Thursday, November 29, 2007

Liquid assets

I went to a wine tasting and debate last night about whether enjoyment of wine is a science or an art. Alan Brown, Chief Investment Officer at Schroders, was proposing that it is a science and made the case that the analysis of the Professor of Economics at Princeton, Orley Ashenfelter, which largely uses rainfall and temperature to produce a quantitative analysis of wine, is far more useful when trying to buy a good, reasonable vintage than going by the rankings of Robert Parker whose positive comments have an over-inflated effect on price. It's worth having a look at Ashenfelter's website: The opposer was a man from Corney & Barrow who said that everybody's palate is different and that it's impossible to say that one vintage of one chateau will be found universally to be the best.
We had a blind tasting from two hot years, 1995 and 1997, and we tasted wines from two vineyards which are two kilometres apart: Chateau Talbot and Chateau Gruad-Larose. There was not much difference between the wines but the consensus was that the Gruad-Larose was better than the Talbot in both years (although I preferred the 95 Talbot to the 95 Gruad-Larose).
A vote was taken at the beginning and at the end of the debate. In both cases, it was won by the "wine is an art" point of view. However, there was a swing to the "science" case after Brown had explained Ashenfelter's theory.


Blogger kinglear said...

Parker has in my view ruined the market. Because his imprimatur is so valuable, growers keep trying to emulate his top rankings, and as a result more and more wines are being " built" to his taste. One of the joys of wine - for me - is the vaste differences that rain,soil, sun etc etc make. I'd far rather have a lesser yet distinctive wine rather than a bland " me too"

10:16 am  
Blogger Eurodog said...

WW, good morning.
Why worry about it? Let's just enjoy drinking.

10:16 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

KL - you are absolutely right, and pity the poor Americans who won't have a clue what you buy when Parker dies.
ED - good morning and sante!

10:26 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

It sounds a very stimulating evening. Not only is everybody's palate different, but it also changes with time. I prefer dryer wines now to my youth.
But hey, let's do as Eurodog recommends, and just enjoy it.

11:29 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Hi Ellee - you're right: tastes change with age. Just the smell of Red Bull makes me feel ill these days. Wine tastes very different with food, as well. Have you tried tasting a wine before dinner and then again with it? In my experience, it tastes very different.

11:34 am  
Blogger Dave Cole said...

I would venture that it is an art that is becoming a science. The production of wine has always had a degree of science to it and the rise of estates like Gallo mean that viticulture is as subject to the rigours of industrial processes as much as any other form of manufacture.

Its appreciation, though, seems to be shifting from developing a taste for styles of wine on immediate impacts to seeking out only wines that fulfil certain criteria.

Parker's influence is as much to do with conspicuous consumption as anything else; a concerted campaign to say that good wine is wine that you enjoy might put paid to him.

12:51 pm  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I just have to believe it's an art! Where's the romance in science?

9:01 pm  
Blogger In Actual Fact said...

Welshcakes: You wouldn't believe what we get up to in the lab - ah, what may seem to the outsider like a casual glance across the bunsen burner....

10:18 pm  

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