I’ve just been involved in another one of those twitter tussles about controversial wine topics. This time it was, fortunately, a fairly good natured discussion about the results of the recent tasting in Hong Kong where Eduardo Chadwick pitched several vintages of his Sena ‘icon’ (horrible term) wine against various top Bordeaux, tasted blind, and also a report of a similar sort of tasting conducted in Chile for visiting MWs.
Lo and behold, the wine professionals in Hong Kong preferred, on the whole, the Chilean wine Sena. It came top, if indeed it is acceptable to see blind tasting as a sort of competition. And the MW in question said this about the tasting that she took part in:
“One of the highlights of my trip to Chile – blind tasting of Chile versus Bordeaux. Once again the Chilean wines beat Bordeaux into submission.”
These results are not unprecedented. For many years now, since a momentous tasting in Berlin, Chadwick has pitched his Chilean icons against some of the world’s most expensive wines. Often, the Chilean wines have won. [Although they didn't at a tasting in London that I attended in 2009, report here.]
My assertion is that in these tastings, the tasters have simply got it wrong. The set-up exploits the fact that many wine professionals are poor and/or inexperienced blind tasters. Aside from this, some very able tasters (in terms of recognizing wines blind, as in the sort of tasting exam you have to take to get the MW qualification) may actually have poor taste (in terms of the sorts of wines that they prefer). They may be good at differentiating wines, and spotting good quality from poor quality, but fail to distinguish great wines from merely very good commercial wines.
When you say this sort of thing, people often don’t like it. ‘So are you saying 16 MWs got it wrong?’ was one response, as if for me to answer in the affirmative would be out of the question.
I’m not bashing Chilean wines. [I pay a lot of attention to what is going on there.] And I don’t think that most Bordeaux is as good as some people think it is. As a commentator, I would say that I am truly egalitarian and open-minded to all wine-producing countries. I’m certainly not old-school wine trade, parochial in my outlook.
But Eduardo’s icon wines, while being very good quality indeed, are not yet in the same league as top Bordeaux. They are made in quite a ripe, international style. I don’t think they come close to top Bordeaux, in my opinion. So that’s why I say it.
Now I know that the Bordeaux marketplace is distorted by the fact that the top wines are used as investment vehicles, but even so, I’d say that my opinion is reflected in the market place by the prices these wines fetch on the secondary market.
We have to recognize that critics disagree about wines. The assumption that if critics are all equally experienced and competent, they will come to the same conclusion. That’s not how it is. So, you have to choose which critics you will follow. Personally, if someone says to me that they think that Sena is the qualitative equal of the best from Bordeaux, they are not a critic I choose to follow.