Question for the Group . . .
If you are so inclined, please check out the following two articles:
1) "Wine tasting is bullish*t -- Here's why," written by Robert T. Gonzalez @ http://io9.com/wine-tasting-is-bullsh...
2) "Re: wine tasting is bullish*t," a response written by W. Blake Gray @ http://blog.wblakegray.com/2013/05/re...
. . . and what do YOU think?
Wine tasting is subjective. As if that is a big surprise. And prior experience will influence future expectations. Wow. And East German judges score East German athletes highest. Another shocker.
As stated before, I drink my wines based on availibility, fond memories, desire, price, and who is accompanying it. Not always in that order. I value other people's opinion, but I need a set of examples to show why a certain wine is better or worse than others.
I enjoy wine. When out on the town, I do get put off by some who must criticise others' choices and how they can get the most enjoyment by swilling, slurping, etc. But to each their own. And zin, I would love to be taken to school by you, as well as a few others here, on the joys of Bordeaux.
Rating systems are usually bullshit.
Robert Parker's system, for example, would give a glass of boiling ammonia a score of at least 50.
My 10-point scale:
- finish the glass and order multiple cases
- finish the glass and order a case
- finish the glass and buy a bottle
- finish the glass and order another glass
- finish the glass
- don't finish the glass
- take a sip and spit it out
- take one sip, spit it out, and rinse my mouth
- take a sniff and decline to put it in my mouth
- read the label and laugh
re: Robert Lauriston
For a wine I'm tasting for the first time, or at least seriously for the first time, if it's past the "finish the 2+ glass stage" above, I'll add one of my own criteria: does this wine want to make me read more about it, or the varietal, or about wines of similar character (by region, subregion, varietal, etc). Or try other growers' iterations of it. The unexpected "Holy s...t, this is delicious, what's it all about?" reaction is still one of wine's joyous rewards, especially when it prods me to learn more about the pleasure I've just consumed.
I found the first article abrasive and borderline obnoxious. I do think some so-called wine authorities come across as bloviators, but no one is making anyone read that stuff!
I found the 2nd article much more thoughtful. And I agree. Wine is a food, and everyone has different opinions on all sorts of foods.
Personally, I don't like to ascribe numbers to my wine evaluations, but I evaluate them all the same.
lol! OK . . . but let me put it into a larger context.
I agree that numerical systems are not worthy of the ink they waste -- ESPECIALLY the 100-point scale that a) resonates with most Americans from their time in elementary school, and b) implies, if only subconsciously, a level of specificity and exactitude that is impossible to attain.
On the other hand, the more wine one tastes, the more one needs some form of "shorthand" to quickly rank those wines that have been tasting in preference order. So while I often tell my student that the most important thing they could ever say about a wine is "Yum or Yuck," as soon as you taste more than three wines, some "classification system" becomes necessary.
When I was one of the corporate wine buyers for Liquor Barn (a 104-store chain that used to gross $330 million in annual sales), I came up with a 5-point scale of my own to rank the wines and decide which wines should be considered for purchase, versus which should be eliminated from such consideration. The scale was a series of TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms), as follows:
>>> IFC = in-f***ing-credible! (If anything was a "must buy," this was it!)
>>> GSM = Good $#|+, Maynard! (My homage to The Dobie Gillis Show, and Maynard G. Krebs; worthy of purchase, if we needed wine in this specific category)
>>> PGS = Pretty Good $#|+ (good, but had to exhibit great QPR [quality-price ration] to be considered for purchase)
>>> DNS = Does Not Suck (no faults, commercially acceptable, but nothing to get excited about)
>>> DNPIM = Danger! Danger! Warning, Will Robinson DO NOT PUT IN MOUTH! (applicable to bad bottles)
Then I realized that this didn't cover a wine that obviously started off with great potential but were horrible due to a winemaking mistake, and so was added
>>> STW = Shoot The Winemaker!
"as soon as you taste more than three wines, some 'classification system' becomes necessary"
Depends on the wines. I've been to a lot of tastings where the wines ran the gamut from yecch to meh.
When tasting a lot of wines I have a shorthand for nose / palate / finish. xxx means no interest, ✓✓x means nice nose and tastes good but has little or no finish, and so on. For wines with ✓✓✓ I may add one or more ☆ if I really like it, one or more $ if I thought it wasn't a good value, or one or more ! if I want to buy some.
