Friday, June 16, 2006

A Revisionist Judgment of the Judgment of Paris

Those who follow Dan Berger's column know that the author has shown growing discontent with his perception of overripeness in California wines. His, to my mind, rather odd interpretation of the 2006 (re)Judgment of Paris reflects what I can only think to be a rather bizarre slant on this tasting.

To wit: " was assumed one reason (that the California wines won) was that the evaluators in 1976 had pretty much ignored the terroir aspect of the judging and simply voted on which wines were best."

This strikes me as a profound statement. Profoundly odd, that is. If one believes that wines can be judged in a competitive setting (as Mr. Berger must as he has served as a judge in thousands of them), then wouldn't it necessarily follow that the criteria for determining the best wine is to agree on which is best? If a competition were held to determine the wine that the most austere, flinty, earthy, barnyardy, what-have-you, then I could see a terroir-based competition. However, if one is to have a competition (which implies a winner), mustn't one vote for the wine one believes is best?

Revisionist history notwithstanding, I can't see the relevance of applauding the French wines of 1976 with a posthumous pat on the back for exhibiting terroir since the judges at the competition were French and believed they were voting for French wines! (read the
Judgment of Paris for the full story)

Applauding the French vintners for keeping terroir, but losing the competition is akin to congratulating Dennis Rodman for his new tattoo and piercing, despite his team being outscored by 40 points.



Blogger caveman said...


I think the point that he was making is that more recent vintages of many Californian Cabs have become riper than the 1976 vintages tasted. From personal experience, I have seen early 80's bottlings in much better shape, and much more interesting, than those made in the late 90's. One can't deny that there has been a move towards an even softer, even riper style that is even more identifiable and detestable to my taste,in the non-trophy wines.

But Cali won so congrats to them.

MWhat I most agree with is his assessment of WS and their critique of the 02 Insignia, which I could level at other top choices by WS.. I am still confused about the 03 Oreno coming in #6.. I had lunch with the vineyard manager from Setti Ponti and even he thought it was over-ripe and too soft...Despite what one may think about the concept of terroir and Berger's perspective, I am glad that more wine professionals are starting to stand up and critiquing the reviewers...they have gone unchecked for too long now.

June 17, 2006 5:37 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...


Your other points may or may not be true, but they really aren't my point.

If you have a competition to determine the "best" wine and "best" is defined as "best tasting" then its pretty silly to go back and say that so-and-so should have won because, although it didn't taste as good, it had a feature (terroir) that, while it didn't help it taste better, exhibited itself in a more pronounced way.

I think a competition between Bx and California and Napa is a silly exercise, but if you're going to have a competition (and be a judge!) you should stick to the agreed rules.


June 20, 2006 10:03 AM  

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