TN: Blind "Price Test"

It is always fun to do a blind (single/double) tasting like this. Certainly, the pricier wines seemed to rise to the top, but the tasting also raised some eyebrows about whether the pricier wines (even if they rose to the top) were “worth” the quantitative difference and then there was the Colin-Morey Chevy. Not a bad bottle. Just a disappointing wine (on this night).

BLIND PRICE TEST - Our House (2033 Brandywine) (11/12/2011)

The concept here is straightforward. 4 flights. In each flight, the wines are from the same region or sub-climate – we got as specific as we could based on what we had in our respective cellars. One wine had a retail price of approx, $20-30, one wine had a retail price of approx. $50+ and one wine had a retail price of approx. $100. The wines were either single blind or double blind.
Non-Blind Starters

The Leflaive was the consensus favorite here. The Chevy was a big disappointment. Unfortunately, it was my only bottle so it will be impossible to know whether this will one day evolve into something better. From one of my favorite white Burgundy producers, I’m not sure what to make of this.

  • 2005 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chevalier-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Mystified by this wine. It was tasted in a single blind flight with a Leflaive 07 Bourgogne and a Girardin 07 Folatieres. This was certainly not the top wine in the flight and arguably was 3rd. Scratching my head. Re-tasted and confirmed. Less depth and concentration here than even the Bourgogne. It had a good amount of green apple. Not much oak presence at all. Some cram and spice, and moderate acidity. However, this lacked punch on the palate and went out with a whimper on the finish. Really stunned when this was revealed. Maybe it needs time. Maybe I need to taste thru the Colin-Morey wines a bit more (although I really enjoy their lower end 1er Crus). Whatever the case may, this was a massive disappointment. We have a bottle of the 04 remaining. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc - France, Burgundy, Bourgogne Blanc
    Definitely one to seek out. QPR even at the 35-40 price. Outperformed the Chevy and Folatieres. A surprise to everyone. Oily and viscous. Darker color. Fruity, spicy, floral and nutty nose. A lot going on. Nutty with subtle orchard fruits and almond or hazelnut. Its possible this may be a shorter term wine and is in a sweet spot right now. Very nice concentration and dept. Solid. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Lighter fruit profile. Light orchard fruit, mineral driven and a bit crisp. Floral note and wet stone. The Leflaive Bourgogne had more punch, depth and concentration. This was a more delicate wine. (91 pts.)

California Syrah
The Lillian had apparently just been bottled and shipped so that may explain why it was so disjointed. I did not score it. The Burgess is not recommended – occasionally Burgess can produce a nice value wine. This is not one of them. Carlisle continues to excel.

  • 2007 Lillian Winery Syrah Blue Label - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    This had a very nice profile, but it was disjointed. We observed that it may be because it was recently bottled. It had some of the stuffing you would associated with a good syrah, but it did not taste right. It was not off by any stretch, but it was not all together. Deep dense fruit, mocha, but everything was not in its right place. Give this time to settle.
  • 2005 Burgess Syrah Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Lease favorite wine of the night. It was very green. Lacked not only depth and complexity but it was very short on the typical Syrah notes. Dominated by green notes and too much acidity. (79 pts.)
  • 2008 Carlisle Syrah Papa’s Block - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    A year since our previous bottle of this. Maybe it has mellowed a bit based on our previous notes. It has what I enjoy in a Carlisle Syrah. Their goal is not subtlety but at the same time, they do not seem out to make over the top wines. We had this double blind. Darker blue fruits, espresso like color, a touch of mocha. Good sweetness. I think the consensus appreciated this wine the most in the flight. (92 pts.)

