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What's the Score With the Score?

Having been recently quoted in brief in the European Wall Street Journal on the subject of scoring wine (here) I thought I might elucidate and lay out my thoughts in more detail.

It is abundantly clear that a vast number of factors govern the way we taste wine, from barometric pressure to, well, a glance at the label would have a pretty significant effect, to be sure. I would be willing to bet that there are many factors seldom considered that also affect our vinous opinions: hormones given off by those nearby, for example; something cyclic occurring within ourselves, even.

Tasting wine is, of course, an entirely subjective thing. And let's face it, we have extremely limited resources at our disposal. Our senses of smell and taste are limited; we evaluate wine through a veil of organoleptic inhibition.

Wine is made to be enjoyed as part of our lives, whether at table, as part of a celebration...whatever. Tasting a line-up of wine in the relatively sterile environment of a tasting room gives what is surely superficially a level playing field, but will certainly flatter some wines over others.

Similarly, the practice of blind tasting might prevent us from lifting the glass to our noses with some preconception or other, but it cannot help us overcome the shock of something unexpected: a style we would evaluate with more sympathy were we familiar with the wine maker's intentions.

Big wine tastings are a highly inexact way to evaluate anything. The annual UGC bunfight at the Royal Opera House, for example, quickly leaves one's senses smothered in young fruit and tannin. Properly analysing the creation of a wine maker who endeavours to make a wine both subtle and elegant in the midst of modern heavyweights is clearly beyond the skills of any taster.

And a wine attains perfection only in consideration of the exact moment at which it is consumed, taking all relevant factors into consideration. A 7% Mosel Riesling in a summer garden; a giant-sized Hermitage with venison in a wood-panelled dining room with a fire roaring in the hearth: both might conspire to be wines unsurpassable in appositeness vis-à-vis time and place. There and then nothing would or could be better.

I suggest that there is no vinous perfection in the "vacuum" of a tasting room. Further, I would even suggest that judging wine - applying terms like "better", "great", "minor" etc. - are an affectation. Our task at hand should be to describe wines only. Why do more? Judging is, as I have suggested, an irrelevance.


And those writers who say that readers and consumers demand such things should ask themselves: "is it really healthy to give people everything they ask for?" Make your readers work a little harder for greater understanding and we will all be better off. 
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