jamie goode's wine blog: Sena, Henschke and some boring Zins

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sena, Henschke and some boring Zins

This morning I went to a seminar on Terroir and innovation in the new world, put on by Lay and Wheeler to showcase their portfolios from Henschke and Sena/Arboleda. Prue and Stephen Henscke, and Eduardo Chadwick gave presentations, and we tasted their wines.

I was very interested in what Prue had to say about the vineyards at Henschke: they are adopting a melange of organic, biodynamic and IPM practices to create their own sustainable form of viticulture. I also thought that the Henschke range, which is pretty broad these days, was admirably consistent. Hill-of-Grace 1998 is developing into a very nice wine. 2002 is currently youthful and tight.

If I'm honest, I was disappointed by Sena, Eduardo Chadwick's icon wine. Four vintages were shown: 2004, 2003, 2001, 1996. They were all good, but no more than just good. For me, they lacked excitement and life. 1996 Sena, for example, was ageing gracefully and tasted nice, but I wouldn't say it was world class. And Sena is the icon wine that beat a bunch of first growths at the Berlin tasting back in 2004.

I have a problem with the results of this Berlin tasting. I'm shocked that (1) the given group of journalists actually preferred the Sena and its stablemate Vinedo Chadwick over Lafite, Margaux and Latour, and (2) that they didn't spot the Chilean wines as Chilean in this line-up. Look, I'm not suggesting that Chilean wines can't be as good, or better than first growth Bordeaux - after all, I love to think I'm open-minded - it's just that so far, I've not tasted a Chilean wine that has in qualitative terms even come close to top-notch Bordeaux. I'll be brutally honest with you: if these Senas I tried today are representative, then I reckon the tasters tasted badly that day. They got it wrong. I will be thrilled to report back on the exciting, complex, vibrant, balanced Chilean wines that I taste when I visit Chile in January, but so far, I haven't met them.

Stephen Spurrier, famous for his 1976 tasting where Californian wines outshone French classics took part in the Berlin tasting, and preferred the French wines. 'Logic dictated that the French or Italian wines were going to win, but what happened was that the Chilean wines took the top places', he recalls. 'The tasters preferred the Chilean wines, which was quite extraordinary.'
Tonight I've opened a few bottles. A couple of Zinfandels that were as boring as the one I mentioned yesterday, with just some red berry fruit and a hint of greenness, and then a much nicer Shiraz Viognier from McLaren Vale with ripe pure fruit and a bit of elegance, albeit at 15% alcohol (Battle of Bosworth 2005 - organic - 9.99 Oddbins).

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At 11:22 PM, Blogger Beavington said...

hi jamie finally got a computer email address beavingtonfamily@googlemail.com look forward to better communication love hester xxxx

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Wine lover said...

"They got it wrong"

A bizarre statement given the subjective nature of tasting

At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wine lover

What you must understand is that Jamie has supreme confidence that he is right, and there is no room in his mind for any doubt that he (and only he) is correct. The only difference between him and a fundamentalist mullah or preacher is that Jamie doesn't have a holy book to point to -- but no doubt he is currently writing it.

If someone likes a wine that Jamie does not, then the other person is wrong or ignorant or knows nothing about wine or all three.

A 'serious' wine or grape variety (e.g. Riesling) is one that Jamie likes. If Jamie isn't keen then it is not only not 'serious' but anyone that likes it is mistaken.

Oh, how wonderful to have such blind faith in ones own tastes....

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Someone once described Zinfandel as the "Harley Davidson of grape varieties". With so many over-the-top, duff, clunking examples perhaps it should be renamed the "Jim Davidson of grape varieties".

I agree, Jamie - Sena is hugely over-rated and overpriced. Big and oaky - these wines always wow people in blind tastings and yet they are not particularly delicious to drink.

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous wine lover said...

Maybe Jamie was annoyed that he wasnt invited to that tasting

We'll have to wait for the day when he says that Chilean wine "rocks"

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

I've only had Sena once (blind) and didn't much like it despite being quite excited at the prospect. Perhaps it was too young. It was also part of quite a large group of wines, so perhaps that was the problem.

I'm mystified as to why anonymous and the bizarrely named wine lover are being quite so gratuitously offensive here. It's a strange world...

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Superb individual said...

I agree with Jamie's views. I am always right. Therefore Jamie is always right. Therefore if Jamie says someone else is wrong, I am compelled to agree. Ergo "wine lover" is an arse and should piss off.

At 6:04 AM, Anonymous wine lover said...


surely you agree that tasting is subjective, not objective, so how can Jamie boldly announce "The tasters got it wrong"??

if you create a facility for people to leave comments, don't be surprised if all comments arent 100% positive.

you seem incredibly keen to defend Jamie at every opportunity. Why is that?

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

I admire you Jamie for calling it as you see it. Surely,that is what we want from wine journalists? No point reading reviews if they are always favourable,although I must admit I shall be truly pissed off if you do not like our first wines.on release in 2009 Jamie!! Ha Ha

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I'd argue that there is an objective element to wine appreciation. It's not entirely subjective.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Martin Jones said...

Ah me! Wine lover, Jamie did not announce that "The tasters got it wromg", as you assert. He wrote: " I'll be brutally honest with you: if these Senas I tried today are representative, then I reckon the tasters tasted badly that day. They got it wrong." Notice that " I reckon"? - it's called "an opinion". Clear as day, unlike ur twisting of his words. What's ur beef?

At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Hello wine lover,

I think the subjectivity only goes so far. If someone says that a Lada corners better than a Porsche you know they're talking rubbish.

