GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

What is wrong with this note

Original post by Gregory Dal Piaz, Apr 12, 2011.

"-- The 2007 ----- is 100% Tinto Fino aged for 24 months in French and American barriques. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it emits a super-fragrant bouquet of pain grille, pencil lead, Asian spices, black cherry, and blackberry. Dense and opulent on the palate, this loaded effort is succulent, pure, and exceptionally lengthy. It will evolve for 6-8 years and offer a drinking window extending from 2016 to 2032."

Where to begin? I like the last sentence which generously informs us that the wine will evolve for 6-8 years, 4 of which will be required to move the wine to its drinking window, where it will continue to evolve for 2-4 yers before freezing in stasis for 12 more years, then it will no longer be in its drinking window.

Where it might be is unspecified but based on its glass coating qualities, denseness, opulence, and slathering of oak most likely in my toilet well before then, having not had the please of passing through my kidneys i might add.

At least I know enough to read this and know I want to avoid this wine at all costs. Pity the point chaser, Actually, nah.

Bonus score for guessing how many points this was annointed with.

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Reply by GregT, Apr 13, 2011.

Engines of innovation - needs to be the title of your next book.

I'd say that conglomerates and big owners have in fact contributed a hell of a lot.  Let's think about it.  You have a guy and a horse and a few acres of vines. He's out there every day doing something or another.  Harvest comes and he takes the grapes into his garage and presses them and makes some wine.  He does this every year and passes the business to his kids.

What does he not do?  He probably doesn't invest in research.  He probaboly doesn't fund science that will tell him exactly how the grapes metabolize the various carbohydrates during the season and how that may differ after veraison, he probably doesn't understand what it is that destroys the methoxypyrazines that make his wines taste green and he probably doesn't experiment with split canopies or anything other than what he's been doing all his life.  As a result, he never figures out that he may be able to double his yield and at the same time improve the quality of the wine. 

None of that is to fault him - there's only so much a person can do.  And that's the problem isn't it?  When you have extra people, some can specialize.  So we need not all hunt and gather today - only a few people need produce food which frees others up to invent computers.  In a similar way, the winery that's run by a guy and his son or daughter may be just fine.  Or it may not be.  The last few days I've tasted a few hundred wines from all CA, France, and Spain - many made by the small peasant types.  A lot of those wines just sucked. Refigeration, distribution, quality control - maybe the big companies can do that better.

But Keynsian Waste vs Schumpeterian Waste?  Please start a new thread if we get into that!!


Reply by dmcker, Apr 13, 2011.

Well you can pick up that last ball and run with it (or bat it back at me) a while if you want, Greg. I'm not going to press that on the community unless I know there's someone else to put on a spectacle with.

How much do you think the best winemakers need what a conglomerate provides? As with SV, which is more about being the nearly perfect machine for getting innovative products to market rather than doing the basic research in the first place, if we have the scientific knowhow as a commonly available platform (and I suppose there are a few out there who may not even need it), where, again, do the conglomerates come in? I'm not talking about investors/backers, but the big combines. All I see is an exit strategy for someone who wants to cash in....

Reply by napagirl68, Apr 13, 2011.

@ gregT-

Hmm.. perhaps the site I jumped to when trying to solve the mystery was incorrect... it was here:  (Granted, a Danish site hence the odd translation, but they do call it out as an RP rating:

Aalto 2007....kongen af Ribera del Duero.. Distrikt: Ribera Del Duero Land: Spanien Årgang: 2007 Type: Red wine

Robert Parker 95/100

The 2007 Aalto is 100% Tinto Fino aged for 24 months in French and American barriques. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it emits a super-fragrant bouquet of pain grille, pencil lead, Asian spices, black cherry, and blackberry. Dense and opulent on the palate, this loaded effort is succulent, pure, and exceptionally lengthy. It will evolve for 6-8 years and offer a drinking window extending from 2016 to 2032.

Bodegas y Vinedos Aalto is a partnership between Mariano Garcia and Javier Zaccagnini. The fruit for Aalto is sourced from seven different villages with vines ranging in age from 40 to100 years.

Perhaps they meant Wine Advocate vs. Parker himself?... If so, I stand corrected.  Funny, tho.... How I found the wine was to punch in Parker, since this reminded me of something he'd write...


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Apr 14, 2011.

