Mark over at Uncorked posted an interesting piece today on a growing scandal in New Zealand. Basically, Wither Hills entered a Sauvignon Blanc into the New Zealand International Wine Show that proved to be different than the released wine (if you have the 2006 already, this is the wine in question). The competition awarded a gold metal to this wine that was stripped once Cuisine magazine tasted a similar sample blind with another purchased at retail and determined them not to be the same. The wine samples then made their way to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research who ran tests to prove both wines were different in alcohol content, acidity and sugar levels.
There is a popular meme in California wine country about ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œParker barrelsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?; special blends or samples specially prepared for critics like Robert Parker. While I can believe there might be some unscrupulous vintners who might be tempted to try this, it is my understanding that Mr. Parker goes nuclear on any winery he discovers practicing such tactics. In a web connected world, I canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t imagine any rational winemaker or winery owner taking such a gamble, which makes the situation with Wither Hills so perplexing.
In an email Mark sent out today he postulated if this episode would, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦sabotage the very foundation of Parker and Spectator-type wine ratings and wine competitions?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? I think not as such practices are likely to be exposed and the consequences to wine brands dire in such a competitive marketplace. In my view, this just is an isolated incident that few will repeat once they see what happens here.
Update: I noticed that Wither Hills winemaker Brent Marris has posted an open letter on the situation with his side of the story.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Kudos for the transparency, Mr. Marris.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Given Josh’s comments yesterday, I’ll accept that this was just a result of differing bottling runs and not an attempt at pulling a fast one on critics.