One of the most common questions that the Wine Curmudgeon gets is about home wine tastings. Are they difficult to do? Are they worthwhile? Are they fun?
No, yes, and very yes.
I’m in Illinois, so that means I’m going to try and buy some Illinois wine. It’s one of those things that the Wine Curmudgeon does. So I go to one high-end grocery store in a high-end suburb. Nope, no Illinois wine (and the guy behind the counter is even a little surly about it, so the Wine Curmudgeon gives him the evil eye). I got to another high-end grocery store in another high-end suburb. Nope, no Illinois wine.
Is Illinois wine any good? I don’t know. I can’t find any to buy so I can taste it.
At a wine function the other day, I met two intelligent, well-read wine drinkers. This was a big-deal tasting, and they wouldn ?t have been invited unless they knew what they were doing. I introduced myself, and I told them what I did for a living. One of the duo asked me how I scored wine. I told her that I didn ?t use scores. She was quite surprised. How do you evaluate wine if you don ?t use scores? she asked.
It was another Wine Curmudgeon moment.
Regular visitors here know how I feel about scores. And if you ?re here for the first time, you can probably guess. I don ?t like them.
At best, wine scores are sloppy, an excuse for discussing what the wine tastes like and what it pairs with. At their worst, scores are dishonest. No one is ever going to give a $100 wine an 88, and no $10 wine will ever get a 95. Even the most horrible wines rarely score worse than 80, which is supposed to be the cutoff between good and average.
And none of this takes into account individual taste, what mood the person doing the scoring was in that day, or any of a dozen other variables like experience and wine knowledge. My scoring (if I did it) is going to be different from yours which is going to be different from your next door neighbor. So why should my wine scores count more than yours? You ?re going to be drinking the wine, after all.
I tried to explain this to the person at the tasting, and I think I made some headway. She nodded in agreement when I said my goal was to give the reader enough information to make up his or her own mind. I ?m the conduit, I said, not the final arbiter. Her husband seemed to be even more favorably impressed, and I may even had made a convert.
One down, millions more to go.
A footnote: One of the wines served at this event was a 100-pointer (which I ?ll write more about later). I glanced at my companions when we found out what it was, and they both shook their heads. Neither could believe it was perfect.
That’s usually one of the snickers I get when I tell people I judge competitions — along with, “Boy, I wish I could do that” and similar bits of cleverness.
And the Wine Curmudgeon will be the first to admit that judging a competition is not as difficult as mining coal or working at Burger King (my first job, which broke me of the desire to ever have a real job). But it is work.
Friday was my final day teaching the introductory wine class at Dallas’ Cordon Bleu. As much as I enjoyed it — and I enjoyed it very much — the class was more work than I had time for. For one thing, it cut back on the Wine Curmudgeon’s wine drinking.
I’m going to write a longer piece about my experiences (that’s a hint to any magazine editors reading this who need a clever, well-written, thoughtful article), but I do want to offer these observations: