5000 Wines a Year


I saw a comment recently from a wine writer noting that they tasted over five thousand wines a year. I could only think how sad. Was this some sort of punishment? Did someone commit a crime? What a pity to turn such a pleasure into such a grind.

Another comment on a forum noted that the writer first scored the wine 88 points , but that it had mellowed into a 89 point wine after about thirty minutes. It improved by a point? I could only think how sad it is to force flavors and aromatics into one point increments. Again pleasure becomes a grind.

While I was attending a wine faults seminar by the University of California at Davis the professor passed off the answer to a question as obvious when someone asked the equally obvious question. “Professor I’ve noticed that the sample with the VA was very strong at first, but now that I’ve gone back to it several times and it gets harder and harder to pick up,” said one of the winemakers in the seminar. The professor almost off-handedly commented that was just how your nose worked. It could take twenty minutes or so before it reset itself.

So, as the Ph.D. from Davis noted, if you get a nose-full from a a wine loaded with VA or Brett or a long line of wine faults you will be severely disabled aroma-wise for a signifiant period of time. Then there is simple palate fatigue on top of that.

What does this mean? It means that the people that taste five thousand wines a year or those that nudge a wine by a point after a half hour are just kidding themselves. It can’t be done, we’re humans not machines. Your senses lose the ability to accurately judge wines even after just a dozen or so. The idea of defining the difference between 88 and 89 points as a relative quality value is simply a joke. Mother Nature did not give us the tools required.

This, of course, extends to all the major wine publications and wine competitions. What they claim to be doing can’t be done. Fact and end of story.

In addition to the fact that they’re totally inaccurate as an indicator of quality, marathon tastings and pointy nit-picking just take the joy and pleasure out of wine. They are also a slap in the face to the intellectual side of wine appreciation.

One thing I appreciate about wine bloggers over the traditional wine press is that instead of pounding through dozens of bottles and pumping out points, most take a more thoughtful approach. Wine blogs are full of tales of wines at the table, which is the only place you can really get to know a wine. Wine writing about the experience of the true pleasures of wine tells you more than any point ranking or gold medal ever can or will. There are so many good wine blogs out there these days that they cover more than enough wine to fill anyone’s needs. What you won’t find in the blogs are reviews of Screaming Eagle or Lafite, but let’s face it, if you’re buying those wines you don’t really care about reviews anyway.

My mind keeps drifting back to the person tasting more than five thousand wines a year. It sounds so terrible to me. I’m more than happy tasting a few hundred or so a year. It also means I get to enjoy wines that I really love more than once. I think it often takes a few bottles, consumed over a period of time with different foods, before you really know a wine.

I doubt there are actually five thousand wines in the world that I want to try. Someone else will have to take that punishment for me. No thanks.