A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


John Tilson • 10/6/12        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share




I have been an observer and active participant in the wine scene for over 40 years (to read the history of the Underground click here). And, I have been writing about big numbers critics and how wines are tasted for a very long time. Trust me, this is a game that needs to NOT be taken as gospel, especially when the notes are from wines tasted from barrel (to read an article on how Burgundies are tasted from barrel click here).  I have also been writing recently about the horrible Premox White Burgundy plague (Premox is the name for the rapid oxidation of White Burugundies which renders them undrinkable at a very young age) and some of the biggest culprits (to read that article click here).  Then there are others who have been tracking Premox and I have been involved there as well (to check out that out click here).



Yet despite all of this information, there are obviously a lot of people who did not get the memo and continue to drink the Kool Aid. One retailer (and, I might add, one I have known for a very long time) recently sent out a note from one of the big numbers guys – name omitted so as to not separate this bird from the flock (to read my article on that subject click here). But this big numbers critic has not only proven his ability to write ridiculous descriptions of wines, but to also to tell you when to drink them. How dumb is that? Not only does this not take in personal taste or storage conditions under which the wine is kept, but it also shows a complete lack of knowledge about what is going on past the tasting of wines from barrel. You see, the recommendation was to buy a 2010 Grand Cru White Burgundy and to drink it over the next 10 to 65 years!

And, no, this is not a April Fool joke. It’s not April! But, then what is it? Does the big numbers guy not know what is happening with the wines that he is reviewing? Maybe yes, maybe no. What is the motivation in throwing out such hype? And, why is the retailer buying into this program? Does the retailer not know the record of this producer in recent vintages? There are many White Burgundies from this producer that are over the hill well before reaching puberty. A recent Grand Cru from this producer is DOA at well under 10 years of age. (This is spelled out in my Premox article referenced above.) What is this reviewer saying with a “2020-2075” time line to drink this 2010 Grand Cru?

I had only a short time to think about the first note, and here comes another. This time it is a note saying: “…a classic in the making…2019-2060.” What a joke! This is yet another Grand Cru White Burgundy from the same producer who has one of the biggest premox problems. So this big numbers critic again tastes the wine from barrel or maybe right after bottling (who knows?) and then issues this proclamation. This IS a joke! How can this big numbers critic keep putting out such opinions? Based on the recent track record of this producer, the big numbers critic  has no clue as to how this wine will age. And, what does it matter? This is not meant for the consumer, but for the producer and the folks who are selling the wine. After all, if we consumers, buy this wine and find it is dead in a few years who is going to stand behind the prediction of keeping it for 7-48 years! Why would anyone buy this wine based on this information or why would anyone who professes to know anything about the wine sell it with this third party opinion? Beats me.

But, as consumers, if we buy into this nonsense, we have no one to blame but ourselves. I wonder what the time line was from this big numbers guy on earlier Grand Crus from this producer that are now dead after only a few years. But, frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn! And, you should be even more adamant about ignoring this recommendation, since you have to pay a lot of money for worthless advice.  Besides, you can wait to get the “flash notice” from a retailer who is also clueless. This is a double blast – worthless and for free! But, then again this is no bargain. After all, here is one of the 100 point boys telling you to keep this White Burgundy for 10 to 65 years or another one for 7-48 years! And, here is a retailer who promotes the advice and should know better. Get real! Stupid is as stupid does. What is the basis for keeping any White Burgundy for as long as 65 years? How many White Burgundies in the last 100 years have kept this long? And this is forgetting the Premox issue which is killing White Burgundies after only 5 or 10 years of age. (And, yes this producer is, unfortunately, one of the poster children of Premox.)

Comments on these White  Burgundies are simply ludicrous and make all such reviews not only suspect, but worthless. In fact, if you are going to age White Burgundies you need to be very selective. Because of the Premox problem, I buy very few White Burgundies from current vintages to age. Today, I would strongly advise all of you to be very careful about the White Burgundies you buy to age for as few as 5 years. And this comes from a guy who has historically bought White Burgundies to age for very long periods that have extended to 30-40 years! And yes I have White Burgundies in my cellar from the 60s and 70s that are great. There was no such thing as Premox until the mid 90s. And now I have White Burgundies, from some of those same producers that made great wines in the 60s, 70s and 80s that I have enjoyed for years, whose wines are dead at 5-1o years of age! So trust me. I know from sad experience what is going on!


Shame on this big numbers reviewer for issuing such statements about the aging potential of the wines. To say that they will age for a half century or more is just a joke! And, shame on the retailer for buying into the program. Why should this be? Good question? But, I would offer an explanation. First, who will be around to question or ask what happens to the wine in a few years? The reviewer can pretty much say anything so long as it has a big number attached (to read my article on this click here). This includes stuff like keeping  a white burgundy for 10-65 years! And, if the note is from a barrel sample, which it very well could be, that makes the opinion even more worthless, if that is possible!