I think Mr. Gonzalez should get one of your "STW" ratings--for his writing style alone. And I think Mr. Gray's talents lie more in politics than polemics ("I'm not going to nitpick..." and then proceeding to do just that.
But on a deeper level, to advance this inquiry, we need to keep an eye on who's *invested* in an outcome (and which one and why). It's easy to trot out the numerous studies proving how sense perceptions--even among experts--are steered, limited and skewed by things any objectivist critical taster would be embarrassed to find were affecting his/her scores. And it's just as easy to deflect and dismiss these criticisms by acknowledging and co-opting the obvious intrinsic subjectivity and unreliability of judgments. IMO this is merely what these "authors" are doing.
I think we would all be better off if we could agree that: (a) Past a point, all that is truly objective are the lab results; but that (b) critical tasting (and the education/experience that informs it) is nevertheless capable of helping us in non-subjective ways to buy and enjoy better wine than we might otherwise.
I would also suggest that there is something like a quantum "observer effect" at work--the act of observation makes changes on the wine being judged. At some level, the judge must be considered part of the system being observed.
I think wine tasting is legit and for real. Years ago in Houston a noted oenophile was given a blind taste of "something." He then and there identified the grape, country, and vintage. I know there are wines I like that taste very different from wines of the same year, same grape, same general area, etc. as others I don't like. Knowledgeable tasters helped me understand why. (For example I like the 2011 Chehalem PN, not so much the Patricia Green...explanation, the Patricia Green grows along a ridge with iron deposits. Advice, try it again in five years.). Sure most people generally cannot say if they are drinking cab or merlot, but they also rave about foods that I think are overcooked, over sauced, junk.
re: tim irvine
"... identified the grape, country, and vintage ..."
For someone who's tasted a wide variety of wines, that could be fairly easy or virtually impossible depending on which wine it was.
I once won a "guess the wine" game at a wine bar by a process of elimination. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon of high quality, but didn't taste French, Californian, South African, or Australian, that sort of left Argentina. All the Cabs I'd had from there at that level of quality were from Mendoza. It wasn't made to be laid down, so I could tell it was 4-5 years old. I got the grape, country, region, and was off by one year on the vintage, despite not being very familiar with Mendoza wines.
re: Robert Lauriston
You are SO correct. I was in a group of "tasters," where we did 12 wines. The test was, as mentioned. Most missed the majority of the examples. When done, only one taster, out of about 100, was correct 100% of the time. When done, the host discussed each of those 12 wines. They had been chosen, based on none being typical of their Region, or their varietal. He had chosen a Syrah, that tasted like a Zinfandel - a Cabernet Sauvignon, that tasted like a Merlot - a Pinot Noir, that tasted like a Syrah, and the list goes on, and on. The choices were atypical, in every way. Not sure how anyone (even one taster) could have nailed all of them?
When I conduct a critical tasting, I try for examples that DO typify New World vs Old World, one Region vs another, a particular varietal vs another, a vintage vs another. I do not try to "trick" my audience. I do not believe that it should be some sort of "parlor game," and want my audience to get some ideas of what wines SHOULD taste like, and not try to find examples that are not the norm. [I still think that the one taster, who claimed to get a 100 score, was either drunk, or had help.]
When tasting atypical wines, I try to provide a "control," such as a Pinot Noir (almost always Domestic - USA), that might pose itself as a Syrah, and then a Syrah, with some of the same characteristics. I try to "educate," rather than obfuscate. No fun in that, IMHO.
re: Robert Lauriston
I just lost a similar contest, with a prize, that I really wanted, when I confused a US Rhône wine, with the French counterpart. I got the OZ version, but mixed up the US/French wines. Unfortunately, it was all, or nothing, and though I had nailed every other test, that cost me the biggie, by 1 "stinking" point. I was second... [Cry]
The sommelier admitted that each of those two examples were each atypical, so a guess was better than a tasting, but such is life.
Probably way oversimplifying this subject, but....................... how in the world would you know if you like a wine if you don't taste it? Ergo................... how would you know if you like several wines, or which you prefer, if you don't taste them.
I rest my case.
Maybe not.................... presuming that you can tell someone else what they'll like is probably the threshold of BS. So............ why do I do it every day?
Yep, and that is why I am not a fan of almost anyone's rating scale. Now, a critical posting of the full characteristics might lead me to wine A, or a similar posting might lead me away from wine B, but in the end, it is MY palate, that counts - at least for me, and only my tasting will reveal what I like, or do not like.