I thumbed through the new Wine Spectator today, which I still like for its profiles on people and regions. I loved that they profiled the pretty sommelier at my favorite restaurant, No. 9 Park, in Boston. But when I get to the ratings reports, I almost get sick. I know they don’t do an experienced wine drinker much good, but I am thinking they don’t do anyone a service.
The minute you tell somebody a wine is good, with, say 89 points, you are disavowing the personal relationship a person has with a wine, which is the magic for me. Nobody but a man dull of mind and spirit never finds a tart attractive when he is in a certain mood. Does he always admire only the likes of Kate Middleton or Kate Beckinsale? Moods change and so do girls and wines. A chubby girl warranting a Wine Spectator 79 might go to a summer camp and get all tanned and skinny, with her butt sticking out for the first time and her hair all over the place, looking sexy instead of like a helmet, and voila! she is hot!
Different “quality” wines go with different moods and through evolutions, like people. They are living organisms. I bought four 2001 Durfort Vivens because they were cheap and rated 82 by some rag, rather than in spite of the fact. An aristocrat can have a bad hair day, I thought. The first one tasted like what I might rate an 82. But the third, a few years later, was majestic, inspiring my wife to ask plaintively if there were more. One I said, but that was enough to elicit a beatific smile.
I know this is the oldest cliché in the world, that ratings are bullshit. But if we don’t keep saying it, blokes will live and die buying numbers instead of experiencing one of the great joys of wine, the Pas de deux to changing melodies.