The "Critics" Just Aren't Very Good: 1998 vs. 2000 Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra

This is not a tasting note (not in the mood right now), but I’m drinking the 1998 and the 2000 Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra’s. The 2000 vintage was hailed by the critics as a great (or at least better than “average” vintage). 1998 was generally viewed as a “functional” vintage (i.e. drink it while you wait on the better ones to age). These wines couldn’t be more different. The 2000 is pleasant and passable–a nice wine, nothing more, and at or past its peak (unless you perfer old, just for the sake of old). The 1998, by contrast, is a profound wine. It may also be at or near its peak, time will tell, but it is delicious and incredibly complex. How could anyone have ever labeled the vintage 2000 superior, both generally and with respect to this particular wine? I have had enough 2000s to feel that I can generalize that it was a bland and middling vintage. I have NOT had enough 1998s to draw an opinion…but based on this wine, I would trade every 2000 for its 1998 counterpart…FWIW, Parker rated the wines as equal at “93 pts”. To my taste, the 1998 is closer to a 96-97 point wine, while the 2000 is more in the 90 pt range.

PS, please don’t tell me that I can’t judge because both wines are “too young” or claim that I must not have “decanted” them long enough. Both of those statements, in light of the wines themselves, are silly.

I thought 2000 was an early maturing vintage for Barolo/Barbaresco - I’ve been drinking them up for the last two years and haven’t run into one that wasn’t 100% ready to drink - the '98s were tight and ass backwards on release, maybe one of the most stubborn vintages of the decade - so it’s not surprising the '98 was the one that still had the backbone - I adored the '00 vintage -

John, I realize your post wasn’t focused on Parker points, but it illustrates something I’ve often wondered about at the individual wine scoring. Let’s say a critic has already decided in his mind the relative merits of a vintage, likely arrived at by tasting a number of wines and discussing with the winemakers (who are terribly biased by definition). Then, do lesser wines get a points boost based on his sub-conscious impression of the vintage and the opposite occur with better wines in vintages he considers lesser? I wonder if that is what happened here?

I know Parker claims his palate is so independent that he can completely ignore his sub-conscious influences, but I think that is bunk. We are all biased and to deny it erodes your credibility in my book.

FWIW, I’ve tasted with John many times and have the utmost trust in, and respect for his palate - especially Italian wines. He calls it like he sees it and I would buy/not buy just based on his impressions.


Only the Wine Spectator hailed 2000 as a great vintage. That was considered a joke by anyone who knew anything about Barolo/Barbaresco. As you say, it was a ripe, soft year for early consumption. The winemakers there did not consider it a strong year, and I don’t believe the Wine Advocate ever talked it up. (I’m not sure the WA even did a thorough review of 2000s. Daniel Thomasses was handling Piedmont at the time and no review of the 2001s ever appeared.)

I agree that 98 was underappreciated, and I’ve had some nice wines (Brovia Rocche comes to mind). But it’s generally seen as a couple of notches down from 96, 99, 01, 04, 06 and 08. Most Barolo lovers would put 2000 and 1997 below that.

I’m with Thomas. I have Barolo and Barbaresco from 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2004. I deliberately bought 2000 Aldo Conterno Granbussia and passed on the others so I don’t have to wait another 20 years before I can open any of them.

I’ve had the 2000 Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra x 2. Liked them both. Great with yakitori. I also have a couple of 2006s that I guess I won’t be able to open for 20-30 years.

What he said!

Except that Bruno Giacosa has said that his 2000s are the best he has made. Ironically, his last Santo Stefano Riserva was in 1998 and both his Falletto Barolos are terrific wines in 1998.

It would be a great theme for a tasting to pair up the 1998 and 2000 of multiple wines and compare them blind.

Not that I’m an expert but I second what John said. I was managing an Italian restaurant at the time these vintages were being released and Sucklings praise of the 2000 vintage did more to ruin his credibility than any other asinine statement he had made to date. Insiders generally considered 96,99 and 01 to be great while 97 and 2000 were thought to be soft. Restaurant wines if you will. 98 was thought to be good but not great. Stylistically somewhere in the middle. Really this vintage was under appreciated from the start.

But, but, 2000 was the first ever 100 vintage! :wink:

I’m a hunnert points on that.

Didn’t Wine Spectator give the 1998 Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra a huge score? I think Suckling gave it 99 points or something like that.

What he said.
In Barbaresco:
2000 Asili Riserva is profound and will certainly go the distance!
1998 Santo Stefano Riserva…the same!

In Barolo lies the difference:
2000 Rocche Riserva the same!
1998 Not at the same level,but still very fine


Exactly, though I would add that 1999 took a few years to gain recognition.

I’ll just add the point that simply because “the critics” rate Vintage A higher than Vintage B DOESN’T mean that every producer’s Vintage A is automatically “better” than that same producer’s Vintage B. It’s yet another reason why people need to take overall vintage ratings with a tremendous grain of whatever seasoning floats your boat.


Fair point, I probably tend to lump the publications together too much…although didn’t Wine Advocate similarly fall for 1997 (or was that Spectator too?)? I agree the other vintages listed above are big steps up from '00 and '97…and the '98 is really just a very useful vintage–good to drink relatively early, but provides a lot of thrill compared to '97/'00s.

For me '04 is possibly my favorite… I understand the reputation of '96 amongst the “traditionalist” camp, but I’m personally a wee bit skeptical–I think it may be too far in the other direction from the '00/'97 and may always show structure without expressiveness (time will tell, but other than the Giacosas the ones I’ve tried have seemed pretty severe). To me the '04 has the perfect balance of beauty and brawn…

Yes, Parker was big on 97 at first and seemed to imply that he liked it almost as much as 96, but he backed away somewhat from that later, and then delegated coverage of Piedmont to Thomasses and then Galloni.

Though I don’t follow the WS, I recall that you are right that they did score the '98 highly. Tanzer also scored this '98 from barrel as 93-96.

I love the '98 and my personal score on it is 96 points (from a while back). One of the bottles I tried was at a Piedmont tasting dinner where some big guns were poured (Gaja, Giacosa, etc.) This '98 Clerico was WOTN for many present.

Here’s something that will mystify the OP (I am also mystified by this)…Gilman apparently rates this '98 Clerico at 68 points. [scratch.gif]



I thought that happened with his comments on 1997 Tuscans newhere

A lot of people are still wedded to the idea that 97 was great there.

What was it about 97 that made critics go nutty? Remember Rovani loving the 97 Burgundies?

for the general public I agree. I had a wholesaler with a killer palate and she declared 99 superior to 2000 and in fact all of the previous vintages immediately. That was heresy at the time.

As far as Suckling on the 97 Tuscans I will say this, running an Italian restaurant in Chicago the 97’s went down easy for the public so they were an easy sell and customers loved them. Personally I think the 2000 Piedmont wines suck. Just my opinion of course.

When I was in the Langhe in 2002, people were not particularly talking up the 99s. The 96s were still the benchmark at that stage. I had to discern for myself that they were better than the 98s, and at that stage (with a year less aging on the 99s), the difference wasn’t extreme. When I returned in 2004 in 2005, I was offered some 99s to taste. I think by then the quality was evident.