Friday, August 5, 2011

No Such Thing as Wine Perfection (and ESPN Gets in on the 100-pt Rating System)

With every other wine writer wanting to make a splash about the 100-point wine rating system over the last few days I was planning on staying out of the crowded pool. But after reading a blog by Mike Sando on ESPN.com about passer perfection and the Total Quarterback Rating (QBR), I couldn't help but reread the article and replace NFL names with wine names. I think that the idea that perfection is impossible in both fields is spot on (just forget for a second that ESPN is promoting their brand spanking new 100-point system as a way to show that perfection is unattainable). I've paraphrased the article below with my wine-centric substitutions.

Before you begin, I want to state that in no way do I mean to disrespect Schrader Cellars by referencing their wine. I have not had the pleasure of tasting it and I am sure it is a very good bottle of wine. In fact, I will be passing through the Napa Valley next week and if I were to get an invite from the Schraders to come and taste it, I would love to do so...

The Wine Advocate, Issue #186 proclaimed that the 2007 Schrader Cabernet Sauvignon CCS was a perfect wine for Robert Parker, Jr. in December 2009.

Your palate knows better.

While the CCS was brilliant that day, receiving 100 points along with copious hedonistic descriptors, its performance could have been statistically superior. The CCS only scored a 98 on the 100-pt scale from the one Cellartracker user to rate it.

About half of the over-the-top prose used Parker’s favorite terms that Tom Wark identified in his 100-point profile. Yet, Parker favorites like intense and mineral were nowhere to be found in the note.

Just as Total Quarterback Rating, showfully debuted by ESPN, keeps moving the carrot as quarterbacks chase perfection, using words and not numbers also keeps moving the carrot for consumers, winemakers and critics alike.

No matter how well a wine scores from a Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast critic, it could fare better (or worse) when an actual consumer drinks it.

Completing the 100-pt double (James Laube of Wine Spectator also bestowed perfection upon the 2007 CCS) shattered records. But the performance wouldn't rate as high as one featuring 100-pt scores from Steve Heimoff, James Suckling and W. Blake Gray, too. And so on.

That's why it's misleading to say a wine is "perfect" when its score maxes out at 100 points under the formula widely used since 1982 by the most exalted of wine pundits.

The CCS’s 100-pt score only translated into being #15 on the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of 2010. Other wines made huge gains displaying better value or intrigue to the editors, to a degree much greater than they would have done typically.

In theory, a perfect wine cannot be improved on. Yet, Robert Parker has added asterisks to some 2009 Bordeaux scores that were at or even below his 2005 decrees to signify the sample was perhaps the estate’s finest release ever.

Even with a “perfect” wine, the consumer still must have the palate, experience and desire to create the perfect wine experience. And once you drink perfection, why continue drinking? Isn’t everything else by definition inferior?

Prose takes into account many more variables. It explains each wine in relation to how it affects a taster’s emotions, putting more weight on a context than a meaningless number cherry-picked by retailers worldwide.

Nevertheless, this the discussion will continue ad infinitum.

1 comment:

  1. We tasted one of Schrader's 100 point wines at the 2009 Wine Spectator Grand Tasting, the 2006 Schrader Old Sparky. It was clearly the best wine of the night of all wines our group of four tasted, and no wine I had tasted prior or since has been better. Difficult to improve upon.