sample size. Or bad luck. Or inconsistent stylistic choices. Yep four excuses!

But: just this past week I tasted (La Paulee in NYC) dozens of 2017s, many 2011/12/13/14s, and quite a few 2001/2/5 and older. That middle group showed the least well - lots of fairly stiff closed wines. The 2017s were excellent, and the older group positively yummy. Closed period anyone?
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#14 Post by Thomas Keim » March 9th, 2020, 6:27 pm

Because California Pinot Noirs are in your face with ripe fruit and young Burgundy can be pretty tight and unyielding those first few years after bottling. Entirely different wines -
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#15 Post by David_K » March 9th, 2020, 7:04 pm

Because Burgundy is a strict hierarchy, and when reviewing a large line-up of wines, the critics have to leave themselves enough runway to give big scores to the bigguns. So like clockwork, Bourgogne to Village to 1er to Grand Cru goes up in score each time, ending with the high scores. If each producer made just a couple of wines, they'd all get high scores.

It's not because the wines are tough or tannic or closed or whatever. That doesn't stop the top Piedmont or Bordeaux wines from getting super high scores on release; it's because there are only one or a couple of those wines.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#16 Post by Jason T » March 9th, 2020, 8:00 pm

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
Maybe it’s not the Burgundy that needs help?
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#17 Post by Mark Y » March 9th, 2020, 8:06 pm

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
1. God i hope not about the global warming aspect..

2. 2015 burgs needs 10 yrs+ more. comparing it to 2015 cali today is a good academic study, but not best for enjoyment.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#18 Post by GregT » March 9th, 2020, 8:09 pm

David_K wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 7:04 pm
Because Burgundy is a strict hierarchy, and when reviewing a large line-up of wines, the critics have to leave themselves enough runway to give big scores to the bigguns. So like clockwork, Bourgogne to Village to 1er to Grand Cru goes up in score each time, ending with the high scores. If each producer made just a couple of wines, they'd all get high scores.

It's not because the wines are tough or tannic or closed or whatever. That doesn't stop the top Piedmont or Bordeaux wines from getting super high scores on release; it's because there are only one or a couple of those wines.
This makes sense. It's what Parker fought in Bordeaux, at least initially, but it remained the case in Burgundy. And as someone else said, if people tasted blind, there would probably be different scores. I've tasted enough Burgundy with people who have tried to convert me to know that people are very willing to make excuses for Burgundy and they are willing to score it on potential rather than what it is in the glass. "It's not quite there yet but you can tell it has the structure and the stuffing to be great. I'll give it a 92 for what it will be at some point later in its evolution."

The irony is that later, it's "Wow. You can tell this was a fantastic wine. Would have been absolutely magnificent a few years ago!"

It's why a friend always jokes that the drinking windows for expensive Burgundy are measured in minutes.

And then, as mentioned, a lot of times the wines are scored by different reviewers.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#19 Post by Howard Cooper » March 9th, 2020, 8:14 pm

Ian H wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:18 pm
It's pretty much an objective fact in my own mind that Burg scorers (pro and and amateur alike) are the toughest of the bunch. I don't know why that is.
Because of Romanee Conti, La Tache, Musigny and such. If these are 100 point wines or something close, probably a really, really good MSD Clos Sorbes, as wonderful as it is, isn’t. This is one reason why I have stopped rating wines.

As for why Wine writers overrate domestic pinots, read this board. The lovers of these wines are snowflakes who go ballistic when any of their favorites don’t get huge scores. It is easier for wine writers to humor them.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#20 Post by RyanC » March 9th, 2020, 8:19 pm

Howard Cooper wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 8:14 pm
Ian H wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:18 pm
It's pretty much an objective fact in my own mind that Burg scorers (pro and and amateur alike) are the toughest of the bunch. I don't know why that is.
Because of Romanee Conti, La Tache, Musigny and such. If these are 100 point wines or something close, probably a really, really good MSD Clos Sorbes, as wonderful as it is, isn’t. This is one reason why I have stopped rating wines.
This is the reason why Burg scores get depressed. The hierarchy is so ingrained that it permeates all Burg scoring and tasting notes. Burgundy is unavoidably hyper-contextual. No reviewer is going to rate Mugnier's Chambolle AOC 98 points, no matter how good it is (and at its best it's absolutely better than any CA Pinot I've ever had), because then how are you going to deal with Fuees, Amoureuses, and Musigny? Most of the famous Burg reviewers tend to be very hierarchical. By contrast, wines like Scarecrow or even something like Yquem are more singular and a-contextual.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#21 Post by Chris Seiber » March 9th, 2020, 8:35 pm

