Multiple wine reviews – why I include them on my app

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I’m occasionally asked why the huonhooke.com app includes multiple reviews of some wines. Sometimes their ratings are substantially different.

Mostly, the decision to leave a review with a rating and description at variance with a more recent tasting is done deliberately. I’ll explain why shortly. Sometimes it’s inadvertent, and I invite subscribers to point out discrepancies which they think shouldn’t be there. I’m not always aware of these discrepancies as the database is large. team@huonhooke.com is the appropriate email address. 

Often, the multiple reviews are deliberately left in situ, because they serve a purpose. Firstly, I’m not one of those reviewers who like to pretend they’re 100% consistent when they taste and review wine; that they can taste a wine blind one day and then again months or years later and give it the same rating. Robert Parker is actually on record as claiming he can do this. Sorry, but I don’t believe it. No human being is totally consistent; no palate enjoys Papal infallibility. Wine can taste different simply by being served at a slightly different temperature, or in different glassware, or following different degrees of exposure to air.

Once, a main cause of inconsistency in tasters’ perceptions of wine was bottle variation, and this continues to be a massive problem with French wine, but it ceased to be a major concern for Australians like me, because most Antipodean wine is sealed with a screwcap, and the screwcap is very consistent.

Perhaps the most bothersome cause of variability today concerns young white wine, which is bottled and released extremely young – within a few months or even weeks of the harvest. Young white wines can change enormously in their first few months of life in bottle. It’s an ongoing frustration that so much white wine is marketed so early. Riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon blends and other unwooded dry whites can change so much in their first few months of life as to be unrecognisable. And yet we are expected to taste and make a judgment on them as soon as possible, while they are still present in the market.

I’ve taken the decision to leave multiple reviews as they are, as an honest indication to the reader of how wines can change or vary. This is especially useful, I think, with red wines tasted years apart, as they change so much with age, and it’s interesting to follow their evolution in the cellar. Indeed, these changes are a key reason why people cellar wine.

The risk is one of confusing the reader, and with young New Zealand sauvignon blanc, for example, this is more likely to occur than with, say, a classic Penfolds red destined for long aging. There is a different level of understanding. Please read the next item in this newsletter for a classic example that happened to me recently with a transcendental 1971 Grange (tasting).

A final word of warning. Many wine reviewers and other professionals encourage a belief that they can take a snapshot of a wine at one point in its life and that is the end of the matter. This is far from the truth! 

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