Bordeaux 2010: Did Parker Lose His Tastebuds on the Road to Chateau Margaux?

posted in: News | 0

Doug Bryant, President, Sherlock’s Wine Merchant

Maître, Commanderie de Bordeaux à Atlanta

 

Like the swallows to Capistrano, every year I and my Sherlock team return to

Bordeaux in early April for the en primeur tastings. Slurp, swirl, spit 75 times a day,

in search of the Holy Gruaud. And, as you have heard, there are many spectacular

2010 wines. Bill Blatch’s weather report predicted great taste, but there is nothing

like the actual barrel samples to confirm that, indeed, the sunlight was successfully

converted into nectar.

 

These 2010’s are big, delicious, long‐lasting wines, like 1989. The numbers betray

their power: anthocyanins at the highest level ever; alcohol reaching 15% in some

cases; great acidity and stunning fruit. The only mistake that a few made was to

over‐extract the tannins during the fermentation process. The tannins were so ripe

in these grapes that it took extra care to refrain from pumping over too frequently

or leaving the wine on the skins too long. One in 10 of the wines I tasted seemed

over‐extracted for my palate.

 

There is always a lot of buzz about “the wine of the vintage.” This year, the

contenders in my opinion are Châteaux Margaux, Latour, Haut Brion, Lafite‐

Rothschild, Leoville‐Las‐Cases, Mouton and surprisingly, Vieux Château Certan. But

it’s a question of taste; every mouth has a different chemistry. However, in April the

“buzz” kept returning to Ch. Margaux as the leader of the pack, confirmed not only

by my tasting notes but also by Vincent Cheung, Grand Maître of the Commanderie

in Asia. Pinpoint balance with round, small tannins. Elegant power and finesse.

Interestingly, Paul Pontallier held back the alcohol level to 13.5% in the Grand Vin

and put more of the ripe Merlot into the Pavillon Rouge.

After our return to Atlanta, Liv‐Ex published their “Wisdom of the Crowd” survey.

They poll 370 of the world’s leading wine buyers and ask them to rank the wines

they tasted en primeur. That survey produced the following ranking, confirming at

least that my taste was somewhat similar to the wine‐buying world:

LIV‐EX SURVEY ‐ 370

1. Margaux

2. Lafite Rothschild

3. Latour

4. Vieux Chateau Certan

5. Petrus

6. Haut Brion

7. Pontet‐Canet

8. Ausone

9. Mouton Rothschild

10. Cheval Blanc

 

 

 

Then we all waited for God – the Robert Parker ratings. In early May they appeared, and

my Sherlock’s team looked anxiously to see how he lined up against the rest of the world

and against our own tasting.

 

Here is Robert Parker’s Top 10:                             Here is the Liv-Ex Top 10 Survey

List with overlaps from Parker in

Italics:

 

Parker View: Liv-Ex Survey -370:

1 Latour*                                                                  1 Margaux

2 Petrus*                                                                  2 Lafite Rothschild

3 Lafite Rothschild*                                             3 Latour

4 Haut Brion*                                                         4 Vieux Chateau Certan

5 Ausone*                                                                 5 Petrus

6 La Mission Haut Brion*                                  6 Haut Brion

7 Mouton Rothschild                                            7 Pontet Canet

8 Pichon Baron***                                                 8 Ausone

9 Pontet Canet***                                                   9 Mouton Rothschild

10 Montrose                                                            10 Cheval Blanc

Tied for 1st Place*

Tied for 8th Place***

 

 

 

In general, Parker’s view overlaps with the Liv‐Ex survey. Seven out of 10 are on both

lists. However, it struck me as very odd that Margaux and Vieux Château Certan

were not in the top 10 on Parker’s list, given that they were both in the top four

wines of the vintage based upon the LivEx “Wisdom of the Crowd” survey, and

also my own tasting experience supports this view.

 

This puzzle as to why Parker had left Château Margaux out of his top 10 was perhaps

best captured by Simon Staples of Berry Brothers & Rudd, who commented in his blog,

Robert Parker has finally seen the light and agrees with us on … the 2010′s… apart

from (his judgment of) Ch. Margaux, where he clearly left his tastebuds at the

previous chateau!(Admittedly, Cheval Blanc, Ducru Beaucaillou, L’Evangile, Le Pin,

Margaux, Troplong Mondot and Vieux Chateau Certan are all tied for 11th place in

Parker’s top 20.)

 

Wanting to explore this situation a bit more, I worked with another Commandeur in

Boston, Angelo Manioudakis, to analyze the top 10 Bordeaux 2010 wine ratings of other

respected professionals. This we did utilizing another Liv‐Ex metric, their Total Score

list that normalizes the various scoring systems critics use.

 

It was instructive to note that after averaging the scores of nine respected wine critics,

there was 90% agreement with the Liv‐Ex Top Ten Wisdom of the Crowd survey. It is

also exciting to see the breadth of 2010 Bordeaux wines rated 95 and above – speaking

to the overall exciting quality of the 2010 vintage! And Margaux indeed emerges at the

top of this list despite Parker’s lower score, showing how strongly the other critics felt

about Margaux.

 

Then we began to wonder, “How closely do Parker’s scores correlate with the scores from

the other eight top wine critics?” By dusting off some high school algebra, we were able

to see that Parker’s ratings correlate generally but not exactly with an average of the

other eight critics’ ratings. In regression analysis speak, his R2 value is only .56.

 

But where does Robert Parker differ most widely from his wine critic colleagues? This

can be important for the Commanderie, since in general, Parker ratings often drive

pricing. If we can identify wines that are rated relatively lower by Parker, but are more

appreciated by the other critics, that may identify an interesting buying opportunity.

This led us to construct the following graph:

LivEx Graph

 

Based upon this analytical approach, one could argue that the degree to which Parker

may have under‐estimated the quality of a wine is indicated by the perpendicular

distance of a château above the regression line. In other words, wherever the world’s

leading critics thought much more highly of the wine than Robert Parker, the data point

will appear well above the regression line. Based upon this perspective, I recommend

that the Commanderie look carefully at purchasing the 2010 vintages of Margaux, Vieux

Château Certan, and Leoville‐Barton before the world figures out that Parker indeed

lost his tastebuds on the road to Château Margaux this Spring.

 

Data Sources: Liv‐Ex.com, eRobertParker.com, bbrblog.com

Data Analysis: Angelo Manioudakis, Commandeur, CdB Boston