GregT & Dmcker

Lots to digest but let me try and summarise.

Greg's point about specialisation rings true based on my experience in the wine industry.  Certainly in Australia the innovation in the 90's that lead to the export boom was driven by a combination of well constructed clean wineries and the exceptional distribution platform of Pernod Ricard.  Pernod had long understood the importance of distribution as did many generations of French negociants.  In fact if you look at a lot of the consistent well performing Burgundies they are backed by the distribution strength of a good negociant.  Bordeaux is somewhat different as the major classified Chateaus are relatively large businesses backed by owners with considerable financial resources and business acumen, Rothschilds, Lurton, Mentzopolous, LVMH etc etc

The Australian wine world from a brand persective is driven by Pernod & Fosters at the corporate level. Constellation which has recently sold 80% of its assets to a PE group here called Champ which has ties with Castle Harlin.  Not a lot of real Brand Power in Constellation.  Casella with Yellowtail are family owned and I guess are Australias answer to the Gallo brothers and Australian Vintage is predominantly a home brand maker for the supermarket chains.  These guys represent about 75% of volume.

We then have a strong tier of large family comapnies with between 10m to 250m in sales revenue


De Bortoli

Brown Bros

Jim Barry





+ others

Each of these companies + Pernod and Fosters have contributed to significantly building the quality end of our market and Innovation has come in many forms.  From blending, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet, lots of boring work in the vine nurseries on clone selection winery labs on hygiene and yeasts, winery layouts to minimise spoilage risk.  More interesting experimenting with barrel selection by grape variety by region.  New vineyard regions, new varieties etc etc.

Innovation is an interesting word which often gets narrowly defined and restricted to the start up world.  I spent 4 years as a First Tuesday Leader in Adelaide running networking forums for start up entrepreneurs, who firmly believed they had first right usage to the term innovation.  But innovation has many parents and assorted offspring [some illegitimate I suspect].

The Screw Cap revolution started because a group of Australian Riesling makers in Clare got sick of a 5-10% cork taint problem and riesling is so sensitive to taint the the merest with of TCA will kill a riesling. The Clare Winemakers group kept a reasonably solid set of data and in the 1995-2000 period the incidence was between 5-10% so that drove them to brave the market push back - now no Australian Riesling is in Cork to me that is a good example of innovation.

D - as your experience tells you big corporates can also make some really stupid decisions based on short term profit motives and exec bonus structures, so I certainly see both sides from the wine corporates.  on the plus - innovation, specialisation, scale, R&D etc etc, on the negative - short term decision making, executives with little or no understanding of wine business cycles, paying to much goodwill and then making dumb decisions to try and justify a stupid acquisition decision.

As to Keynes V Schumpeter, I will wait to you or Greg start the playoffs on that one

On your question of the Napa acquisitions, most of those were pre Fosters buys by the Beringer management team.  my understanding was that they wanted to create a premium to luxury Napa/Sonoma/Cali stable under the Beringer banner and to build those brands based on the Beringer footprint both in the US and overseas.

I think the original Fosters reasoning for buying Berringer was to get access to the US market and spread its geographical risk - nothing particularly unsound in the reasoning.

Fosters Wine Group is an aggregation of Australian Wine Brands which began in the 70's when SA Brewing bought Seppelt, Kaiser Stuhl and some others. In 1989-90 It bought Penfolds and then sold its brewery to Lion Nathan [now Kirin].  It then Changed its name to Southcorp and merged in the early 2000's with Rosemount.

CUB [Fosters] bought Mildara in the 80's and then Wolf Blass Wines to form Mildara Blass which acquired Berringer in the 90's [I think] to form Berringer Blass.  It then took over Southcorp in 2006 to create Fosters Wines.  Fosters and its Wine business Treasury Wine Estates are now about to sperate into a beer company and a wine company.  Such is the corporate merry go round.  In this round robin of acquisitions Goodwill of $6B appeared and dissappeared into the corporate abyss [as did $1.5B in the Constellation transaction].

The amazing part of this corporate rollercoaster is that some very dedicated winemaking teams still managed to produce some outstanding examples of Australian Wine - particularly under the Penfolds label.  Including some really interesting new wines using Spanish and Italian grape varieties and some very good white wines - particularly the white grange project with chardonnay.

Reply by GregT, Apr 14, 2011.
Edited Apr 14, 2011

@Napagirl - it's Jay.  Parker hasn't tasted Spanish wine for reviews for a number of years. He had Pierre Rovani and then replaced him with Jay. 

Last year Parker was hired to do an appearance in Rioja.  He decided to do a tasting of Garnacha around the world.  Apparently had no idea that they don't do Garnacha in Rioja and the people who ponied up for the event were POd, so at the last minute he got Riscal to throw in some old Rioja for him to talk about. They gave him an award though - his early scores in the high 90s for some wines that were new to the market got people talking about Spain, particularly Priorat. So they're still grateful for that.

The guy who put on that event is the guy who they engaged to teach Jay about Spanish wine. That came after a bit of an outcry regarding his lack of knowledge. The guy, Pancho, is the first MW in Spain and is a bit controversial.  He's been smart tho - taking Jay to places that he himself has never visited or has never been able to get into. So he's educating himself as much as anything.

I have mixed feelings about Jay's position - some of the other writers for WA that came in at the same time were hired precisely because they knew their regions really well, much as Parker knows the Rhone.  Of them, Mark didn't know squat about Portugal or Greece but he instantly set about learning all he could and was honest about his approach and growing appreciation.  Jay was hired to be a taster, not an authority on Spain or its wines.  The WA seemed to have zero interest in Spain in general and for a few years Jay was reviewing the wines and making all kinds of gaffes until Parker told him to go to visit the country once or twice. Anyhow, Jay seems to like super ripe and extracted stuff from anywhere.  E.g., he gave 100 points to the 2007 Quilceda Creek, which I tasted blind and thought it was an overdone, $30 CA Cab. I'm definitely selling mine to the people who need that 100 point score to know whether they like a wine.

Parker has also given up CA as of a couple months ago.  But since he was identified with WA for so long, people always use his name even though he had nothing to do with most of the scores.  In China and Europe, a number of people know who he is but nobody knows who Jay is. Same thing happens in the US.  You can punch in Parker's name for Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, South America, South Africa, the Loire, Burgundy, Washington, and you'll get the scores from his writers - Jay Miller, Mark Squires, Lisa Perotti-Brown, David Schildneckt, and Antonio Galloni because Parker hasn't tasted any of those for review for years now.  As of a few months ago, he only does Bordeaux and the Rhone and - he says - retrospective tastings.  He's in his 60s, has just had knee replacement, has gout, is overweight, and has plenty of money from books and appearances.

D - I'm way out of my league if you're talking about those two guys - trying to read Keynes was worse than reading Joyce!  However, he did have a few great bons mots.

Reply by Nancy Hawks Miller, Apr 14, 2011.

Pain grille is a pretty good tip off that it's Parker or a Parker wannabe ripping him off. He loves that descriptor. Fun one, Gregroy!

Reply by dmcker, Apr 14, 2011.

Stephen, excellent survey of the Australian wine industry experience, as per usual. But I think we need to talk a lot more about 'innovation', even if it brings up questionable memories... ;-)

I'll try to get back to this when I have more time.

Reply by Winemaven, Apr 15, 2011.

I may be missing something here but:

the wine was reviewed by Jay Miller (as has been noted here earlier). It was reviewed in 2010--the date of the tasting note so I see no problem or confusion with the drinking window.

Pain grille is toasted or grilled bread. It is a note one often finds in a number of wines. Andrew Sharp cites it in his "Wine Taster's Secrets" (I recommend it highly).

Garnacha is most certainly "found" in Rioja. In fact, it is fairly widely planted there and is sometimes blended into Tempranillo to add body to the wines. (see the Oxford). It is also the predominant grape in the many rose's from Rioja. The anecdote about Parker and the grenache "tour" seems a rather bizarre.

The glass coating reference is often used to describe unctuous dense full bodied wines by any number of respected critics.

The rating? Miller's (Parker's) system is clearly defined. It is what it is. I should note that Tanzer (and many others) rates the wine quite highly. In fact Jancis Robinson site offers the following from Tamlin Curran:

Belongs to Mariano García - Vega Sicilia’s winemaker for 30 years. 40- to 100-year-old vines, all bush vines, grapes bought in from seven villages. He didn't make any PS (his top wine) in 2007. 