I do seem to have been overly "defensive" recently. Strange, as it's not generally like me (ask Tom Cannavan if you don't believe me!). I suppose I'm always going to take a dim view of critics hiding behind anonymity or made up names such as yours. There's also an element of poor taste expressing Having said that, your comment wasn't as bilious as some!

Another element to this (and one I should examine more carefully) is in the very nature of blogs. I think there is a fundamental difference between journalism (which should be fair and objective) and blogism (which can and should be pretty opinionated and contentious but also a good one should slightly open up to the reader). What is currently unresolved in my mind is what the etiquette should be for comments. It seems wrong to accept ad hominem attacks (for the avoidance of doubt, yours clearly wasn't one of those!).

So. Next time Mr G says something daft (like "wine-searcher doesn't list UK stockists for Chateau Brown") then I shall call him an idiot in public.

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous wine lover said...


Look again at what you posted.
The "I reckon" element was in the previous sentence.

Jamie said and let's be clear about this "They got it wrong."

There is no "reckon" about it.
And I have a problem with that.

You read the rest of Jamie's post, and it's almost as if he can't believe that the palates of a number of other wine buffs are so out of kilter with his own.

Now, of course, wine tasting is subjective, but I believe that Jamie's reaction is one of arrogance rather than disbelief. There's no "I think they should retaste these wines" line. No. It's "they got it wrong". End of story.

An incredibly arrogant statement.

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Ah, I think you may have put your finger on it. I think that statements of the type that you consider arrogant are absolutely what blogs should be all about. Blogs should be a place where the author can give vent to feelings that would be inappropriate in a more formal setting.

For what it's worth, I reckon that the "I reckon" binds across the "They got it wrong" bit and across the entire blog by definition.

I do think that tasters get it wrong sometimes (although smoe are more reliable than others). Usually over-rating crap, but sometimes under-rating wines of character.

At 10:46 PM, Anonymous wine lover said...

yes, and people who write on blogs should be free to criticise without a bunch of lackeys leaping to the defence of the blog's creator.

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Martin Jones said...

Hello wine lover. So if Jamie had written: " I'll be brutally honest with you: if these Senas I tried today are representative, then I reckon THAT the tasters tasted badly that day AND THAT they got it wrong" that would be ok? No, I didn't think so. To paraphrase another jibe from you, you seem incredibly keen to dismiss Jamie at every opportunity. Why is that?
PS: I am not a lackey - I've never met Jamie. I enjoy his writing, whether I agree with him or not. That's all.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous wine lover said...


Read your post again it doesn't make sense.

You attempt to paraphrase Jamie, but get it wrong. He said: "They got it wrong." Go back and check, if you're not sure.

I'm not twisting anything. Jamie expressed an opinion.

I'm sorry that you feel that wine writers are beyond reproach, but I've got news for you they are.

And when Jamie realises that he's not all-tasting and all-knowing, the better for all of us.

PS The dig about defending Jamie to the hilt was aimed at Alex, not you.
I look forward to his reply.

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Martin Jones said...

Are you saying I got it wrong, wine lover? LOL

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous wine lover said...


you and I aren't going to agree on this, but never mind.

I'll continue to question Jamie where necessary, and the likes of you and Alex will no doubt defend him regardless.

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Grant said...

When you draw a large group of tasters together and try to create a consensus result you are prone to get some strange results. It's why these types of tastings are so popular from a marketing point of view. Hold enough of them and you'll eventually get a result that pleases and one that helps to prove your premise.

The bottom line is that such results are only as good as the tasters involved. Thats what I would look at first before judging their worth. And I don't see anything wrong with the assertion that Jamie made.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

grant makes an interesting point. if a collective tasting is only as good as the tasters then it begs the question: if only the most elite highly trained palates can get the "right" answer (and those palates apparently do not necessarily include wine journalists) what use is high-end wine criticism to most people?

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Ah, but Robert, I think the point is not that tasters usually get it wrong but that they sometimes get it wrong. Even if it's only 1 in 50 times, that may be enough for a marketeer to claim "XXXX beats YYYY in test"

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Alex, OK but...

(Sorry this feels like I must be one of those people who insist on having the last word - something for me to ponder!)

The Sena example is not unique as going to the Berlin 2004 website shows. I've heard of too many "wrong" wine juries to have much faith in "expert" wine tasting panels. In the end the palate of a panel is a mysterious object, the palate of a person, however misguided, is much more understandable IF they are consistent, and in the end that's all we can hope for from wine criticism - a palate we can more easily calibrate against with minimal deviation. A sort of external sounding board. And we know who that means....;o)

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

I quite agree that panel tastings tend to give strange results (so much so, that I sometimes consider a Decanter Gold award to be a reason NOT to buy a wine). I tend to compare the opinions of individual critics with my own views on wines whenever I can - both to compare personal tastes and to learn about what makes particular wines special for them.

I find that I tend to agree with some of the following more than most at this stage in my life
- Matthew Jukes
- Michael Schuster
- Jamie Goode

But my tastes change over time, so in 10 years time the list might change too.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous wine lover said...

"I find that I tend to agree with some of the following more than most at this stage in my life
- Matthew Jukes
- Michael Schuster
- Jamie Goode"

The cheque's in the post, I take it, Alex?

Do us a favour.

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

I fail to see your problem.

Do you not have any critics whose views you find more useful than others?

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Jan said...

Hi Jamie

The Berlin Tasting has just been repeated - this time in Copenhagen. 2005 Ch. Lafite won but in second place came 2004 Don Maximiano - better than 2005 Mouton and 2005 Latour.

It's not only a matter of recognising the Bordeaux wines and then give them the highest score. It's about choosing the best wine - and why not a Chilean?


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