Back in May, I arranged to meet Ella Lister, the extremely elegant woman behind Wine Lister, self-defined as “the new standard in wine rating”. It’s a fascinating system, and has the potential to be revolutionary for the wine market. You can read more about it in my write-up on bbrblog.com, here.
It touched on a theme that both intrigues and appalls me. Scoring: I just can’t quite get my head around it. Why a wine lover would really want it or need it. Why anyone thinks that you can sum up a wine with a number. It doesn’t make sense to me. And don’t get me wrong, Wine Lister is a beautiful site to use and – being on the nerdier side – I do appreciate that kind of attention to detail. I love that it has – at least for some wines – the encépagement – which is often hard to find. I like finding out how vintages compare. I’m intrigued by different reviews. But, it doesn’t translate a wine, it doesn’t convey the possibly life-changing meaning to be found in a glass of something really really good.
I truly believe wine is a personal experience, and a largely emotional one – affected by everything from your mood to the exact moment. I’m a Broadbent convert, and find a Systematic Approach to Tasting almost offensive – sucking the life out of the topic I love. I don’t really believe in wine investment – it isn’t a commodity, nor should it – in my mind – be treated as such. Wine is, to me at least, art.
And while I know that it’s simple, that it makes sense to consumers, that Robert Parker came in at just the right moment with his cunning 100-point system (based on the school scores that everyone knew and understood), that his numbers cut through the bull****. And that ever since then, scoring has been industry-standard – bar, of course, Hugh Johnson. But it doesn’t make it ok. We need more of the modern-day André Simons, Michael Broadbents and Terry Thieses: people whose words magically conjure scents and sensations; writers with charm, wit and intelligence whose descriptions never cease to ring true; truly eloquent boozehounds whose pleasure you can feel in the pages.
And therein lies the problem with numbers, with a score as representation for wine: there is simply none of the joy of wine in it.
I couldn’t agree more! Presently reading the Robert Parker biography, which is interesting in its own right – how he became a force, the success of the 100-point rating system, how it got so widely adopted – still, for me, it’s always been about the experience, the art. Did not know about Wine Lister – checking it out pronto!
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Thanks, Amy – I’ve added that to my Christmas list!