Battle of the Americas: California vs. Argentina and Chile
Mrs Spectator and I took a wine tasting class at Stanford, given by Prof. Dan Madison, and consisting of six wine tasting sessions contrasting California wine with South American wines of the same varietals. The wines were not tasted blind, and in some (but not all) of the cases I knew the prices and had some prior expectation of quality. Nevertheless, some conclusions may still be drawn. I did not have time to write detailed notes, but I have ratings for five out of the six sessions, with partial notes for some wines.
First, a plot of the data, with different markers for different countries. The correlation between price and rating may certainly be due to biased expectations, but I tried to be impartial as best as I could, and I tried to avoid knowledge of the prices as often as I could.
I also include a plot of the same data with the prices in log-scale, which may be more appropriate:
- The data shows a clear correlation between price and rating, but since the wines were not tasted blind, there is no way to tell if this is due to a correlation between price and quality, or price and bias.
- The correlation between price and rating is far more consistent for Chile (r=0.78) than for California (r=0.38).
- Although Chilean wines consistently provide good value for their price, California wines that are carefully chosen (as most of the wines in this sample were) can provide almost the same value.
- As expected, in the top of the price range, the relationship between price and rating does not hold.
- I didn’t do a rigorous analysis of the data at this point, since in any case the effects of bias can’t be separated from quality in this data. I would like to do a better analysis once I collect enough data points using blind tasting.
- There is not enough data to conclude anything about Argentina.
Finally, the raw notes and ratings, sorted by rating:
- Achaval Ferrer 2007 “Quimera” ($33). Bottle may have been corked. Aromas and taste were strange, strong and overripe. Unrated
- Capiaux Cellars 2007 Freestone Hill Pinot Noir ($40). Bottle likely corked, awful taste and smell. Unrated
- Sarah’s Vineyard 2002 Nuits d’Enfer Santa Clara Valley Merlot (estimated price: $20). Very pale, with a weak, almost watery taste. 77
- J Lohr 2008 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay ($10). Smooth and flowery, nothing remarkable, short finish, hardly leaves any impression at all. 78
- Veramonte 2007 Cabernet Reserva ($11). Red-purplish color, flavors of tart fruit, weak tannins, short finish, overall quite light and smooth but nothing special. 80
- Eyzaguirre 2005 Merlot ($9). Fruity and tart. 81
- Anakena 2007 Merlot ($10). Fruity. 82
- Nature 2008 Carménère ($10). Dark fruit, jammy. 82
- Puerto Viejo 2009 Malbec ($10). Weak nose, very tart fruity taste of cranberries and dark cherry, short finish, slightly tannic. 82
- Catena 2007 Malbec ($20). Very dark color, aromas of tart fruit, earthy with sweet spice, slight cinnamon, tart, tannic, medium-length pleasant finish. 82
- 1221 2006 Cabernet Cuvee ($17). Dark purple, ripe aromas of dark fruit, plums. Tastes ripe fruity, smooth, with blackberries and some peppers, not heavy, nice berry finish. 83
- Chateau St Michelle 2006 Syrah ($11). Woody. 83
- Montes 2008 Malbec ($10). Sweet fruity aromas, dark chocolate and spice on the tongue, bittersweet and light-bodied. 83
- WesMar 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($40). Very fruity, sweet, blueberry or strawberry jam, weak finish, some delicate spice. 83
- Atalon 2003 Merlot ($28). Chocolate. 84
- Montes Alpha 2007 Carménère ($20). Dark color, dark fruit with some spice. 84
- Antu 2007 Ninquen Mountain Vineyard Syrah, Colchangua Valley ($15). Dark chocolate, bitter and spicy. 84
- Elena 2007 Russian River Zinfandel ($15). Light red color, ripe fruity nose but flat and short. Sweet and tart tastes of dark fruit, blueberries. Some spice. Light body, short finish. 84
- Zynthesis 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel ($16). Ripe nose, not too sweet nose. Sweet, spicy and chocolate-like on the palate, with some complexity and bitterness. Good smooth finish. 85
- Los Vascos 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($11). Beautiful purple. Pleasant perfumey nose of ripe fruit. Tastes of fruit and rich spice, tart and sweet with some black pepper. Good tart finish. 85
- Thomas Fogarty 2002 Skyline Blend ($16). Sweet and bitter, dark fruit, nice tannins. 85
- Montes Alpha 2007 “Apalta Vineyard” Syrah Colchagua Valley ($17). Dark fruit, nice tannins. 85
- Viña Cobos 2007 Malbec “Felino” ($18). Very dark and opaque, weak nose of plums and dark tart fruit. Sweet and earthy on the palate, intense chocolate combined with plums. Bittersweet finish, light body with weak tannins. Almost too sweet to drink without food. 86
- Walker Station 2007 Leslie Ranch Pinot Noir ($68). Pale brownish color, weak nose, very sweet and a little tart, blueberries and chocolate, strawberry jam, sweet crisp finish. 86
- Justin 2007 “Savant” Syrah blend ($37). Dark, rich, tart and jammy. Develops from sweet to sour with good spice and tannins on the finish. 87
- Concha y Toro 2006 Terrunyo Carménère ($35). Lovely and complex combination of fruit and chocolate. 89
- Thomas Fogarty 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon ($30). Red color, classic Cabernet Sauvignon fruity on the nose. Taste is rich with black pepper, chocolate, cranberries, raspberries, good finish. 89
- Stags Leap 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($46). Nice purple. Very ripe nose of sweet-tart fruit. Smooth taste, starts like the nose with sweet-tart fruit, develops spice, some pepper, to a long, smooth and tart finish with velvety tannins gradually building up. Big. 89
- Grgich Hills 2005 Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon ($50). Uniform, pretty purple. Very ripe nose. Starts fruity, quite sweet with some tartness, and builds to a long, sweet, tannic finish of cherries, raspberries, blackberries and black currants. Very balanced, big but not aggressive. 90
- Grgich Hills 2005 Merlot ($37). Strong plum flavors, very fruity and complex. 90
- Catena 2005 Zapata Malbec “Argentino” ($105). Dark color, weak nose, tastes sweet, fruity, pepper, earthy-foresty, pleasant medium-length finish, not too tannic, delicate. 90
- Lalande 2007 Cabernet Reserve ($25). Dark brownish purple. Sweet nose of red fruit, cherries. Taste is sweet and fruity with plums, blueberries, cherries. Spicey. Rich with long, tannic finish that keeps flavors of berries in the mouth. 91
- Beringer 2007 3rd Century Cabernet Sauvignon ($10). Red-purple. Strong, very ripe nose. Creamy, feels like blue velvet, like having raspberries and black currants in Greek yogurt, but in wine form. The long finish is a a festival of berries. 91
- Toivola Family Vineyards 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (no price information). Dark, opaque, pretty color. Very sweet, pepper, cherry jam, good tannins, chocolate. 91
- Sonnet 2007 Amber Ridge Pinot Noir ($30). Pale brown, weak nose, palate is sweet fruit, raspberry, some pepper, tart cherry on the finish, smooth, pleasant and long. 92
- Ridge 2007 Sonoma Pagani Ranch Zinfandel ($32). Fairly dark and beautiful red color. Aromas of ripe red fruit, cherries. Bittersweet fruit on the palate, raspberries and blueberries, rich and develops forest and earthy notes. Long, excellent, dynamic finish. 94
A huge thanks to Dan and Hannah for tons of fun and an educational experience!