When it comes to tasting wine in a critical context (critical as in “for the purpose of reviewing potential and quality” and not critical as in “life-threateningly-important” – though way, way, way too many people treat it that way), I’m often reminded of the phrase made (in)famous decades ago in wine TV commercials by an aging (and rapidly expanding) Orson Welles.
No, I don’t mean “Mmmmyyyyaaaaaargh…The French!…”
I mean “wine before its time.”
The deeper I go into this Going Pro rabbit hole, the more often I find myself tasting a fine wine (several) years before “its time” – what I would consider its optimal drinking age. It’s something that came to mind while I was reading (and subsequently commenting on) a recent blog post by Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff, when he mused that it’s a treat for wine reviewers when they actually get an appreciable amount of time to enjoy a wine at leisure (a point with which I agree, and one I can appreciate given that I’ve found myself in similar circumstances recently – though as a general rule I eschew tasting large volumes of wine quickly and, as mentioned before on these virtual pages, I’m not interested in going that route for 1WineDude.com).
So, what is a wine’s optimal drinking age, then?…
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I mean it. Don’t go hatin’ on wine scores just because they get abused. Or because you (like me) don’t care for them much yourself.
If you really want to change things in the wine world, then go out there and buy wines that appeal to your own preferences, and based on recommendations from sources that you trust – irrespective of whether or not those recommendations are based on scores.
In this short video, I explain why I think wine scores/ratings have their place (gasp!), and why it’s not the fault of the scores or rating systems themselves that they get relentlessly abused in wine media, retail and even by consumers.
At the end, things get a bit… trippy… Also, monkeys are involved. Whatever. You’ve been warned…
No matter how far one travels in the wine world, there is no respite from the rampant abuse of the 100-point wine rating system.
The harsh reality of this fact was driven home to me while visiting the (relatively new, at least when it comes to their modern table wines) Cima Corgo producer Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo during my recent sojourn to Portuguese wine country (while the vineyards have been long-standing and the location making wine since the mid 1700s, the modern winery was built in April 2003).
Quinta Nova’s rather long name is the odd result of a merger of sorts; from the QuintaNova.com website:
“The name ‘Quinta Nova’ (meaning new farm) was the name given to the new Quinta after the two Quintas were joined together. Nossa Senhora do Carmo is the patron saint of the seventeenth century chapel on the margin of the Douro River. In this particularly dangerous bend of the river, the crew of the Rabelo boats would stop at the chapel to beg protection from their patron saint before carrying on down the river.”
In their efforts to get their table wines a bit of market share outside of their Portuguese home base, it seems that Quinta Nova could use some assistance from their canonized namesake – because the abuse of the 100 point system, which has led to what have to be some of the laziest business practices in modern history, is making their journey into the world wine market a treacherous one indeed…
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I’m kind of like a bad debt that you cannot pay. I just keep coming back…
And in February, the crime scene to which I’ll be returning is the lovely Meadowood in Napa Valley, where I’ll be a panelist at the 2011 Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. Some of you out there in blog-o-land might recall that I was lucky enough to receive a fellowship to the same event in 2010 and even luckier to take part as a panelist during the time I was there.
I remain, as ever, totally amazed at the gullibility generosity of those within the world of wine that they continue to ask me to take part in such wonderful events as the Symposium, and it’s my intention here to convince any of you who are budding wine writers to go to this shin-dig. Yes, it will cost you a few hundred bucks, but there exists no better event on offer with such concentrated wine and writing talent (excluding your truly, of course!) in the United States. It’s like wine writing crack, only more intense and very likely healthier for you, assuming you’re not actually taking crack while attending the Symposium. And while it may not actually be easy, all things considered it’s a hell of a lot easier than trying to garner such collective wine-writing wisdom and experience by your lonesome self!
The WWS is also the place where you’ll get a chance to rub elbows with the likes of Antonia Allegra, Gerald Asher, Lettie Teague, Jack Hart and Dominique Browning – there’s some serious writing clout in the speakers list for this thing. I’m honored and excited to be sharing the panelists’ table with Lettie and Doug Cook, but for the most part I’m gonna be in the bleacher seats soaking in all of the good stuff, just like everybody else. And taking a copious amount of notes.
So… if you’re based in the U.S. and are at all interested in seriously applying the craft of writing to the world of wine, then I sincerely hope to meet you there!