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The Mechanics of a 90+ Point Wine - by David Raines, Wine Manager for Gordon's in Waltham, Massachusetts


Joe Riley
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This may be one of the most frightening things I've ever read...

http://tinyurl.com/7p4sz

David Raines is the wine manager for the Gordon's chain in Waltham, Mass (Boston area) and I've followed his writings for years by snail-mail and then his daily missives by email. He is very thoughtful and passionate about wine.

I've spoken with him on the phone a few times (his brother used to live here and was an occasional customer) and I once got into huge trouble over on egullet because I posted a piece he'd written about French bread, and even though I have him full attribution, the powers-that-be demanded that I get David's written permission to post it. He was in France at the time, and I had to ask him to email someone at egullet (!!!).

I fear the day that someone asks me for a "Style 4" wine! :P

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This may be one of the most frightening things I've ever read...

http://tinyurl.com/7p4sz

David Raines is the wine manager for the Gordon's chain in Waltham, Mass (Boston area) and I've followed his writings for years by snail-mail and then his daily missives by email.  He is very thoughtful and passionate about wine.

I've spoken with him on the phone a few times (his brother used to live here and was an occasional customer) and I once got into huge trouble over on egullet because I posted a piece he'd written about French bread, and even though I have him full attribution, the  powers-that-be demanded that I get David's written permission to post it.  He was in France at the time, and I had to ask him to email someone at egullet (!!!).

I fear the day that someone asks me for a "Style 4" wine!  :P

At least it's nice to hear a winemaker candidly remark that he makes bad wine because that's what his customers want. But, of course, he 'creates' those customers with all that convincing 'lifestyle' marketing. The funny thing is, I don't think it's that much harder to make a decent wine with the same effort. I can think of several comparably-priced wines that are far superior to Sutter.

Kind of takes some of the mystique out of the process. Great article.

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At least it's nice to hear a winemaker candidly remark that he makes bad wine because that's what his customers want.  But, of course, he 'creates' those customers with all that convincing 'lifestyle' marketing.  The funny thing is, I don't think it's that much harder to make a decent wine with the same effort.  I can think of several comparably-priced wines that are far superior to Sutter. 

Kind of takes some of the mystique out of the process.  Great article.

I've been interested in wine since 1968. In those years, the main conclusion I've reached is that, in the wine field, there is more horse manure being flung around than just about any other field you can name. And IMO the chief flinger is RP himself. The basis of his success is simple. Take a field that every self-styled cool person feels he must make everyone around him think he knows about but in his heart he knows he doesn't have a clue, and reduce it all to a simple number, on a scale which is easy to understand, intuitive, but still wide enough to allow for some fineness in the "grades" (remember, the scale used before him was typically 5 or 10 points). However phony it may be, it was a great success and now the whole world of wine must bow to his opinion, because of the market power produced by all the fools who buy in to such nonsense. It's a pity.

The other conclusion I've reached is that the correlation between quality of wine and its price is an exceptionally weak one.

Just my 2 cents.

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I am having trouble with this piece. How are RP and Loeb germane when discussing Sutter Home? I can believe that the wine maker does not care what his wine tastes like, I don't know of anything other than carp that they make or ever made. If they did make wines to try and impress the critics, they have failed miserably.

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I am having trouble with this piece.  How are RP and Loeb germane when discussing Sutter Home?  I can believe that the wine maker does not care what his wine tastes like, I don't know of anything other than carp that they make or ever made.  If they did make wines to try and impress the critics, they have failed miserably.

Sorry the quote in my post above throws it all a bit off--I was actually responding to the first paragraphs of the linked article. My fault. Anyway, the point was that dozens/hundreds/thousands of other wine makers, is/are making wine that pleases the taste of a particular influential critic and his followers, not wine that necessarily tastes good or is the best that could be made from that batch of grapes. All too often buyers go in and buy a particular wine because "Parker gave it a (fill in the number), and I would never buy a wine that Parker didn't give at least a (fill in a slightly lower number)." This kind of mindlessness has had a profound effect on the wine business at all levels, and I see it as a major, if not THE major, problem in the wine business today. I can't say whether the wines of any particular winery please or don't please anybody (and ot must be clear by now that I have no idea what Parker rates anything--it's the last thing I'd take time to check), but the attitude is out there and it has been fostered by this one, self-appointed I would add, critic. In my opinion that is not good, and it is the connection between what I wrote and what came before in this thread. It's also not something that others haven't said before.

But it is just my opinion.

Edited by johnb
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From time to time, I'm asked what a particular wine I'm suggesting was "rated", or "how many points" did it get.

I like to respond that I don't know because I prefer wines that are "pointless" :P

One time a customer came in to see me and was carrying a HUGE binder of Wine Advocates. I wasn't about to waste a lot of time with someone who was simply going to second-guess every suggestion I made, so I told them up front, very politely, "Before we go any further, you're going to have to put that away."

Wine reviews are useful, but they are only the opinions of certain people. These people mentioned in David Raines' piece appear to want to challenge the age-old notion that, "there are no great wines, only great bottles"

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