Call it the ‘Great American Novel’ for wine writers who can scarcely manage to scratch out a legible blog. Or the Holy Grail for atheists; the better mouse trap for entrepreneurs; the honest man for Diogenesians; the solution to the Goldbach Conjecture for socially awkward guys with Buddy Holly glasses and palm hair.
It’s what we all dream about once the Emma-Watson-naked and sugar plum themes wear out:
Inventing a wine rating system to replace the 100-point Parker scale.
The problems with the Wine Enthusiast’s process are legion, but no one has stripped them to the buff better than Brit blogger Jamie Goode:
“The 85/100 of 20 years ago has become the 90/100 of today. You want to be the critic whose score is cited, so it’s very hard to resist the pressure to score highly. Australian critics have been the worst in this regard, where a solid commercial wine is frequently rewarded with a low-to-mid-90s score, leaving very little room for the decent stuff.”
In the past, lesser mortals than me have offered alternative scales, of course. Back in the day, when most English-language wine reviews came from Goode’s countrymen, critiquery was largely a pursuit of aristocratic braniacs who not only read books, but occasionally wrote them. The scale they most often resorted to was 20 points, which is just a distilled version of Parker’s, with more per-point oomph, but equally silly, especially when you see a score like ’18.5’.
When you start using decimal tenths in a 20 point scale, you are admitting that mentally, you actually use a 200 point scale, right?
Likewise Parker scores like ‘95+’. Or the fact that nothing under 50 points ever gets mentioned. In the first case, why all the cryptic vaguery? If you can’t make up your mind, go mow the lawn and try again later. In the second case, why not simply use a 50 point scale to begin with?
Not only that, but ‘letter grades’ are as ludicrous now as they were in Sister Evangelista’s Social Studies class; nobody is content with simply doling out a ‘B’ or a ‘C’—there have to be all these douchey pluses and minuses, which, as we all know, can (and are) instantly translatable into a hundred point scale.
Thus, another return to the Mother Ship, and another fail.
Jameson Fink (a goddamned well-nourished, blue-blooded name if ever there was one) of the Grape Collective recommends a simple four-point scale, which he explains like this: “One = Would serve this for a special occasion; Two = Would buy this again; Three = Would not buy again.”
He’s rambling on just fine until he gets to four: “Four = Would tell friends not to buy this.”
Somehow I didn’t end up in Jameson’s world, where one calls up friends with names like Dickerson Throckmorton III and advises them, “Say, Throckie, old chap, don’t buy the Chave Hermitage ‘02; it’s beastly.”
No, my world was more ‘doing one too many lines at the strip club and calling up Throckmorton III at 4 AM to borrow money’. Thus, Throckie old chap no longer accepts my calls.
I feel that I represent the ‘new age’ of wine critic; one who is unashamed of his alcoholic, drug-addled, semi-coherent Neanderthal lifestyle, where the collars are blue, but never the blood, where where people named Jameson are drowned during swirlies given them right after Social Studies. For us, I have invented a simple, inclusive, decisive, ingenuous wine scale which is, because there are three choices and that’s it—with no metrosexual pluses or minuses or wishy-washy deviations allowed—the ne plus ultra wine scale, and everybody else can just shut up now and start using it.
‘Fuck, Marry, Kill’
Let’s reference the game we played as kids. One guy named three girls—the trio from Friends is a good example—and you had to rate them based on your willingness to 1) engage in a carnal, one-time act of physical union; 2) bond heart and soul in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony or 3) waste. Actually, the trio from Friends is a lousy example because it’s too easy.
Phoebe. Monica. Rachel. Duh.
* For straight humanoids of the feline persuasion, go the three Friends dudes, the Three Musketeers—or better yet, the Three Stooges.
Tougher would be Charlie’s Angels. Carmen Diaz would seem to be a shoe-in for the first category, but that leaves you having to marry your intellectual superior, dooming you to a life of emasculated pouting and couch-sleeping, not to mention that your children would end up looking Chinese. And then you’d have to kill someone who would likely injure you in the process. So, what do you do? Kill the brainy one, marry the goofy blonde and bump nasties with the… But hang on; nothing about that doughy, pasty, annoying, man-jawed harpy who looks like she has a mild case of Down Syndrome says ‘schwing’.
In fact, there is an entire Facebook community called ‘Drew Barrymore Is Not Hot’. Look it up.
But, see; there’s the rub: That’s the game. It’s supposed to be tough. And what’s more, you have to commit to one—and only one—grouping. That’s the fun of it, in fact—it reveals more about you than it does about the product.
On To Wine…
As a template to see how effective this scale is in real-time bloggery and reviewageness, let’s pull three stray Syrahs from the Sargasso Sea of samples sitting in my cellar. See if you can guess the rating…
Mannina Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, 2012, $32: Gamey and ready to rumble; a voluptuous wine showing beautiful legs and a sensuous mouthfeel dripping with fleshy, forward fruit. Hot and alcoholic, she displays supple, immediate energy and impressive length, but should be enjoyed now, as she may not have the structure to mature further after a year or two.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, 2002, around $200: Screw Jameson, huh, Throckie? She’s old money, from the northern branch of the Rhône family and may even boast some royal blood—her great-something grandmother was the mistress of King Louis XIV. She’s rich and refined with dense, pure fruit and polished textures; she was born to show off in an elegant setting with her trousseau of blackberry cordial, peppery savor and multiple layers of tannin. She’s beautiful now and will continue to age with grace and reliability.
Smoking Loon Syrah, California, 2013, about $8: Aggressive notes of concrete floor and shipping container behind a soupçon of sinus medication; she is moribund after the first hiccup of blackberry and oak juice, and pretty much just flops around in the glass waiting for the coup de grâce.
I am guessing that even the most depraved, deprived teetotaling Mormon among you got all three correct; correct? Without breaking a sweat? And that is not because you know anything about wine; it is because my scale rocks the Casbah.
Adopt it and forthwith, every wine you encounter can be instantly diddled, domesticated or dispatched without having to remember complicated mathematical formulas or the illogical order of the alphabet, which frankly, looks nothing like a keyboard like it should.
Making your life simpler? That’s what I do, folks; that’s moi: More fun than a barrel of junkies.