Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wine Spectator releases a report on Tuscan wines: this is not a serious magazine!!

I always find interesting to check what the reports of various wine magazines and guides are saying on Italian wines, first of all in order to check if (not so often) I find some wine journalists with a taste that is similar to mine, and second to see which are the next overpriced and unaccessible wines (usually those getting >95 points from US guides/magazines).

But the recent reading of a report on Tuscany published by Wine Spectator on October 31, 2008 is going too far and shows how it is becoming not a matter of taste but more a question of lack of sense of ethics in part of the world of wine. Wine Spectator is trying to establish itself as a reference globally and the arrogance of its journalists is growing at a similar pace.

Since I believe it is important to bring concrete examples I would like to quote the score received by Gianfranco Soldera for his Brunello di Montalcino Case Basse Riserva 2000 in the report I just mentioned. I am sure most of the readers will not believe my words and will look for the report to see with their eyes that the brunello Riserva 2000 of Gianfranco Soldera received 68 points out of 100! Yes, the worst of all scores published in the report. The second worst was ... Brunello Case Basse Soldera Riserva 2001 with 78 points! (to be noted that other US wine sites, like Parker and IWC, both gave a 96 point score to this wine)

Since I tried the Riserva 2000 with some friends during a Superbrunello tasting last summer that you can trace here, and Soldera Riserva 2000 overshadowed largely all other brunello present (Poggio all'Oro 1990, Valdicava 1999, Cerretalto Casanova di neri 1999) I can reasonably affirm that James Suckling (the author of the tastings and of the report) has most likely expressed a judgement on Gianfranco Soldera as a man, and not on his wines, otherwise I would have no doubt saying that he is not suited to be a wine journalist but he would better look for another job. But if the judgement concerns a man and not his wines, as it clearly seems, then he is not suited to be a journalist neither, since his readers are asking him to judge wines and not to express his disagreement with a man though the pages of a magazine that does not come for free.

Either way, such a judgement is a shame for wine journalism and strongly undermines the reputation of Wine Spectator. I believe the wine public deserves much better than this.


Do Bianchi said...

Gianfranco Soldera is a controversial figure and he has rubbed many journalists the wrong way. But Suckling's scores for the wines are obscene!

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree with you more. I remember reading Suckling's reviews of Soldera's wines in the past and being amazed. Having tasted several of his vintages, including the 2001, and having visited Case Basse twice, I know from first hand experience that the wines he makes are some of the best, if not the best expressions of Brunello. Suckling is so "New World" leaning in his reviews that it only makes sense that he would not like Soldera's wines. Still, a rating of 68 or 78 is an outright insult that has nothing to do with the wine. I met James Suckling at a Wine Spectator Grand Tour event in New York and I asked him specifically about his reviews of Soldera. He said that he tastes all wines blind. I find that very hard to believe. This experience has caused me to view any review he writes, or that Wine Spectator publishes, with great suspicion.
-Bob F., New York

BRUNELLO57 said...

You need time to taste a Soldera Brunello. I can imagine that in a long series of blind tastings amongst all tobacco and chocolate flavour brunello a soldera seems strange and bizarre. However if you look at it over several days, it will show you a bunch of flavours not matched by any other brunello. I rated his 1999 with 29 brunello points. My highest score over a long time.