2005 Left Bank Bordeaux
The Pontet Canet needs more time, but it should be a stellar wine for years to come. The Cantenac-Brown is a very solid wine, although I’m a bit concerned that the initial reasons I enjoyed this wine so much may be fading as it becomes more secondary. Will have to wait and see what happens in a few years/

  • 2005 Château Haut-Beauséjour - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    In the 85-87 range. Lighter thin red fruit. Not a bad nose. Lacked concentration and complexity on the palate and was a bit disjointed. Red fruit profile. Good enough to drink but not a keeper. (86 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Cantenac Brown - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    This is showing some evolution from the last time I had it. It has moved from a lush more fruit forward wine to something a bit more austere, with some secondary development emerging. The nice purple fruit is still there, but this has a bit more of an earthy, tobacco and mineral type feel to it on the palate. A solid wine that should continue to evolve very well for the next decade at least. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Château Pontet-Canet - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    With time, this is going to prove to be an absolutely stunning bottle of wine. Still a bit austere on this night. It took some time to open up. Darker fruit slowly emerged. Framed by fine tannins. Cocoa powder, dark berries and cigar box nose and palate. I was surprised because this was not a jammy fruit bomb as some have come to say about Pontet-Canet. There was good acidity to this and a touch of mineral cutting through the fruit. All in all, it was well balanced. The next bottle should not see the light of day for at least 3 years, probably longer. (94 pts.)

Vintage Port
This was an unfair fight. Simple as that.

  • 1997 Osborne Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto
    In the 86-88 range. Not a bad example of a mid-level 97 vintage port. A much “redder” color and fruit profile than the 94 Quinta. Fruity and spicy, but there is a bit too much alcohol. Thinner than the Quinta, and it pales in comparison side by side. On its own, though, this would be a fine wine. (85 pts.)
  • 1994 Quinta do Noval Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto
    This is a 94+ with miles to go. Right now it is a bit forward. Dark color. Chocolate covered dark fruit. Great depth and concentration. The alcohol is well integrated. Still very young. Fantastic port. (94 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Nice night, Josh - I also like Colin-Morey qute a bit, so it is too bad that the wine didn’t “show” for your tasting.

Nice experiment. I’m a strong believer in there being a correlation between price and quality (or simply enjoyment). But the gains are marginal once you get into Veblen land. The cost difference is mostly a very expensive form of drinker’s insurance.

The math for me is simple enough. I can buy a $100 bottle. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be very good to excellent with a little research. But I can also buy 2.5 to 4 bottles in the $25-$40 range. Chances are at least one of those bottles will be really ‘on.’ The others being ‘premium’ wines will at least be very pleasant to drink. I’d rather have a nice bottle (with potential upside and a large variance) with dinner weekly than hold out for one wine every 3-4 weeks.

It’s a sort of wine game theory from my perspective. If price is no object, then you should always buy the most expensive wines within your stylistic window. You cannot win with cheap wine because the industrial grape processing simply does not allow for individual expression. The middle ground you have to play the odds while knowing the minimum acceptable quality level that’s tolerable.

I think in general, the price/quality correlation is increasingly divorced upwards of around $40-$50. It’s possible, but not easy, to find $15 wines that compare favorably with $40 wines. But when you’re talking $40 or $100, it’s not really always obvious. It’s why, in any blind tasting I organize, I always have multiple price points.

I have been inclined to make this point too but I think we are just stating our own level. I’m sure there are people out there who would make a similar argument that La Tache is the top of the QPR curve and it goes out the window for Romanee Conti. There will be others who find great $10 wines and say the $20 wines may be better but can’t justify their price. In the end I feel that this is mostly about how much money you have to spend and what you care about in the wine, rather than any real discontinuity in the QPR scale.

New Year’s resolution - start drinking more often with the guy that believes La Tache is the top of the QPR curve [cheers.gif] [wink.gif]

I like the idea. Thanks for doing it and for posting.

Do you have the prices of each wine handy? I could look them up, but if you have them at your fingertips, that would be cool.

Question: I am understanding that when one of the more expensive wines underperforms, people find an explanation to give it a pass?

Also, are people doing blind tastings in price group flights? Is that to protect expensive wines from being beaten by more moderately priced ones?

Perhaps I read it wrong. [stirthepothal.gif]