Howard Cooper wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 8:14 pm
As for why Wine writers overrate domestic pinots, read this board. The lovers of these wines are snowflakes who go ballistic when any of their favorites don’t get huge scores. It is easier for wine writers to humor them.
Wow, talk about going ballistic.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#22 Post by JLee » March 9th, 2020, 8:46 pm

Mattstolz wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:13 pm
I have always wondered this as well. its not just true for professional reviewers I feel though. CT does the same thing. consider this: average CT ratings for Rivers Marie old vine Summa are about the same as Domaine Leroy Nuits St Georges.

im gonna get pushback on that, so I'm gonna qualify with it was just an example based on a very fast CT search.
There's usually not much of an overlap between the drinkers of those two wines. so it's hard to expect a consistency between their scores.

Also mailing list wines go to devotees. I tried Rivers Marie and it wasn't for me but my vote's not on there, while fans of the producer who are on the list have probably scored its wines many times.

Expensive burgundies go to devotees too but as others have explained people aren't giving village wines high scores.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#23 Post by Jeremy C » March 9th, 2020, 9:36 pm

RyanC wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 8:19 pm
Howard Cooper wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 8:14 pm
Ian H wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:18 pm
It's pretty much an objective fact in my own mind that Burg scorers (pro and and amateur alike) are the toughest of the bunch. I don't know why that is.
Because of Romanee Conti, La Tache, Musigny and such. If these are 100 point wines or something close, probably a really, really good MSD Clos Sorbes, as wonderful as it is, isn’t. This is one reason why I have stopped rating wines.
This is the reason why Burg scores get depressed. The hierarchy is so ingrained that it permeates all Burg scoring and tasting notes. Burgundy is unavoidably hyper-contextual. No reviewer is going to rate Mugnier's Chambolle AOC 98 points, no matter how good it is (and at its best it's absolutely better than any CA Pinot I've ever had), because then how are you going to deal with Fuees, Amoureuses, and Musigny? Most of the famous Burg reviewers tend to be very hierarchical. By contrast, wines like Scarecrow or even something like Yquem are more singular and a-contextual.
This nails it.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#24 Post by etomasi » March 9th, 2020, 10:35 pm

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
Umm, ok. I have found some of 2015 burgs to be very california-like. Too much so for me. When burgs start getting cola notes, its too ripe for me.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#25 Post by g.colangelo » March 10th, 2020, 1:49 am

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
Without knowing what wines you tasted, I assume that stylistically the burgs and the Ca were clearly different. Apparently most of the tasters preferred the Ca style, and there is nothing wrong with that. This is the problem with scores: there is no absolute scale, and even if you are comparing the same single-variety wines, style differences will matter more to the individual consumer than any attempt to rank different wines on an absolute quality scale.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#26 Post by Howard Cooper » March 10th, 2020, 2:46 am

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
[rofl.gif] [rofl.gif] If you think the problem with 2015 Burgundies is that they are not ripe enough I don't know what to say other than I highly recommend you never waste your money buying a bottle of Burgundy. I very seriously doubt you will ever like one. [scratch.gif]
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#27 Post by Robert Grenley » March 10th, 2020, 3:21 am

I find, as mentioned, that Burghound scores for Burgundies and domestic, CA and OR, pinot noirs are pretty consistently scored ...meaning that it is very rare that a domestic PN gets at or above a 93, while top Burgundies hit 94-95 and the real top Burgs can go into the 96-98 range. So, by consistently scored, I mean, consistent with what I would expect for wines of different levels of complexity and aging potential... ie: a 92 means a certain level of quality regardless of where the Pinot noir based wine is from, recognizing of course that domestic PN is not meant to be Burgundy and vice versa. BH’s scoring is pretty conservative for both domestic PN’s and Burgs as well, and his higher scores for the upper level Burgs surely reflect his preference for the style of those wines, particularly their potential.

I also find that John Gilman’s scoring is pretty consistent in the same way...fairly conservative, with exceptional scores given to domestic PN’s and Burgs somewhat sparingly, but perhaps with some of his favorite domestics getting somewhat higher scores than BH gives, and the exceptional Burgundies being scored higher than the domestics as one might expect.

