Bordeaux 2020 wine scores – James Suckling versus AI
by Pekka Nuikki / Editor in Chief of Fine Wine magazines
Can artificial intelligence “taste” and evaluate wines as the best wine critics? – A fascinating idea that came to my mind last year, and with the Bordeaux vintage 2020 we had an opportunity to test it for the first time.
Now that most critics have published their reviews and scores, there is an opportunity to compare them to the scores created by the tastingbook’s artificial intelligence in March 2021.
For this first comparison, I chose James Suckling, a wine critic I greatly respect. With 40 years of experience at the top of the wine world, he represents the most superior personal knowledge and professionalism, especially when compared to other esteemed critics today. Only Jancis Robinson and Michel Bettane have, in my opinion, a similarly meritorious and experiential history.
-How does the artificial intelligence of tastingbook evaluate wines?
Tastingbook.com rated Bordeaux’s 200 best known wines from 2020 vintage without tasting them. The points were formed by the tastingbook algorithm, which took into account the wine ratings of the world's 50 best known wine critics and thousands of tastingbook's professionals and users. It also observed the last 49 Bordeaux vintages (1980-2019) – the climatic conditions of all those growing seasons, the quality and the appreciation of the producers and their track record on producing wines in vintages similar to 2020. Based on these metrics and tastingbook’s 60,000+ wine reviews, the tastingbook’s artificial intelligence predicted the score for the Bordeaux 2020 wines. This process generated the predicted score for the each new wine.
-Well, how did the Tastingbook artificial intelligence scores compare to scores of James Suckling?
The results were surprising. The scores of the 50 best Bordeaux 2020 wines formed by the Tastingbook AI were published at the end of April weeks before that James Suckling launched his scores. They were almost identical to Tastingbook AI’s!
It was particularly gratifying that our artificial intelligence also identified the quality of Château Hosanna, Château Trotanoy, Château Pavie, Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Château La Fleur-Pétrus.
I have to congratulate James and his taste buds, since after all, he was compared against the artificial intelligence, which had at its disposal the wine reviews of thousands of professionals from almost 50 years.
Was it just coincidence or can Tastingbook Al really rate the wines like a top wine critic? In comparison with James Suckling’s scores of the top 100 wines, 47 wines received the same score, 48 wines had one point difference and only 5 wines the difference was 2-3 points.
The future will shows us, but there is a possibility that artificial intelligence will be among the most professional and unbiased elite of wine critics in the future.
Tastingbook.com will publish the ratings for the new vintages months before other critics in the future. Will it affect the evaluation, pricing and desirability of wines in the future? – Perhaps, but it cannot replace James Suckling’s taste buds, since without them and the tasting experiences of thousands of other wine professionals, artificial intelligence is just an empty algorithm without data.
A list of the best Bordeaux 2020 wines by both tastingbook.com’s AI and James Suckling:
Tastingbook AI / James Suckling
Château La Conseillante 2020 100p. 98-99p.
Château Haut-Brion 2020 100p. 97-98p.
Château Hosanna 2020 99p. 99-100p.
Château Angelus 2020 99p. 98-99p.
Château de Valandraud 2020 99p 97-98p.
Château Margaux 2020 99p 99-100p.
Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2020 99p 97-98p.
Château Lafite-Rothschild 2020 99p. 99-100p.
Château La Fleur-Pétrus 2020 99p. 99-100p.
Château Trotanoy 2020 99p. 99-100p.
Château Pavie 2020 99p. 99-100p.
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 2020 99p. 98-99p.
Vieux Château Certan 2020 99p. 98-99p.
Château Mouton-Rothchild 2020 99p. 99-100p.
Château de Figeac 2020 98p. 97-98p.
Château L’Eglise-Clinet 2020 98p. 98-99p.
Château Clinet 2020 98p. 96-97p.
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse
de Lalande 2020 98p. 97-98p.
Château La Mondotte 2020 98p. 97-98p.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2020 98p. 99-100p.
Château Léoville-Poyferré 2020 97p. 96-97p.
Château Le Gay 2020 97p. 98-99p.
Château Petit-Village 2020 97p 97-98p.
Château Rauzan-Ségla 97p 97-98p.
Château Léoville Las Cases 2020 97p 98-99p.
Château Léoville-Barton 2020 97p. 96-97p.
