The Wine Critic’s Responsibility & the $1600 Wine
At what point does a wine reviewer have an obligation to comment on the price of a wine, in addition to its quality and characteristics?
Pierre Rovani, a man who has proven himself to have a magnificent palate, rated the 2002 Domaine de la Romanee Conti Romanee Conti 90 points. The written review was ordinary.
The wine costs $1680.00
You have to ask yourself if there is any point at which the circumstances of a wine demands the reviewer comment on the quality/price relationship.
Let me be clear about one thing. This wine is worth the money……if you assess the value based on market demand alone. And this is a legitimate way to assess the value of any product. DRC will sell out of this wine at retail with no problem. DRC Romanee-Conti is perhaps the most famous wine in the world made from perhaps the most famous vineyard in the world. People will buy it all up on these grounds alone.
But there is a more common way that the majority of wine lovers use to assess the value of a wine: the degree to which it pleases them. This also is, in my opinion, the way by which a wine reviewer should be assessing the value of a wine. Now clearly this is what Rovani guaging in giving 90 points to the 2002 DRC Romanee Conti. In addition, Rovani is being consistent. By my account he rarely comments on pricing in the context of a review. The same can be said for Robert Parker’s reviews. However, occasionally mention will be made that the wine is priced fairly.
But here is the essence of what I am claiming: a truly all encompassing review of a wine, one that delivers real useful information to a reader, is one that not only evaluates the wine on its qualitative merits but also on its price/pleasure value. And the DRC in question clearly has what must be one of the worst price/pleasure correlations in the world right now.
I’m inclined to think that simply writing the review next to the notation that the wine costs $1680 is "enough said". That we all can figure out that we aren’t getting much for our pleasure dollars by purchasing this wine. But by not mentioning this gaping expanse between quality and cost, even in the context of "market value", the critic seems to be saying, "it isn’t an issue."
And if the gap between pleasure and cost is not issue than answer me this:
Is it appropriate for a winery in California that receives a score of 94 for their $50 Pinot Noir to say in their marketing materials that their wine, according to the Wine Advocate, is not only much better than the 2002 DRC, but costs 33X less?
Is this appropriate? Are we talking apples and oranges?
I don’t think so. But when a critic is confronted with this kind of massive gulf between their assessment of a wine and the cost of a wine, yet makes no mention of this gulf, this is the kind of conclusion that seems to me to be absolutely OK. And I wish some winery would do this.