Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Should you really rely on Mr. Parker?

When buying wine, I often wonder whether I should really rely on these little "shelf talker" cards flagging high Parker scored wines in some wine shops. Well, the best way to find out was to try. The other day, I was looking for wines to bring to a friend's birthday party and decided to buy two 90+ Parker point wines that were also nicely priced just below $25.

The 2003 Celler de Cantonella Cérvoles had 94 points and the following tasting notes from The Wine Advocate:

Wow! What an amazing, reasonably priced wine. This 1,000-case cuvee, aged 12-14 months in French oak, from one of the appellation's highest altitude vineyards (it borders Montsant/Priorat), is a blend of 41% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Grenache, and 11% Merlot. Fabulously fragrant, with notes of crushed rock, black raspberries, blueberries, and cassis, this inky/purple-colored wine boasts great fruit, medium to full body, fabulous texture and purity, and a long, heady finish. This is a compelling as well as provocative wine to drink over the next 7-8 years.

With 93 points, the 2004 Hartford Zinfandel Russian River Valley did not have a less appealing description:

A terrific buy is the blend of 7 different vineyards (the average age of 80+ years), the 2004 Zinfandel Russian River. This gorgeously rich effort reveals a Pinot Noir-like sensitivity along with a seductive, fragrant nose of black raspberries, cherries, spice box, pepper, and earth. In the mouth, it's a flamboyant, seductive, expansive, full-bodied, savory wine with beautifully integrated acidity, wood, alcohol, and tannin. Drink this decadent Zin over the next 5-6 years.

Conclusion? I actually enjoyed both of them that evening but the Cérvoles was the real crowd pleaser. The wine had a dark and deep color and an attractive nose of blackberries. On the palate, it was juicy with a rich and velvety texture followed by a well-balanced finish. By comparison, the Hartford Zinfandel seemed very young and I think, may benefit from a couple more years in the bottle. The wine had bold aromas of red berries on the nose, and an intense and full-bodied palate, followed by a very long finish.

I have to admit, I feel grateful to Mr Parker now! And by the way, happy Valentine's Day!

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