From the retailer’s standpoint they are off the hook. After all, they did not recommend it. They only offered the opinion of a third party (and, yes, I will not sanctify this by using the term “expert”). So shame times two. In fact, as a consumer, one of the worst things I have observed in the last 10 years or so is the number of wine retailers who sell wine based only on a number. Or, even worse, a number backed with ridiculous descriptions or advice. These retailers subscribe to data bases which allow them to punch in a wine, get the best number, and then use that to sell the wine. They can then fall back on the position that they relied on someone else for their recommendation. Shame, shame on those retailers for being so short sighted and lazy.  And, shame on consumers for blindly buying into this game. Consumers are only buying into a game that is rigged to the retailers and the big numbers critics who are promoted by these same retailers.  From a consumers standpoint, it is a game of fools and one best avoided.

If you buy the wine and it is dead in a few years, where do you go to get your money back? Is it the big numbers critic who posted the opinion that was based on nothing that makes any sense? Or the retailer who quoted the big numbers critic and sold the wine?  Or, the producer who made the wine?  Sorry Charlie. It is none of the above. It is, at the end of the day, you and me as consumers. Caveat Emptor!  I, for one, never buy a wine solely on a number or information and descriptions that make no sense (to read an article on this subject click here  That leaves out virtually all of the information coming from the big numbers critics.  And, I never buy anything before I know the reputation of the people selling it be they retailers, or producers. That is the best advice I can give to you. If you ignore it, do so at your own peril and don’t say that no one ever told you to be careful.

April fool should come only once a year. But, then it is up to consumers to recognize it. If you don’t, then it is your problem. Now more than ever, every wine consumer has to be very careful. Prices for the wines that are perceived as the best are very high. There are fake wines (to read about those  click here) There are manipulated wines (to read about those click here).  And there are wines that are being hyped and promoted with outlandish claims such as I have talked about here. So Drink What You Like & Like What You Drink (to read that article click here).   But, make sure your wine decisions are based on what you know or are from the advice of people you know and trust. Otherwise, stay away!  In today’s wine world this is the best advice you will ever get! And, should you doubt this please remember that it was the Underground who was first on the subject of fake wines, manipulated wines, and over hyped and promoted wines. Stay with the Underground and be careful of the company you keep!


In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson

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6 comments for “GET REAL – WHO’S ON FIRST?”

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  • Chris Foskey says:

    Hi, John
    I agree with Alan Weinberg-name this idiot !!!
    He does not deserve to hide
    I’ve probably been lucky enough never to have heard of him anyway,being in Australia !!!
    I,selectively, buy old White Burgundy at auction,without problem so far, at good prices !!!

    • John Tilson says:

      Hi Chris,
      I have determined that there is no value in getting personal with respect to commentary. So I just refer to all the critics who are constantly promoting big numbers and ludicrous wine descriptions as the “100 point boys”. That covers about a half dozen of the most widely quoted 100 point reviewers. They all are pretty much the same in my book and that is why I have referred to such things as “birds of a feather flock together”.
      My point in writing about some of the really crazy stuff is to make it clear to wine drinkers that they should not take these numbers and all the hype that surrounds them too seriously.
      My goal is for people to explore and find out what they like. By exposing what I think is useless information and writing about wines that I like that are balanced ans often under the radar, I believe will give people the right direction to take in making their personal wine choices. Like many things today wine suffers from a bad case of TMI (too much information). I want to cut the the chase and focus on what is important, disclose things to avoid, and build people’s confidence in selecting wines for themselves. Along the way, I want to have fun and some good laughs, and drink good wine.
      In Vino Veritas,

  • Alan Weinberg says:

    Step up and name the big name critic. If what you write is true, and I do believe it, why protect him?

    • John Tilson says:

      Hi Alan,
      I do not believe it is productive to get personal. In my view, there are a half dozen or so publications that use the 100 point system and a lot of hype to promote a lot of over extracted wines with ridiculous commentary and descriptions. I refer the the group as the “100 Point Boys”. They are the ones who are most often quoted by people selling wine. That, along with an occasional note from a reader about a really goofy statement is the only way I ever come across their descriptions.
      I want to focus on exposing some of the really ridiculous commentary and focus on trying help people find wines that they like and have confidence about those wines even if the do not have a big number. Along the way, let’s have fun and some laughs and drink good wine!
      In Vino Veritas,

  • Steve Stumpf says:

    Dear John – Bravo for getting hot under the collar. The legacy of the UWL – for myself – is all about the editorial policy which is being unafraid to call out BS when it is stinking. Two UWL articles that come to mind are the Hocus Pocus Opus piece and the first time I read the message on the 100 point scale; if there are not score below 85 then it is actually a 15 point scale. As I look at the Total Wine circular I marvel at the pages with wines only 90 points and up. I picked up a Wine Spectator the other and noted the slim width. I welcome the decline in trophy wines and all the hoopla that surrounds the cult. It not only encourages fraud on a comparably exorbitant scale it promotes laziness – “only 90 pt wines for me.” When it comes to drinking wine the Stills song comes to mind “love the one you’re with.” Thanks.

    • John Tilson says:

      Thanks Steve,
      You have defined the Underground. We are still the same and I will continue to point out things that I think are out of whack, fake, or just off the mark. After all, some of the stuff that some people put out there is so far from having any validity that I wonder why anyone bothers. Maybe they don’t know. If that is the case, the Underground can help. And, yes, we can have fun and some laughs along the way. Please pass the Underground along!
      In Vino Veritas,

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