You may not know this, but there are, on earth, quite a few life-lacking lackeys who actually enjoy, and thus create, top ten lists.
People like Alec Baldwin, who swore he’d leave the country if George W. Bush was elected, and even though most of us wished he’d said ‘planet’, this was at least a start; and yet, here he still is.
People like Rolling Stone writer David Fricke, whose actual last name, I suspect, is ‘Fucke’ and his editor is just being polite.
People like celebrity chef and former heroin addict Anthony Bourdain, who claims to be irritated by the overt commercialism of celebrity chefs, which is a little like Mike Tirico saying he’s irritated that people watch football.
People like Dave Letterman and the fifteen groupies who still find him funny.
Now granted, every single one of these individuals has far more life that moi, your Living La Vida Low-Rent host, but that’s not the point. The point is that top ten lists, by their very DNA, have serious credibility issues.
10. They are self-serving piles of ego fodder that can’t help but bore the Fruit of the Looms off anyone who does not have an unhealthy—nay, psychotic—interest in your private tastes.
9. They set you up as the objective arbiter of a subjective subject.
8. As you trickle down the list from ten to one, individual line items are supposed to get funnier, better, more value-focused, less value-focused or some other recognizable and progressive criterion—and it never happens.
7. You know damn well that whoever wrote the list begins to second guess themselves—or worse, remember something they forgot to add—ten seconds after it’s too late to edit.
6. They are too divisive and tend to piss off people who you not only admire, but who themselves are far more qualified to write the list but just didn’t think of it.
5. They are a cheap way to fill up copy space.
4. By the time the list writer gets to four, you know they are seriously running out of ideas.
3. One cannot really ‘compress’ an aesthetic appreciation of the nuances inherent in art, music, wine into a mere notated ranking system. (See 4.)
2. They remind me of smug people, in whose ranks it is okay for me to be, but not anyone else.
(Sustained multiple-bounce sound on a percussion instrument…)
1. Even if you are totally disinterested in the subject, you end up reading all ten, thus having even more irretrievable moments stolen from your short, miserable existence.
…here are a baker’s-dozen-less-three ten buck chucks that, while unlikely to appear on the wine list at Commander’s Palace, will also not strip the paint off your ’65 Austin Healey or cause esophageal damage when you guzzle them:
10. Altovinum Evodia, Calatayud, 2010: A fairly one-dimensional red with a slightly bitter undertone. It made the cut simply because it is fairly typical of Spanish ten dollar garnacha—black cherry, green olives, smoke and some barnyard ‘n’ leather.
9. Wyndham Estate Bin 333 Pinot Noir, South Eastern Australia, 2008: If you’re a fan of lighter, brighter pinots, Wyndam’s Bin 333 offers all the flavors we love in this varietal, albeit in a slightly watered-down version. Pie spice, leafy-edged black cherry, sweet herbs? Like that old Prego commercial, ‘they’re in there’.
8. Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Mendocino, 2009: Despite the obvious typo, wherein they spell ‘Kassel’ with a ‘C’, this reliable pinot is nicely nosed with crunchy cherry and muddled mulberry; truffle and earth in the midpalate are lifted by minerals and acid.
7. Stella Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, (Italy), 2010: From the heart of rough, rustic Abruzzo, Stella’s 100% Montepulciano is pristine and ruby-red, tinged with raspberry and licorice, bright in the mouth but rounding out to a softness characteristic of pricier versions.
6. Alice White Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, 2009: Finally, a basic Aussie wine without a kangaroo on the label. Oh, hang on, there’s a huge one front and center. Anyway, a functional wine, straw colored with vibrant greenish hues. Lots of lemon on the nose, with a satisfying nuttiness playing against mango, pear and pineapple throughout. Toasty, but a bit parching on the finish.
5. O. Fournier Urban Uco Torrontés, Cafayate, 2011: Torrontés is a top white wine in Argentina, but you need to nail down precisely which torrontés one is discussing: Five different grapes may wear the name. All are characterized by a moscato nose, which is a beautiful synthesis of flowers and fruit, and these exuberant scents carry through the palate. It’s a remarkably versatile wine, both subtle and explosive, and if you haven’t tried it, you must.
4. Jacob’s Creek Semillon/Chardonnay, Australia, 2009: This is the kind of wine you know would be lovely as unfermented fruit juice. A scrumptious blend of citrus and cantaloupe flavors, the wine is showy, framed with chardonnay’s tropical fruit to semillon’s unctuousness. This is a blend that the French wouldn’t dream of, but when you stop and think about the billion wonderful things the French wouldn’t do, that particular notion becomes a ‘meh’ moment
3. Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, 2010: The name alone is worth the price of admission, but if you can find an old vine zin for this price, snap it up. The richness, complexity and depth of fruit is really exceptional: Deep black fruit is offset by smoky chocolate and near-indefinable spice: I’m going cinnamon.
2. Bogle Petite Sirah, California, 2009: A luscious, inky, deep, almost Madiran-rich wine. Predominant fruits are blackberry and Damson plum; there are underlying notes of coffee and cedar. Spicy finish, with nicely integrated tannins.
(Rapid succession of short paradiddles produced by beating a snare drum…)
1. Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, 2009: A 90 point (WE) wine for ten bucks? Heavens to Murgatroyd—they said it couldn’t be done. Cherry and cassis bouquet, concentrated plum compote in the mouth with splashes of vanilla and milk chocolate; light tobacco through midpalate and a solid finish with silky tannins.