However, I find that Galloni is very free about giving extremely high scores to many domestic PN’s, even a bit more so than to Burgundies, and in fact to all wines from all over! Which makes his ratings difficult to interpret and less useful to me. It seems like he is more captivated by the “hedonistic”, ripe domestic wines with “gobs of fruit” than the others...at least that is my opinion. So he fits with the OP’s observation, I think.

It would be interesting to hear what William Kelley would say about using a consistent scoring range across different regions, where a 95 point domestic PN is judged to be the qualitative equal of a 95 point Burgundy...as opposed to the scores only rating the wines in comparison to other wines of the same varietal from the same region, and thus a 95 would mean very different things depending on what region you are discussing.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#28 Post by Mattstolz » March 10th, 2020, 3:33 am

has Burghound ever given a 100 point score?

its funny, I see a 91 from Suckling and wonder "hmm wonder what went wrong with this wine?"
I see a 91 from Burghound and its like "oh shoot this must be pretty good!"

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#29 Post by Markus S » March 10th, 2020, 4:58 am

Dan Sch wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 5:06 pm
And there is simply no way that there are tons of great and world class pinots (95 points?) in CA for $50 if there are hardly any in burgundy for less than $200... if that were the case, no one would bother chasing good/great burgundy.
Could be a bit of jingoism going on, as most of the critics are Americans and want to defend the home turf?
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#30 Post by Markus S » March 10th, 2020, 4:58 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 2:46 am
Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
[rofl.gif] [rofl.gif] If you think the problem with 2015 Burgundies is that they are not ripe enough I don't know what to say other than I highly recommend you never waste your money buying a bottle of Burgundy. I very seriously doubt you will ever like one. [scratch.gif]
Definitely THIS.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#31 Post by Kirk.Grant » March 10th, 2020, 5:23 am

I could be mis-remembering (I have a head injury from my time in the Army so my memory is not always the most reliable). I think I recall someone once saying that a 92 from say...Monthelie is not the same as a 92 from Clos St. Denis. While they both may be a 92 in the actual score, the 92 is a high outlier for the region in Monthelie when a 92 is rather low for coming from a Grand Cru vineyard. When I heard it (at the time) it kind of made sense to me. That's all the feedback I got though.

One other thought is simply this...people enjoy things differently for different reasons. Maybe wines like Kosta Brown appeal to someone that wants a delicious wine, something that's tasty & easy to wrap your mind around. You drink it and think, "wow...tasty" but Burgundy, for me has always been a more cerebral experience where I take a sip, think, and then take another sip. It all depends on if you want to drink wine on auto-pilot or stare into the depths and try to see what's there.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#32 Post by Howard Cooper » March 10th, 2020, 5:36 am

Kirk.Grant wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 5:23 am
I could be mis-remembering (I have a head injury from my time in the Army so my memory is not always the most reliable). I think I recall someone once saying that a 92 from say...Monthelie is not the same as a 92 from Clos St. Denis. While they both may be a 92 in the actual score, the 92 is a high outlier for the region in Monthelie when a 92 is rather low for coming from a Grand Cru vineyard. When I heard it (at the time) it kind of made sense to me. That's all the feedback I got though.
I think one issue is that different wine writers (and even different posters on this board) have different philosophies on this. You probably did read that someone did say this, but who does it this way and who tries to provide absolute scores, whatever that means.

I doubt that anyone is really consistent or we would see 100 point Monthelies. I don't think I have ever seen one.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#33 Post by Wes Barton » March 10th, 2020, 6:22 am

g.colangelo wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 1:49 am
Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
Without knowing what wines you tasted, I assume that stylistically the burgs and the Ca were clearly different. Apparently most of the tasters preferred the Ca style, and there is nothing wrong with that. This is the problem with scores: there is no absolute scale, and even if you are comparing the same single-variety wines, style differences will matter more to the individual consumer than any attempt to rank different wines on an absolute quality scale.


That's not a problem with scores, it's insight into their value. In the real world, one person's 96 can be another's 70 due to style, preference, experience, specific fetishes and aversions and so forth. What aspects people value in wine can be completely different person to person.

