The J. Miller Blind Tasting Theory

I keep noticing that people argue that no one is tasting blind. WS is founded on the principal that all published scores are tasted blind unless otherwise noted. And blind doesn’t mean at the winery. It means in a NY or CA office tasting brown bagged wines of X or Y variet(y/al). That’s why I compared Miller’s scores to WS…non-blind v. actually blind blind.

While I’m sure Jay Miller has a good palate, just like you, me, and many people on this board, I want to see if his “good palate” is subject to the subtle power of tasting wines non-blind.

I picked Jay Miller for what I considered fairly obvious reasons…he is surrounded by scandal right now, and faces allegations that he was getting benefits from Spanish DOs and wineries. There is also a significant body of articles addressing his propensity for tasting in the presence of wine reps from the regions he is tasting, giving them updates as he tastes, and listening to significant information about the wines, regions, and wineries he is tasting through…as he is tasting through them.

Ever been to a wine tasting where one person who is a “wine guy” says, “the volcanic soil contributes to that nice smoky flavor. Do you get that?” Whether it’s total BS or not, the guy two seats over goes, “oh yeah, nice smoke notes for sure.” I want to see if that type of thing is a factor. Showing a lack of score variability can suggest that to be the case.

Obviously, the sample set will have to be limited (I have a day job that I should be working on right this second) and the test inherently imperfect. Still, I think it can show interesting trends in wine tasting, scoring, score inflation, and the (potential) decrease in variability caused by scoring wines non-blind.

We’ll see though. I’ve gone through about 20 wines so far with fairly surprising results (especially in Oregon, where Miller’s tastes for pinot noir seem to differ from his tastes for other types of wine, i.e., DS Evanstad getting panned consistently).

I for one am not at all sure he has a good palate (defined as one I can trust) but he is in the majority to the extent he knows what he is tasting when he tastes it. I have not seen anyone claim that “no one is tasting blind.” I have seen lots of folks say that it is by far less common.

See Kevin Shin: “I don’t know of any influential critics who taste blind.”

Sorry about the semi-hyperbole, Neal. You got me. [worship.gif]

You should know that almost no one is influential as far as Kevin is concerned. HE is the oracle!

As far as I know James Laube is the only one who claims to taste blind. WS tasting blind, not sure whether that is the case. TWA said this in the past but they no longer taste blind except Neal Martin. Evaluating young wines blind comes with a great deal of liability for the critics.

Yeah, and Neal M tastes blind only rarely.

I just want to know how you have so much free time.

I think Larry is right. The only true way to see if someone can be unbiased when not tasting blind would be to compare that same reviewers blind and non-blind scores. And I don’t think that data exists - at least not for our consumption.

The idea of tracking scores to price is interesting to me, since there is IMHO an inherent bias towards scoring a higher priced wine more by virtue of knowing it is the higher priced wine, and by a wider margin. So, I would expect to see more correlation of price and score in non-blind conditions. If not, then maybe the reviewer can be somewhat objective.

Does anyone else feel the need to just let this go? Just hard to imagine this effort being the best use of anyone’s time…

All depends on your purpose. I have no wish to trash one taster or another. But just for fun I’ve done a few tastings where the wines had at least a 7 point difference, just for the hell of it.

Because I want to calibrate my palate? Not at all. As a consumer, I don’t really need someone else to tell me about Spanish wine. It was more just to see where I came out, because I was scoring blind. For the most part, and maybe it was just caution because I knew that there was a difference in scores, I tended to align with the lower score, no matter who gave it.

THere’s nothing to “prove” and everyone will come out differently, but I don’t think it’s a waste of time any more than any other theme might be.

Just for the record, ALL of the tastings for the California Grapevine wine newsletter are blind. We are the oldest continuously published wine newsletter in the United States. We are also (sigh) the least known wine newsletter. Shamelss self plug is now over.

Yeah. My wife and I were at Phelps a few years back when he was tasting a vertical of all of the Insignias. I’m sure he had no idea what he was drinking.

And those scores aren’t published…

Exactly my point. It is so easy to miss a Lafite in single bind and rate it mid 80s. Simply too much liability.

BTW, in general it easier to evaluate cal cab, domestic shiraz and southern rhone blind than bordeaux and burgundy.