Debating the merits of scoring is a well-worn topic on wine blogs and forums, but this nicely argued contribution on John M Kelly’s blog “notes from the winemaker” offers an original perspective. Do read it for yourself, but basically John describes the lengths it would be necessary to go to in order to make an objective assessment of a wine. Of course, no critic works like this, and their scores are essentially subjective.
After reading it, something else occurred to me. If wines were scored with the rigour described in John’s blog post, the scores would still most likely be meaningless to the consumer, possibly more so than the scores of today’s critics. Why? Because all the factors that are so important in drinking and enjoying wine are removed in order to get a reliable assessment, and no one actually drinks wine in laboratory conditions. An even more fundamental objection lies in the definition of what makes one wine better than another. It is one thing to make that definition explicit as suggested by John, but it would be impossible to get one that everybody would agree with.
To the extent that there is any agreement at all about what makes a good wine, the most common definition you hear these days is “one that has a sense of place”. What procedure would you use to measure that?
Just wanted to share a few links I came across recently on the UK Wine Forum. They are not new articles, but I found them interesting. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will probably find them interesting too, as they cover topics I tend to bang on about, and they support my arguments and views. But if you are not a regular reader, you could find them as irritating as my blog 🙂
Firstly there is a set of three articles about biodynamics, all of which take a pretty sceptical view. The first is On Fertile Ground? Objections to Biodynamics, which is a 2006 article from The World of Fine Wine, written by Jesús Barquín and Douglass Smith. It is a well-argued and balanced piece, very much in the ponderous style of the magazine. The second is by the same authors: Biodynamics in the Wine Bottle. Here they take their gloves off, and get more stuck into a critique of Steiner’s ideas. Neither does Voodoo on the Vine, by Joe Eskenazi, pull any punches. These articles, particularly the last two, lay themselves open to the criticism that they are using ridicule as an argument. But I do not think that is fair – the wacky ideas they mention are not at all taken out of context – dip anywhere into Steiner’s work and wackyness is pretty much all you will find. I particularly liked the concluding paragraphs of Biodynamics in the Wine Bottle, in which the harm of biodymanics is discussed. The authors write: Apart from being a waste of time money and effort,
The problem resides in the extension of disbelief in empirical technique, and in substituting for it beliefs in unscientific practices like astrology and homeopathy, as well as voodoo-style rituals and even “geo-acupuncture.” We must confront this problem, not just as wine lovers and wine writers, but also as citizens who do not wish to live in, nor present to our children, a society in which pseudoscience and esoteric fantasies are considered reality.
The final article I’d like to draw your attention to is A Hint of Hype, A Taste of Illusion, by Leonard Mlodinow. The strong message I am getting here is not to take anyone’s opinions on a wine too seriously, however expert that person is supposed to be, and even if that person is oneself. But that does not mean that having a views on a wine is a snobbish affectation, which is perhaps a conclusion many would draw. Let’s just accept that people’s views on wine differ, and are subject to all sorts of influences.