Forever ago Wine Spectator did a blind Oregon vs Burgundy tasting article, where their two relevant critics tasted blind pairs together. So, each wine got two TNs with scores and guesses if it was OR or Burg. Plenty of wrong guesses, and some wines with big score differentials - one by 15 points. Unusual honesty for a business that portrays its value largely in the illusion of objective standard - a "mistake" not repeated. But, that's the real world. You may like a wine no one else likes. You may find critic/board darlings boring or revolting.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#34 Post by Josh Grossman » March 10th, 2020, 6:41 am

I personally prefer my Burgundy to be around 20 years old (or older) to get the notes I love. I've yet to get sous bois from anything in Cali. Not saying that Cali isn't worth aging as I've got some cool tea, soy, and coffee notes from them--but never sous bois. If you aren't judging a wine for tertiary flavor development, and only on primary and secondary flavors--it's easier to give it a high score on things like finish length and fruit.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#35 Post by Howard Cooper » March 10th, 2020, 6:42 am

Wes Barton wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 6:22 am
g.colangelo wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 1:49 am
Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
Without knowing what wines you tasted, I assume that stylistically the burgs and the Ca were clearly different. Apparently most of the tasters preferred the Ca style, and there is nothing wrong with that. This is the problem with scores: there is no absolute scale, and even if you are comparing the same single-variety wines, style differences will matter more to the individual consumer than any attempt to rank different wines on an absolute quality scale.


That's not a problem with scores, it's insight into their value. In the real world, one person's 96 can be another's 70 due to style, preference, experience, specific fetishes and aversions and so forth. What aspects people value in wine can be completely different person to person.

Forever ago Wine Spectator did a blind Oregon vs Burgundy tasting article, where their two relevant critics tasted blind pairs together. So, each wine got two TNs with scores and guesses if it was OR or Burg. Plenty of wrong guesses, and some wines with big score differentials - one by 15 points. Unusual honesty for a business that portrays its value largely in the illusion of objective standard - a "mistake" not repeated. But, that's the real world. You may like a wine no one else likes. You may find critic/board darlings boring or revolting.
Great post. I really do not believe in an objective standard for higher end wine. Taken to its extreme, I wonder if there could be a wine that "objectively" is rated 100 points but subjectively nobody would like it. One of the more rewarding things in wine is finding others (whether wine critics, posters on this board, or friends) whose palates line up somewhat like yours does. I know that there are some people on this board where I feel like if they like the wine I probably will also, but others on this board where their enjoying or not enjoying a specific wine is not at all predictive for me.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#36 Post by Wes Barton » March 10th, 2020, 6:43 am

Kirk.Grant wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 5:23 am
I could be mis-remembering (I have a head injury from my time in the Army so my memory is not always the most reliable). I think I recall someone once saying that a 92 from say...Monthelie is not the same as a 92 from Clos St. Denis. While they both may be a 92 in the actual score, the 92 is a high outlier for the region in Monthelie when a 92 is rather low for coming from a Grand Cru vineyard. When I heard it (at the time) it kind of made sense to me. That's all the feedback I got though.
Sounds like a statement of quality vs expectation. Those two bottles might be the same quality, but their expressions are still quite different.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#37 Post by Howard Cooper » March 10th, 2020, 6:46 am

Josh Grossman wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 6:41 am
I personally prefer my Burgundy to be around 20 years old (or older) to get the notes I love.
For me, it depends. Certainly, I like most grand crus and premier crus with age on them - although in many vintages 10-15 years is plenty (and in 2005 will 20 years be enough, who knows).

But, I sometimes like the bright fruit and good acidity of a well-made young Bourgogne Rouge or other lesser terroir Burgundy (say from the Côte Chalonnaise) with say salmon.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#38 Post by Brandon R » March 10th, 2020, 8:53 am

I always assumed that wines were rated within the context of the region and variety. In other words, CA Pinot Noirs are rated within the context of that world only, and they're not comparable to Burgundy. Burgundies are rated within the context of red Burgundy. So, a 95 point CA Pinot and a 95 point Burg aren't equally "good" necessarily, but they're deemed to be very high quality within the context of the region. So, if that same exact CA Pinot juice that was rated a 95 was labeled and tasted as a Burg, it would likely receive a much lower score...at least, I would hope.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#39 Post by Brady Daniels » March 10th, 2020, 9:57 am

Glenn P wrote:
March 9th, 2020, 6:08 pm
Just did a tasting of 8 pinots. 4 burgs and 4 Ca. All were 2015 that was supposed to be a good year for burgundy. The burgs were all premier cru and all rated 92-95 from WA or BH. They also cost on average twice the CA. I alternated odd and even. All were blind. Out of 18 people only two liked the burgs better and one of those was pregnant and could only smell. Maybe global warming will help burgundy.
Funny, I love burgundy, but have drunk exactly zero of my 2015 premier crus. Based on your tasting, I wonder if I should just sell them now? Or perhaps I should just hold them until they are meant to be drunk, perhaps at age ten, fifteen, or twenty?

