"judgment" style tasting, are they not pointless??


typical of these "judgement" tastings, the "surprise" effect was sure to be at the "rendez-vous"... and yesterday's "judgement" tasting comparing blind the cabernet sauvignon from new zealand's gimbletts gravels with 1st growth bordeaux, including chateau lafite and latour, was no different... but was it not pointless in some way?

or rather, was it not besides the point?

imagine, the hk$ 245 mission estate jewelstone cabernet merlot 2009 ranked 3rd out of 16 wines while the chateau lafite 2008, opened for the hefty price of hkd 14,500, ranked 5th. wow, that was a resounding success you might say. exactly the point of the tasting, i was told. to demonstrate that when we taste blind and focus on quality in the glass, relatively new comers from new zealand can beat a prestigious estate like chateau lafite.

yes, all very nice. but, if i have my mother in law over for dinner on saturday, which wine will she be impressed with? the lafite, or the mission estate? exactly my point.

a friend the other day asked me for a restaurant recommendation because she had important visitors from out of town. straight away, i referred her to shore in central, because the head chef, jason black is a friend and because i was absolutely certain the food would be top notch. as good as she could expect. and so i felt very good about my recommendation. especially that later that evening, my friend texted to congratulates on the food etc.

however, the following week, she texted again saying how disappointed she was that i did not tell her that the restaurant was designed by some famous person and that other aspects of the restaurant were equally prestigious. i replied that i did not care so much about this, as long as the food was good and that her guests were happy. she then replied, "good is nice, but exciting is better..."

and so it is. it is much more exciting to drink lafite. one because it is super dooper expensive, two because it is very rare anyone would open a bottle, third because it is prestigious, fourth, you can fill the blank...

and this is the point of this post. even if the mission estate was better quality than the lafite, it does not excite as much (at this moment at least). i think that if the gimblett gravels winegrowers association (or any other association for that matter because there seem to be a rash of such "judgment" tasting nowadays) is to reach real success, i.e. increased demand and therefore increased price, they have to focus on what makes them special, on what makes them exciting. more attention on the irrational motivation of buying a bottle of wine. after-all, wine is a sensual experience. when the senses are exciting, anything goes...

good is nice, but exciting is better.

yes, for a winemaker, to be ranked higher than lafite must be a tremendous boost of self-confidence. an accolade among peers that must be unparalleled. but for a wine lover with a different reference point, the ranking does not mean that much actually. or, put more generously, as much as one hopes.

so, please, less of these "judgment" tastings, they are not that exciting frankly... if they excite it is the equivalent of a shooting star, they have no lasting effect...

in any case, from my perspective, and those of the other wine geeks who were at the tasting, we found this particular one tremendously fascinating. we tasted 16 wines blind, scored them all, then the results were tabulated and a final group score was declared. the first eighth as follow with the last two tied (my ranking in bracket):

1- chateau mouton-rothshild 2008 (6)

2- chateau haut-brion 2008 (1)

3- mission estate jewelstone cabernet merlot 2009 (3)

4- chateau margaux 2008 (-)

5- chateau lafite-rothshild 2008 (-)

6- chateau latour 2008 (-)

7- chateau cos d'estournel 2008 (5)

7- chateau angelus 2008 (7)

in case you want to stock up, the mission estate offers a very good potential for ageing with an excellent balance, abundant but sumptuously silky tannins, and elegant, complex, yet concentrated fruits. with a long lingering finish, at this price, it is definitely a steal. watsons wine cellar is the distributor in hong kong, but as i can see, they removed the one from their webstore...