SO perfumed! Velvety and rich with lavish mid-palate density. Dry, with sweet plum fruit and exotic spice. Velvety tannins and reverberating length. So exciting. (TC) 

She scored the wine 17.5 (a very solid score). 

I must also say I found the comments about the wine suited for  the "toilette" to be less than professional. I admit I don't care for snarky wine writing. (it's a style thing). It is clear that the writer does not appreciate this style of wine. Regardless of style, the wine (I have had a number of other vintages) is an excellent wine with a great track record.

The note by Miller appears to be pretty accurate in conveying the style of the wine. Other critics seem to agree.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 16, 2011.
Edited Apr 16, 2011

My comments in those early posts were about pretentiousness, preciousness and imprecision in the writing itself, not the tasting per se. English has plain words like 'toast' which work just fine instead of the ridiculous (in English) 'pain grille'. My comment about the color coating the glass was a reference to the fact that rather the wine (with color) does. If the taster/reviewer wants to write poetry than he's going to have to up his game considerably. I wasn't really commenting on the wine itself, and the reviewer's content regarding his tasting, just the way he presented it.

I also agreed with Greg in his OP when I thought the drinking window estimation was a bit creaky, which is what drove my comment in that direction. Without knowing the reviewer, I would immediately have been on my guard regarding his recommendations in that area from the way he presented them.

I would think that 'snarky' is more an attitude than a 'style' thing. I'm with Greg in his OP, as well as others further down the thread, who think that certain types of tasting notes have gone way over the top--in terms of the styles of wine they promote, of course, but that's not even what we're originally talking about here, which is rather the style of their presentation. Just because Parker's organization uses a certain scale, or someone under the aegis of his name and sanction says something about a wine or reviews it in a certain way, doesn't make those utterances, observations or approaches sacrosanct. And people who seem to think that Jancis or RP, or someone in his organization, are the be-all and end-all of wine appreciation and understanding definitely have more than an attitude issue....

Reply by GregT, Apr 16, 2011.

Winemaven - did anyone say Garnacha was not "found" in Rioja?  I must have missed that.  I'm not sure why anyone needs to consult the Oxford book. But if you're interested in books, consult one of Keven Zraly's early versions of the Windows on the World course for some misleading information. 

The anecdote about the Garnacha "tour" is in fact rather bizarre, which is why I mentioned it.  It's also on record. It was a bizarre choice because while he loves Garnacha and assumed it was found all over Spain (that event being his second-ever visit to Spain)  Garnacha has almost never been made as a varietal wine in Rioja other than perhaps as rosado. In fact, it wasn't widely found there at all until after phylloxera, so of course it arrived after Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's mostly grown in Rioja Baja, which is not the home of the "best" Riojas, and it's almost always blended. Only in recent years have people been bottling monovarietal Garnacha - Conde de Valdemar comes to mind, and a small handful of others.  None are world class, so yeah, it was bizarre.

The confusion with the drinking window comes partly from the fact that Jay has often had relatively few aged versions of the wines he gives long drinking windows to.  When he started his reviews, he gave one wine 100 points and 100 years.  If he'd had any of those wines at say, three, four or five years, he'd have known that they have serious bacterial problems, which is why we banned them from our tastings.  Or rather, I should say they "had" problems.  The importer and winemaker have said they've corrected the issues and to be honest, recent vintages have been very good. Nonetheless, the WA had no idea and as far as I know, maybe still doesn't, and I'm not going to give that particular wine 10 years or more until I've tasted it at 10 years or more.

In the case of Aalto, I'd trust the wine, which I know from its first vintages, and I'd trust Mariano, who I know and have talked to about his take on the 2007 vs some other vintages (not in the same league as some).  Not sure I'd trust a reviewer who's had maybe 3 vintages of the wine.

I would however, trust that reviewer on his taste.  He has had a lot of wine in his life and he's developed clear preferences. I'm sure he finds Asian spice in all those wines he says he does. I'm sure he finds pain grille as well, which I think most people understood, but the point made by Dmucker seems right on the money. Is it worth another $5 if we call it pain grille instead of toast?

I'm not sure why other critics are relevant at all but a score of 17.5 translates roughly into 87 points and given some inflation, perhaps 90 points. It's not 95.

Reply by napagirl68, Apr 19, 2011.

Last post is awesome, GregT, and just about sums it up!

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