Look, if you like your Pinot fruity and young, that is cool. Drink CA Pinot that suits your palate. But don’t compare young CA Pinot to closed Burgundy and pretend you are proving anything.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#40 Post by crickey » March 10th, 2020, 9:59 am

Tanzer covered pinot across the globe for many years, so there is a lot of data there. When he hired Josh Raynolds, I remember him saying that he and Josh generally scored very closely to each other on the same wines, so there is more data there, as Josh covers Oregon and some California. There is some data for Galloni, as he covered Burgundy for a short time and still covers California. There is a little data for William Kelley, who sometimes posts here and would be a good source to answer the question in the original post. Also, I had forgotten in my original post, both John Gilman and Allen Meadows cover both Burgundy and California pinot, so there is another source of data.

The original poster assumed his own conclusion with the following: "Again, I am by no means an expert, but I’ve tasted my thousand or so pinots. I’ve never been afforded the chance to taste much burgundy in the $150 and up category, but in the $50-150 range it does often seem as or more compelling per dollar than the CA counterparts." He like Burgundy better, so he may very well have different rating criteria than critics.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#41 Post by crickey » March 10th, 2020, 10:08 am

Brandon R wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 8:53 am
I always assumed that wines were rated within the context of the region and variety. In other words, CA Pinot Noirs are rated within the context of that world only, and they're not comparable to Burgundy. Burgundies are rated within the context of red Burgundy. So, a 95 point CA Pinot and a 95 point Burg aren't equally "good" necessarily, but they're deemed to be very high quality within the context of the region. So, if that same exact CA Pinot juice that was rated a 95 was labeled and tasted as a Burg, it would likely receive a much lower score...at least, I would hope.
Parker was the only critic I am aware of who explicitly said his ratings were contextual to a region or type of wine. When Tanzer was asked why all his New Zealand pinot scores in one addition were 87-89 points, he responded that sometimes a region has only offers 87-89 point wines, so that implicitly rejected the regional context of the scores. In his explanation of scoring at Vinous, Galloni never mentions regional context. Allen Meadows seeming rejects regional context, at least based on his reviews for California pinots. I don't know if John Gilman adjusts for region either.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#42 Post by Hank Victor » March 10th, 2020, 10:18 am

Kirk.Grant wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 5:23 am
I could be mis-remembering (I have a head injury from my time in the Army so my memory is not always the most reliable). I think I recall someone once saying that a 92 from say...Monthelie is not the same as a 92 from Clos St. Denis. While they both may be a 92 in the actual score, the 92 is a high outlier for the region in Monthelie when a 92 is rather low for coming from a Grand Cru vineyard. When I heard it (at the time) it kind of made sense to me. That's all the feedback I got though.
Jancis Robinson has made that point when scoring wines.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#43 Post by Sean S y d n e y » March 10th, 2020, 10:19 am

Trying to compare the two is pretty tenuous anyway.

A high school friend's mother used to be the movie critic for a national newspaper, and I vividly remember her coming to our school for a presentation. She mentioned that it wasn't all glamorous and that she was going to see Joe Dirt later that evening. When asked a question about how she approaches reviewing a movie like that, she said that it wasn't fair to compare it in a vacuum to, say, Citizen Kane. She judged Joe Dirt based on whether it was a successful example of a comedy and fulfilled its purpose as such (for the record, it is a terrible movie by any standard and in no way am I calling California pinot the Joe Dirt to Burgundy's Citizen Kane).

I often have to remind myself when tasting Oregon/California/Ontario pinot to judge it according to its own merits and whether it succeeds as a wine from its place (or a wine at all). I think doing otherwise does a disservice to both the wine and yourself.

Wine scoring is a deeply bizarre and flawed method for examining a wine's merits as many people have demonstrated in this thread and elsewhere. But if the success of a California pinot noir is based less on the firmly established Burgundian hallmarks of quality - complexity, ability to develop - and more on providing easier-drinking pleasure, it would stand to reason that scores would adjust accordingly.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#44 Post by Mel Knox » March 10th, 2020, 10:28 am

I ve got thoughts here:
1/the price of Burgundy is so high a critic has to be darned sure when a $90 village wine gets more than 92
2/think of Burgundy as Pauillac or St Estephe and California Pinot as Pomerol....the softer wine is easier to understand and drink. It is so easy to be wrong about Burgundy.
3/the classification system does throw a monkey wrench into our minds..if DRC etc are 100s then how can Chorey rate more than 91??
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#45 Post by Nicolas G. » March 10th, 2020, 10:51 am

Sean S y d n e y wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 10:19 am
Trying to compare the two is pretty tenuous anyway.

