Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine critic, blogged last week about a controversy over the 2010 Chateau Pavie, which is considered one of the great wines from St. Emilion. In his May 24 post, Mr. Asimov compares Robert Parker's rave review of the wine (tasted as a barrel sample) with that of John Gilman, whose web-only publication, A View from the Cellar, represents a new generation of wine criticism.
So, two critics, one wine. You'd think the reviews would at least be in the same ballpark. But you'd be wrong. Parker rates it as nearly perfect, and Gilman describes it as "absurdly overripe, unpleasant to taste and patently out of balance." And that's just for starters.
There's a lot to chew on in this posting. First is the disagreement itself. Have you ever tasted a wine that you loved and found that wine critics hated it? Or one that you hated, only to discover that the critics found it complex, with abundant notes of cassis, chocolate, and a half-dozen other subtle flavors? It's nice to know that the great wine critics can disagree so vehemently.
Second is the question of barrel samples. I've had a number of occasions to taste wine that is still aging in barrels, and while I've loved some and disliked others, I can't pretend to know what they'll taste like when they're in the bottle, much less after they've had a few years to age. Asimov notes that other wine critics, including the Financial Times' Jancis Robinson, have questioned the utility of barrel tastings, considering them more useful for wineries that want to sell futures than for the wine-consuming public.
This is a very intesting posting, and those of you who care about wine would do well to follow Asimov's blog and his Twitter posts. And of course, no wine critic could be more appropriate for Project Sunlight, which derives its name from a quote that is as much about science as it is aboutwine, than Eric Asimov, a nephew of the great Science Fiction writer, Isaac Asimov.