The WSJ reviews 2006 First Growths

I don’t have a link with me, but a pretty damning article
this week by the WSJ on 2006 firsts. I haven’t tasted them, but is this them tasting what’s in the bottle, or just hating on the wines looking to write an article like this?

For what it is, I generally am a fan of their articles.

Yeah, they tore the First Growth’s up.

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I am not at all. I find them to be the most pointless of all wine reviewers as they have never been to a wine producing country, never visited a producer and completely eliminate context from all of their tasting analysis. They don’t have the desire to either. I’d rather read Jay Miller . . . rolleyes

Link to the article:

I’ve never read them before, but it sounds like these two, DOROTHY J. GAITER and JOHN BRECHER, taste the first growths every year, going back to at least 1997, for a review. They make some pretty strong statements:

These wines, as a group, are the worst values in first growth Bordeaux we’ve ever seen

“the 2005s were outrageous. We paid an average of $1,329 a bottle for them.”

I’d like to see the receipts. Until I do, I’ll file these reviews under “H” for hack job.

I have a somewhat different take than my friend Lyle.

Most wine drinkers, even drinkers of the finest wines, haven’t been to visit the producers. Most haven’t even been to the vineyards let alone even the region. How many wealthy people in the world (I’m not talking about the microcosm of the folks on this and similar wine boards) who drink these wines have even been to Bordeaux? Maybe 5%?

The authors of this article intend the article for a wide range of wine drinkers, and they–as journalists–write what they like and what they don’t like. That’s fine with me. They don’t pretend to be Parker, Tanzer or Meadows–they’re “regular people” writing for “regular people.” I have no problem with that.

Their take on the wines is as valuable as any other “regular” wine drinker’s opinion to me. I find their conclusion that the 06’s aren’t up to the standards the pricing would suggest is reasonable and its good to be out there in the public domain.

It sounds a bit elitist (and I know my good friend Lyle isn’t…but it can come across as, even if unintended) to expect them to travel to all these places. I don’t think they’re aiming for that level of critique. Their reportage is…“we liked it” or “we didn’t like it.” And I think there’s a place for that.

I think Lyle’s comment was TIC.


I normally can’t stand their stuff, but this was an excellent article. The main problem with their writing has always been the Mr. Rogers-style dumbed-down tone. Sure, they write for a business newspaper and not a wine mag, but if a wine mag ever ran a Gaiter-and-Brecher style business column it would read something like this: “Investing can be exciting! The first step towards building a great investment portfolio is to buy some stocks. Some will go up, and some will go down, but that’s OK. You’re not Warren Buffett, you’re just getting started. Find the stocks that go up and buy more of them. You’ll be glad you did!”

The other thing that ticks me off about them is their faux-populist rating system. It’s even worse than the 100-point scale because it uses words rather than numbers to imply it’s some kind of qualitative rather than quantitative judgment, but since the words are fixed and have a pre-defined hierarchy it’s the same damn univariate scale, just with fewer points. Whereas the fault with the 100-point scale is its pretense of mathematical exactitude, the fault with their scale is its pretense of descriptiveness - as if every great wine is something you might describe as “DELICIOUS” rather any of the other thousands of superlatives available in the English language. They should just be honest and use stars but I guess the concern when you talk to readers with Mr. Rogers language is that they haven’t all learned to count up to 5.


Not elitist at all. I believe you have misconstrued my statement. I expect wine critics or wine writers to have been at least some places to provide and add additional perspective. I would never presume readers of the column to travel to wine regions, but I want my critics, experts, etc. to be well versed on the subject, especially If I am plunking down $1329 for a 2005 1st growth.

I want film critics to see a range of the classics of film, book critics to be well-versed in a breadth of literature, critics of architecture to have been, walked around and existed in great works of architecture etc. I feel it comes with the territory.

These two just drink wine at home, have never travelled as far as I know and have the same idiotic perspective of most people on wine, except their wine gets paid for and they get paid to write about it. At least have some depth, as you are the wine critics for the wall street journal. This also brings up another interesting point between the “consumer advocate” vs. the critic. Surely there are different standards? If they are “consumer advocates” I guess they do an ok job but for critics . . . [bleh.gif]


I thought your comment was at least partly tongue in cheek.


Nope…would have used an emoticon.

It brings an interesting debate to the role in wine of “critic” vs. “consumer advocate” and their roles and more importantly qualifications.

I’ve learned the hard way that when I disagree with Lyle, I am usually ultimately proved wrong. [help.gif]

But my take is still that–a journalist–can in a valid way review a product (movie, meal, wine) without experience in filmmaking, visiting farms from which the produce comes, or the vineyards. Sure, I want a “real” critic to visit these places and producers (part of why people are upset with Miller, for example) but I still think there’s a place for a “regular person’s” take on wine from the bottle. But I do agree with Lyle that one can put more weight on a true critic if they have been to the places themselves.

In science, the results of a study will generalize best to the population that was studied. In wine, why can’t a regular person with a good palate give their impressions of the wines they taste? They’re take may be shared by “regular” wine drinkers. Just know they’re not a professional, full time critic like, say, Tanzer or Raynolds.

Lyle, do you disagree with their conclusion?
Just curious…


I have not tasted the first growths from 2006 so cannot offer an opinion one way or another. I actually haven’t tasted Bordeaux first growths since the 2002 vintage. Not where my interest lies. I will agree with one thing they said is that they are extremely expensive when compared to 1997 or 2001.

It’s what makes it interesting . . . neener

Lyle I think you’ve mixed your qualifiers for critics to a certain extent. Film critics traditionally have not visited sets, visited
writers, directors, actors, etc, mostly they sit in a dark room and view the completed work. Of course, they usually learn something about the making of the movie, but It doesn’t mean that readers judge the quality of criticism based on that.
I think if I had been tasting wines professionally for 20+ years sitting in a room in Manhattan, my opinion would have merit. Actually they never review unfinished wine, that is in their favor IMO.

I don’t have strong opinions about these two but some of the criticisms voiced here seem kinda petty. They taste plenty of wine, they are thoughtful, they write with a consistent “voice”; in other words they seem professional and competent for the job their editors seem to want them to do. It doesn’t bother me that they aren’t aggressively working to position themselves as arch insiders and expert authorities. We have those and they can get pretty tiresome.

This seemed pretty straight forward. First Growths have climbed dramatically in price, and, in the context of FGs, the 06s are not worthy. That does not surprise me, I would be suspicious if they had said otherwise. At those prices the bar is almost unreachable. Does anybody think they are way off on this assessment?

I wonder if more and more such ‘consumer’ reviews come out, how will the professional establishments that rated them quite highly respond?

I’m sure the pros will be dismissive of differing opinions.