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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Critics and wine boards.

It is the time of year where I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what Robert Parker will say about our wine. We don't make wines that fit his style (or at least what many people think is his style) but, each year, he finds pleasure in our wines and writes positive reviews.

We also watch the wine boards and see what vocal wine drinkers think. Wine boards are an interesting beast. Users of the wine boards are not subject to the standards that critics are. One of my favorite posts, that seems to keep coming back, is about a winery that was great in the 90s but has recently faltered according to Parker. The owner/winemaker is a great person and these supposedly non-biased board members write endlessly about how the wine hasn't changed. Those in the industry know that Parker is right - the owner/winemaker stopped making the wines a while back and the current releases aren't reflective of their ability.

All of this is in context of what science can teach us about wine. Several well written studies have linked knowledge of the wine before tasting/smelling to what is experienced within the brain as viewed through a MRI machine. The classic study in this field was done with Coke/Pepsi. In a nutshell, tell the drinker what they are going to drink and, if they think they like it, their brain will process the experience differently. These influences can be color or perceived value (e.g. when tasting wine that a user thinks should taste good because of cost, the brain behaves differently).

So, do the board members who taste the wine and expect it to be great, experience something great? If so, is taste purely subjective? And thus, if one user likes our wines and posts and other follow does it mean anything?

Anyway, Parker's review are Friday. I look forward to sleeping again.

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