Château Cos d’Estournel 2020 97p. 97-98p.
Château Trottevieille 2020 97p. 98-99p.
Château Certan de May 2020 97p 95-96p.
Château Troplong-Mondot 2020 97p 98-99p.
Château Calon Ségur 2020 96p. 95-96p.
Château La Confession 2020 96p. 94-96p.
Vintage: 1982 Bordeaux
The 1982 vintage in Bordeaux changed the wine world as well as changed my life. It was the first vintage I tasted from barrel as a young wine writer working for the American magazine The Wine Spectator, and I was amazed how gorgeous the quality of a young red could be from barrel.
I remember the first barrel samples I tasted during the summer of 1983 at Chateau Prieure-Lichine with the late wine author and vintner Alexis Lichine. The wines were so fruity with soft and rich tannins. They seemed too drinkable for a young wine, yet Lichine who had over forty years of experience tasting young wines told me the wines were “exceptional” and “some of the greatest young wines ever produced.”
He had invited some of his winemaking pals from the Medoc to a lunch at his chateau following the tasting. And he kept telling them, which included such names as Bruno Prats (then Cos d’Estournel), Anthony Barton (Leoville-Barton) and Jean-Eugene Borie (Ducru-Beaucaillou) that young writers like myself were the future of the region and that they had to make me understand that 1982 was a great year. He was upset that the New York Timesand some other magazines had come out saying that the new vintage was not outstanding do to it seemingly early drinkability.
It was also a time an American lawyer in his mid-30s began writing full time on wine, creating a newsletter called The Wine Advocate. Many say Robert Parker built his career on advocating the greatness of Bordeaux’s 1982 vintage, although he obviously did much more.
More importantly, 1982 vintage marked a big change in the way Bordeaux was produced. It underlined fruit and ripe tannins in reds as well as a slightly higher level of alcohol and lower, or less strong acidity – higher pH. This is what gave the wines such wonderful texture, or drinkability in their youth.
It was a big change from most vintages before 1982 that produced hard and tannic wines that needed years, even decades to soften. The 1982 vintage became a model vintage for red Bordeaux in the future, and arguably for the wine world at large. Think of all the fruit-forward reds that are produced today in the world – for better or for worse. Alcohols are at least two, sometimes three or four degrees higher. Tannins are stronger yet riper. And natural acidities are lower. Chapitalization – adding sugar to the fermenting grape must to increase alcohol – seems a thing of the past.
“Young wines are so drinkable now,” said Alexander Thienpont, the winemaker of Pomerol’s Vieux-Chateau-Certan and Le Pin. The latter made its reputation on early drinkability. “It’s what people expect in a modern wine today.”
I believe some of the change with the 1982 was due to the “California” like growing conditions the Bordelias spoke of at the time. The summer was extremely hot and sunny. The harvest was warm and mostly clear of precipitation. Grape yields were high with many of the best wine properties making more wine per hectare than set by French authorities. In fact, the late Jean Pierre Moueix of Chateau Petrus always told me that the 1982 vintage would have been at the same level as the 1945 or 1949 vintage if yields had been lower.
Yet, the experience of the growing season and harvest in 1982 made a whole new generation of winemakers in the region understand the importance of picking grapes later and riper. They understood early on when wine critics such as Parker and myself as well as members of the US wine trade enthused so much about the 1982 reds from barrel. This also was the beginning of the popularization of barrel scores used to purchase wines.
The US market was the biggest market to buy top notch Bordeaux with the 1982 vintage. It began a decade of intense buying of Bordeaux in the states with consumers buying first growth and second growth as well as Pomerols and St. Emilion. Americans regaled in the wine’s juiciness and beauty. They also made a shit load of money if they held on to the wines in sold them later. For example, most of the first growths sold for about $40 a bottle in 1983 as futures and some are now as much as $3,500 a bottle. Prices for 1982 are down slightly now, but the price appreciation over 30 years is impressive after 30 years.
So is the quality of the wines still for the most part. I am lucky enough to drink top 1982 on a regular basis, and the best ones never cease to amaze me with their generous and complex fruit and polished, ripe tannins. Bottle variation can be a problem because many of the top names have been bought and sold and stored all over the world, but on a whole it is a treat to drink a great 1982. And the vintage always reminds me of my beginnings in the wine world