Category:Wine Curmudgeon

Wine scores: One more time

The Wine Curmudgeon can ?t believe he missed this one: Retailers sometimes put the wrong scores on wines. A Washington Post spot check in January found that 25 percent of 100 displays did not truthfully represent the wines they advertised.

Shocking? Perhaps. But not surprising. I have spent a lot of time lately discussing wine scores, and this is just another fault. And, believe it or not, I ?m not the only one who feels that scores are a scourge on the Republic. Others are out there, fighting the good fight ?

? The Wine Camp Blog, which calls itself a wine free zone.

? My pal, W.R. Tish, the Abraham Lincoln for all of us who oppose scores.

? The great Jancis Robinson, whose piece discussing scores is among the best I ?ve seen.

? The legendary Dan Berger. Not everyone has the guts to write that ?I refer to the prejudice that some reviewers have for lower-priced wine. Their reasoning goes: ?If the wine isn't selling for a lot of money, it's probably not very good. So it probably deserves a score of 85 or so. Now let's taste it. ? ?

Wine scores and price: What really matters

Last night, I tasted the Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir Vintner's Collection 2006. As I always do, I tried to guess how much it cost while I was tasting it. And I figured the Sterling was around $18, which I thought made it an OK wine ? nothing more.

Turns out the suggested retail is $13, which means it ?s probably available for as little as $11 in some parts of the country. Which means the Sterling is a heck of a wine. Which is when the Wine Curmudgeon had a brainstorm: Wine scores don ?t matter ? prices matter. Shouldn't there be a way to take that into account when evaluating wine?

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Regional wine: The Rodney Dangerfield of the business

Wine 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.

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Wine scores: Still more work to do

wine scores

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.

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Asus Eee PC 900: Oh, baby

image The best laptop that the Wine Curmudgeon ever used was a TRS-80 model 100, a Radio Shack product that is usually regarded as the world ?s first laptop. It was awesome ? a little more than three pounds, a 300-baud modem, and a faux leather case. In the 1980s, I lugged it to football games, bike races, and city council meetings, where I would write the story, hook the modem up to a phone jack, and send it to the paper by hitting a row of buttons located just above the keyboard.

I loved that machine, which was affectionately known as a Trash 80. It belonged to the late and lamented Dallas Times Herald, and I still have the instructions for using it (written by the great Kevin Edwards, a sportswriter turned cyber type who went on to fame and fortune at the Washington Post).

Since then, I have owned a couple of laptops, none of which I much cared for. In fact, I haven ?t had one for almost a decade. They were too heavy, too slow, too expensive and too irritating. I made do with an early handheld, an HP Jornada 720, which had a downsized QWERTY keyboard and synced with my desktop (though the modem never really worked). 2015 update: Since the Asus 900, I have owned two other Asus laptops, each wonderful.

But all that has changed.

That ?s because I am the proud owner of an Asus Eee PC 900. It weighs 2.2 pounds, has wi-fi, and came with a faux leather case. It has all the advantages of the Trash 80, with none of the disadvantages of today ?s software-bloated, overweight laptops. It was cheap ? about one-third to one-half the price of a reasonably-configured laptop. It ?s efficient, running on Linux instead of Windows. And it ?s quick, taking just 30 seconds to boot up (I just timed it.)

Are there difficulties with it? Certainly. The keyboard isn ?t full size, and support is non-existent. It came with a bunch of software that I can ?t make heads or tails out of (anyone know anything about something called mediaU?). The battery isn ?t what it could be, and I still can ?t get it to read an SD card from the appropriate slot.

And Linux, for all of its stability, is terrifyingly DOS-like. If you want to add more than basic software updates, command line typing is involved. (Children, ask your parents about DOS, and watch the sweat form on their brows.)

None of which I especially care about. It only weighs 2.2 pounds, I don ?t have to hit control-alt-delete. My $5 USB mouse works perfectly. And did I mention that the Asus comes with three USB ports and an ethenet connection?

About the only thing missing is a $10 bottle of wine.