Having just completed the triathalon of pinot noir tastings, Oregon Pinot Camp, the Steamboat winemaker’s conference and the International Pinot Noir Celebration, the contrast between the tastings and the lunches and dinners could not be more clear. During tastings people look for faults and drama, while during meals people look for pleasure.
We have ended up with a system, the 100 point scale, that only measures how wines taste with other wines, while ignoring their primary reason for existence - pleasure at the table. Buying wines selected in this way is a bit like buying a car after sitting in it with0ut ever driving it. When you sit in it you can see all the bells and whistles, but without driving it you can’t really get the feel of it. That’s what our critics offer us, wines ranked without ever really getting a feel for them. Can there be a less pleasant picture of enjoying wine than someone speed tasting dozens of bottles in an attempt to rank them in numerical order?
Anyone that pays even the slightest attention to the wines they drink knows that over the course of a meal fine wines evolve tantalizingly and this evolution is exactly what makes the best wines most exciting. Power, speed tastings to give wines a ranking based on points ignores this most beautiful aspect of enjoying wine. Hiding under a guise of helping the consumer, today’s critics point consumers to wines that are too expensive and not very good with food. What’s that protecting the consumer from?
Automobile writers drive a car for hours or days before reviewing it, while major wine writers may spend mere seconds with a wine. Would you want to buy a car based on the review of a writer that only sat in the car for a few seconds? This is exactly how wine criticism works today.