The perversion that is scoring wine

People giving points to wine is admittedly such an easy target to destroy it is like going dynamite fishing in a barrel. Additionally, I am sure I have raged about it on Elitistreview before. However, a memory cropped up this morning that I thought was quite instructive, and it allows me to wallow in the warm bath of egomania. Consequently, I deemed a short rant as being perfectly justified.

Now, I am not going to bother with the simplest destruction of giving points to wine. Which is to say: what in the blazing fuck does it mean when you give a village Vosne-Romanée 92 points and a Grand Cru Romanée-Saint-Vivant 92 points? It is so meaningless it is beneath drivelly nose pickings. It is as utter wank as scoring Feta cheese a strength 2 cheese on a linear scale that includes Brie, Roquefort and Cheddar. Not so much “You have got to be kidding” as “I have got to slap you repeatedly in the face”. But this is not the point I want to make based on my memory.

When I used to review wines for Decanter magazine they used to ask me to score wines out of five. At the last tasting I attended I got to roughly wine number three in the line up and it was truly stunning. It turned out it was Pommard Premier Cru Rugiens 1999 from de Montille. I stood in front of this wine thinking about its complexity and style, what its agreeing profile would be, but, more importantly, who I’d like to drink this with, what, if any, food I would serve with it and how it made me feel.

Parker's Wine Buyer's TossThen I looked down at my tasting sheet and remembered that I had to summarise all the complex and engaging thoughts in a number from one to five. I walked up to the then editor and said “This is meaningless toss, I’m never doing one of these tastings again”, and walked out. I purchased a bottle of that de Montille, which I still own and I still have many rich and complex thoughts about.

To summarise: Wine does not exist in a vacuum. The tired defence of “I would like to drink a 93 point wine slightly more than a 92 point wine” just does not hold water. Drink when? With what? With whom? In what mood? The variables are too numerous to list and too involved to simply say “I would just prefer to drink it”. It is not just reducto ad absurdum, it is a pile of maggot-infested horse shit.

Now, allow me a brief pause for an egomaniacal cackle… Thank you. This is why my tasting notes are so good! I don’t just write a description of a wine’s flavour profile, although I think my notes are usually technically accurate, but I write more than that. I write how a wine makes me feel, what ideas it conjures up, how it relates to the time, location, company present, etc. when I am drinking it.

Of course, when I write up a wine I let the florid perversion of my imagination run riot. This is because being obsessed with wine IS perverted, doubly so writing about the stuff. Drinking wine is one of those glorious times that you live in the moment. You are immersed in that experience then – a wonderful way to live life (children have got it right doing this). If you think you can capture that moment of existence, with all that is surrounding and influencing you, in a number then you are manifestly nothing but a prize twat.

  • Keith

    Prize twats indeed.
    Cracker of a post…

  • Tom Blach

    Hooray, David. You make my heart swell with patriotic pride.

  • Thank you Keith and Tom! Tom you will have noticed this post was liked by quite a few of our cousins across the ocean. Presumably not the ones who think 50=0 and imagine they can classify all the good times they’ve had in their life on a one dimensional scale. Twats indeed.

  • Tom Blach

    I’m sorry to see the almost unbelievable rudeness to which you were subjected over there, David. Such thoughts are a tumescent canker on what should be the civilised world of wine appreciation. Unfortunately they are so common on that board that I fear that you’re right to avoid it, as I have taken to doing.
    Wine wasn’t made for appreciating by numbers. Ask the people who make it.

  • Glenn

    Terrific post, and I thank Todd for linking it. As an elitist cocksucker myself I’ll have to visit more frequently.

  • Glenn, I wouldn’t call myself a cocksucker, never having sucked a cock, but I do think that nice things are nicer than nasty things, which I suppose makes me elitist.

  • Christian

    Brilliant writing Davy.

    And do not listen to the rude people “over there” 😉

  • Thank you, Christian. I have to say the paranoia reacts quite out of proportion to even minor rudeness, so I think Tom’s advice of steering clear of that place is good.

    I suppose I could be thought of as stupid writing wildly provocative blog posts when I’m liable to think I deserve to die if anyone is rude in return. Alas, I cannot bring myself to write anodyne, dreary posts that no one can take offence at. I just cannot help but be wild and out-spoken. Just plain stupid, I know.

    I suppose I shall have to hide here on Elitistreview where most visitors know what they are getting and try my hardest not to kill myself should someone leave a torrent of abuse for me to get paranoid and suicidal about.

    What an odd person I am…

  • Wine Berserkers is the worst and all it is is mostly personal attacks of bitter people with “internet muscles.” I was run off there years ago because they accused me of “schilling” in every post, which is so far from the truth I did not even bother to defend myself and rode off into the sunset.

  • Lyle, there are some really nice people on WB, but such is the nastiness of the proportion of shit-streaks there I’m a bit surprised anyone stays. You are always welcome here, not least because I worship anyone who owns as wild a collection of shoes as you as at least a demigod.

    If I understand my sharing buttons correctly, as of now 124 people have shared this post on Facebook. Cripes!

  • Lest I forget, I will note I wrote this after taking 600mg of Tramadol as soon as that mega dose made my back hurt tolerably rather than stupendously.