New releases! Big scores!

New releases! Big scores!
Rant of the week...
 
New releases! Big scores!
No need to read any further; the subject line says it all. It could be any of dozens of press releases, newsletters and other assorted promo “stuff” that daily pack my inbox. The drill is familiar: read the subject line, delete, done. If I haven’t glazed over at the first exclamation point, the word “score” or “rating” will do the job, every time.
 
But today, maybe it’s my wine curmudgeonly crankiness baring its gleaming canines, maybe I should’ve had that one more cup, who knows, but I just tasted through the lineup being touted with the owner-winemaker a few weeks ago — and well, here’s my snort of derision, in a few hundred words, give or take.
 
They were all winemaker’s wines. As in made. Manipulated. Over-extracted. Over-oaked. Over-hyped. Overpriced. A nursery rhyme played through a phase-shifter, a digital delay and a stack of Marshalls. Loud, with a cool light show. There really isn’t much else to say. Now, I like the guy, don’t have an axe to grind. But bs is bs, no matter how many cases you sell out of, no matter how you pander to the paparazzi, no matter that you’re one of the hipster darlings of the Washington wine biz. The emperor gots no clothes, baby. That dude is nekkid.
 
Funny, as we were tasting the wines, the WineMaker really didn’t have much to utter, either. Just some tech stuff, brix levels at harvest (huge), cases produced (not many, “get you a small allocation, but don’t wait, these are hot, hot, hot…”), pH, alcohol (plenty o’), et cetera, etc., &c. And don’t forget last year’s scores! (This year Parker’s sure to rate ‘em even higher. )93 points WA, 95 points WS, 91 points Enthusiast, blah, blah blah…
 
So, tell me then, what’s 95 taste like? Huh?  "In your own words, please describe…" Other than that it’s a bigger number than, say, 89, what do the digits say, daddio? Here’s a hint: It says that some guy who can’t be troubled to articulate what he tastes likes it a lot, gives it an “A,” that he was in a good mood, the producer schmoozed him, bought an ad in his magazine. Take your pick, but at the end of the day, it just says that Joe Blow likes it x much, it appeals to his very human, very fallible palate, for any of a bazillion, often quite subjective reasons. Does the fact that Joe Blow says it’s a 95 mean that you should like it? The difference between you and Jo Blow is that Joe knows that people are often supremely underconfident when it comes to wine, and they’re happy to pay for someone to show them the way, to tell them what they ought to taste, as it were. If Joe Blow were a book reviewer, or a music critic, how far would the numbers fly? 
 
(Let me add that in my unapologetic, purely subjective assessment, 94 often has just about as much character as a number.)
 
The English language is going to hell in an on-line hand-basket, and right along with it people’s ability to think in anything deeper than marketing content or a sound byte. Our conversations already pack all the depth we can pack into a text message, while we construct our “lifestyles” with “products” purchased on the advice of a few lines of “content.”
 
So, why even bother with the fuzzy white bunny puff piece when a simple number will do? No need to waste actual words on what the over-priced glug in question actually tastes like. Just say that King Bob or Shankin’ Marvin said “93” and that’s good enough for the demographic who prefer chest-beating one-upmanship to character and conviviality. Prose is for bleeding hearts and novel-reading liberal arts types. Cut to the chase, damn the guesswork and the nuanced nonsense. Full speed ahead. Read the numbers, hire a consultant — let the data do the talking.
 
The data, man. No matter how objective the numbers are purported to be, scores are the product of fallible, self-interested humans, making a living telling us that they’ve managed to turn a subjective pleasure into an objective quantification — and that their subjective experience packs more value than yours. Uh-huh.You bet.
 
Fine, if that’s what you like. If you don’t’ have the time or the attention span to actually think, taste, savor — to take pleasure, well… I’m sure that this little screed will generate more than a little ire — and a few howls of righteous indignation. Whatever. Bring it on. But let me add (once again in my very subjective, humble estimation), that when it comes to wine, numbers generally aren’t for people who trust their own palates, their own judgement and who are happy to form their own opinions. Numbers don’t just let you keep up with the Joneses, they tell you what to think so you can be the Joneses.
 
Remember PT Barnum?
 
Drink well, enjoy, Life is short.

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If you were to bottle it...

Jeff: ok, I've got some nice southern facing acreage in the Michigan microclimate conducive to growing riesling grapes. Why don't you retire here at the farm and you can make a wine you love to drink yourself? Damn the rest of them~and you'd probably create some kind of magic that would earn you a 96~ :)

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