A high school friend's mother used to be the movie critic for a national newspaper, and I vividly remember her coming to our school for a presentation. She mentioned that it wasn't all glamorous and that she was going to see Joe Dirt later that evening. When asked a question about how she approaches reviewing a movie like that, she said that it wasn't fair to compare it in a vacuum to, say, Citizen Kane. She judged Joe Dirt based on whether it was a successful example of a comedy and fulfilled its purpose as such (for the record, it is a terrible movie by any standard and in no way am I calling California pinot the Joe Dirt to Burgundy's Citizen Kane).

I often have to remind myself when tasting Oregon/California/Ontario pinot to judge it according to its own merits and whether it succeeds as a wine from its place (or a wine at all). I think doing otherwise does a disservice to both the wine and yourself.

Wine scoring is a deeply bizarre and flawed method for examining a wine's merits as many people have demonstrated in this thread and elsewhere. But if the success of a California pinot noir is based less on the firmly established Burgundian hallmarks of quality - complexity, ability to develop - and more on providing easier-drinking pleasure, it would stand to reason that scores would adjust accordingly.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#46 Post by JasperMorris » March 10th, 2020, 11:27 am

I thought about this for a long time before crossing over from wine merchant to critic, knowing that I would need to use the 100 point scale but wanting to find a way that successful wines from lesser appellations in Burgundy could still have a chance to shine. My solution is to score out of 100 but to offer alongside stars out of 5: So Bourgogne Rouge 89 points is ***** while Musigny 89 points is *

It also means that if tasting a range of pinot noirs from a fledgling region (Hokkaido perhaps) or a less well known part of California or New Zealand - just to pick a few random examples - scores in the 80s can be given, if supported with the reward of a decent number of stars. Of course it does depend on having expectations on what should be the baseline quality of an appellation or region.

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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#47 Post by Dan Sch » March 10th, 2020, 11:34 am

crickey wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 9:59 am
Tanzer covered pinot across the globe for many years, so there is a lot of data there. When he hired Josh Raynolds, I remember him saying that he and Josh generally scored very closely to each other on the same wines, so there is more data there, as Josh covers Oregon and some California. There is some data for Galloni, as he covered Burgundy for a short time and still covers California. There is a little data for William Kelley, who sometimes posts here and would be a good source to answer the question in the original post. Also, I had forgotten in my original post, both John Gilman and Allen Meadows cover both Burgundy and California pinot, so there is another source of data.

The original poster assumed his own conclusion with the following: "Again, I am by no means an expert, but I’ve tasted my thousand or so pinots. I’ve never been afforded the chance to taste much burgundy in the $150 and up category, but in the $50-150 range it does often seem as or more compelling per dollar than the CA counterparts." He like Burgundy better, so he may very well have different rating criteria than critics.
Maybe I slightly missed what I meant with the wording in that paragraph. I quite like wines from ***certain*** California producers in Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Sta Rita Hills. And all I meant by that is many of the CA wines I like (what prompted this was an Anthill Farms review) are damned good to me, but aren’t BETTER to me than similarly priced Burgundy that I’ve had.

And I really do not like some CA pinots...especially in warmer years.

Thanks to everyone for the comments. I think the “headroom” explanation rings true as certain grand crus SHOULD be rated higher than everything else...
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#48 Post by Chris Seiber » March 10th, 2020, 11:47 am

Here is the new Wine Spectator. Maybe we had the premise backwards?
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#49 Post by A. So » March 10th, 2020, 12:05 pm

A good bottle of CA pinot is always a (pleasant) surprise.
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Re: CA Pinot vs Burgundy — why are critics kinder to CA?

#50 Post by g.colangelo » March 10th, 2020, 12:55 pm

JasperMorris wrote:
March 10th, 2020, 11:27 am
I thought about this for a long time before crossing over from wine merchant to critic, knowing that I would need to use the 100 point scale but wanting to find a way that successful wines from lesser appellations in Burgundy could still have a chance to shine. My solution is to score out of 100 but to offer alongside stars out of 5: So Bourgogne Rouge 89 points is ***** while Musigny 89 points is *
I find this an excellent idea and that it works very well.
It's a great way to express enthusiasm about the many wonderful passetoutgrains, bourgogne rouge or blanc and the likes, without giving them scores which are reserved for DRC's.
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