Paringa Estate Estate Pinot Noir 2004 and some thoughts on wine show medals

You will see from the picture that this wine is almost covered in wine show medals.  Now, having recently received comments on some wine reviews, to put it perhaps politely, to the effect that "this wine received medal X, why don't you like it?", my view is that a wine show medal is not necessarily determinative of quality, nor my own tasting opinion.  Why?  Well, I have two strands of reasoning.

The first is that largely I wish to, and encourage anyone reading this, to assert sovereignty over my or your own tastebuds (as the case may be), because I think that wine tasting is to a large extent a subjective exercise, with perhaps the exception of the identification of wine faults (eg cork taint, brettanomyces), which appear more objectively verifiable.  Therefore, I reserve the right to make up my own mind.

The second is that to understand the merit of a wine show award, it seems necessary to understand how the award came about.  And here there are some questions to ask.  Who organised and benefits from the wine show?  Who's actually in the room?  What is its purpose?  How are the wines tasted and ranked (eg across grape varieties, vintage, regions and/or price points)?  Does the show seek to act as a proxy for consumer tastes or is it more fairly able to be described as a producer driven benchmarking exercise?  What is the scale of medals awarded at the competition (eg. is a "gold medal" the highest medal)?  Did the entrants have to pay to enter?  How many entries were received?  What is the mix of entrants and their location?  Who were the judges?  How many wines did they try on the day?  Did they taste the wine with food?  How effective was "slurping and spitting" in keeping the judges sober and allowing them to properly taste the wines?    How were conclusions reached across the various judges' opinions?  What was the scoring system used?

I think many of these are reasonable questions for a consumer to ask.  Some of them are probably a bit over the top.   And I should mention that it seems accepted that wine shows in Australia have "improved the breed".  And of course it is clearly possible that the answers to these questions are all favourable, the wine show medals fully deserved and a perfect proxy for my own, or readers', tastebuds.  But then again, without this information, I don't really know.  There's no substitute in my opinion for making up your own mind.

I realise this view somewhat dilutes the purpose of me posting wine reviews in the first place, but then, I like doing it and some information is better than none.  My point perhaps is that the information I, or any wine show or anyone else for that matter provides, is not determinative.  So back to the make up your own mind bit.

Anyway, this is all rather abstract in this context, off point even, as I in fact tried this particular Paringa Estate Estate pinot noir blind.  And I liked it.  Although at 14.9% alcohol for a pinot noir, it was somewhat bruising.  Expect aromas of anise, graphite, herbs, twigs and mint.  On the palate, some cherries, length and sweet fruit.  Pleasant drinking.  85 points (7/10)

Abv: 14.9%
Price: $60 (current vintage)
Mornington Peninsula
June 28, 2011

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