‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’
I’m talking about the idiotic point-scale scoring system for wine, where whizbangs are always trying to invent a better mousetrap. But we don’t need a better mousetrap, do we, kids? We need to adopt a more Jainist ethos and embrace mice as our furry brethren capable of curing cancer and urinating rainbows.
Scoring systems, particularly scales, are meaningless to people who really understand and love wine. That’s because we recognize art inherent in a bottle of, say, Clos de Vougeot, and just as we would not place a numerical score on Michelangelo’s Pietà, we would become righteously indignant at the suggestion that we need point assignation as a tool to appreciate it. Imagine walking through the Louvre and finding a tag on The Fall of Phaeton saying, ‘ 91 points: Angular with undercurrents of lushness and nice contrast between the lights and shadows, but best if viewed before 2020.’
A Thousand Points of Blight
And yet, with great fanfare, Ella Lister—who must be genetically predisposed by her last name to classify shit—has announced the unveiling of a ‘1000 Point Wine Scale’.
And by ‘great fanfare’, of course I mean a single article in the drinks business webzine which is so desperate for content fodder that I have no doubt they will one day be reduced to writing about the frequency with which Intoxicology Report mocks them when I’m desperate for content fodder—it’s a big incestuous cluster-copulation, after all.
Anyway, I’m in the parody biz, yet I could not compose a parody of the Wine Lister mission statement that would out-parody the self-styled ‘new standard in wine rating’ itself for sheer pompous pretense, so I offer it verbatim:
‘The system is data and technology-driven and aims to give a truer holistic assessment of each wine based on aggregated scores from eminent critics as well as its brand strength, liquidity and price.’
To avoid giving a truer assholistic assessment of the assessment, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I have no issues with technology, data or even, to some extent, eminent critics. We might disagree on the criterion for eminence when it comes to critics, but certainly not on the notion that some wine writers are more eminency than others.
On we go:
‘The brainchild of wine writer Ella Lister, the system has apparently been four years in the making, including long interviews with ‘key players’ in the fine wine world.’
We may also disagree on what constitutes ‘key players’. For my brainchildren, which are rarely more than four minutes in the making, ‘key players’ include anybody willing to return my calls. Ella insists that her scale analyses and aggregates ‘all the facts that count’, by which she undoubtedly means all the facts that count in her purely subjective opinion. For example, she didn’t ask me for my input, and unless I simply missed her request that I return her calls, I conclude that she doesn’t think my opinion counts.
Well, Here it is Anyway:
Wine Lister’s director of technology, Henry Woodsend, explains: “We have such extensive data, across so many criteria, that we can actually differentiate to this level of precision [1000 points]. We felt that the more traditional 100-point scale, whereby only the top 20% is actually used, would undo the nuance and meticulousness of the exercise.”
Other than the subjective fact that having a ‘Director of Technology’ for a wine blog is so ludicrous that it makes my head explode like in a David Cronenberg film, the comment itself is head-shaker whether it explodes or not:
If you decide to tack an additional nine hundred points onto a given scale, how is your justification that they only use 20% of the original scale? If the issue is that my child is not finishing her lima beans, the solution is probably not to pile her plate up with ten times as many lima beans; it’s to give her less lima beans to work with in the first place.
Make no mistake, I grok the concept—using a bunch of objective info bits, including (in this case) charts from Wine-Searcher, auction data from Wine Market Journal and market-level pricing from Wine Owners, the web site will correlate ‘relevant criteria and parameters’ and spit out a four digit score.
As a part of Wine Lister’s targeted demographic (someone who ‘is interested in, works in, or is otherwise implicated in the world of fine wine’) I wonder why nobody ever before realized that giving a wine a score of 921 is significantly more useful than someone giving it a 92. Or that a wine with a score of 922 is a better personal bet for me than either one.
And since Mr. Woodsend faults the fact that the 100 point never rates wines below 80, effectively reducing it to a 20 point scale, it is to be assumed that Wine Lister will have wines covering all strata of the spectrum—20 out of 1000, or even two out of a thousand—because if not, that is not 100% usage of the new system and yet another new system will have to be invented.
And it also means that getting 100 points on the Wine Lister scale means your wine really, really sucks, but not quite as bad as a 99 point wine. Try to explain that the Mr. Ye Olde Wine Shoppe owner when he’s hanging up point-of-sales stickers.
Of course, since Lister lists ‘brand strength’ as a score-determining factor, the presumption is that brand leaders like [yellow tail]—an undeniable benchmark for the rise of Australian wines in the global market—would score more ‘objective’ points than, say, Live-Ex’s fifty Bordeaux ‘legends’ (including 1982 Lafite or 1961 Mouton) because the latter category has lost 17% of its market share over the past five years.
Also, higher scores apparently go to wines with greater ‘liquidity’, and since we can figure that Wine Lister is not talking about winesicles or powdered wine, but the business definition of liquidity—a measure of a company’s ability to pay its bills through cash or assets that can be turned into cash very quickly—again, [yellow tail], with half a billion in annual sales would probably score higher than the 28% of Oregon wine producers surveyed by Silicon Valley Bank who said they were in poor financial health. Even though for-sale wineries like Alpine Vineyard score consistently in the 90s by Wine Advocate while [yellow tail] fails to chart.
Despite the gushy PR from the drinks business, the Lister 1000 point scale remains on the drawing board for now—the website claims it is ‘under fermentation’ and isn’t quite ready for prime time.
So, like my hard drive and my iPhone, I see no reason to avoid making it obsolete before it even has a chance to go live. How? By introducing the ne plus ultra quintessential zenith high-water-mark of all mouse traps, of course:
The Infinite Point Wine Scale: ‘The Newer Standard in Wine Rating’
Get a thousand points from Wine Lister, you may consider yourself the cat’s knees, the bee’s meow, the dog’s bollocks—all that and a bag of chips. On Kassel’s Infinite Point Wine Scale, you are botfly excrement.
I calculate my scores without so much as a datum; nary an analysis, a consensus, an aggregate or a key player. There are no parameters or criteria, relevant or otherwise; I seek neither transparency nor objectivity; I drink the all the liquidity and dance naked on the Studebaker; I rely on no eminentees, and although I’ll deny it in a court of law, I already dismembered my Director of Technology and buried him in my parents’ crawlspace.
This is black holistics, baby: I simply taste a wine and start writing numbers and continue to write them with my left hand while I type wine columns with my right hand. In fact, I’m scoring wines right now, as you read this.I’m at twelve million points and going strong.
You can never come up with a more exacting, more precise, more detailed, more encompassing wine scale, because even if you tried, I have an insurmountable head start in writing down numbers and I will always be a few decimal points ahead of you. It’s like a race to see who can recite pi to the highest digit, only you got stuck in traffic on the ride over and I already started and the best thing you can possibly do for yourself now is dismember me and bury me in the crawl space next to Poindexter the Tech Director and even then, I’ll die knowing you know that I know that you know that I won.
Now, here’s hoping this puts the whole silly Waste-of-Space Race to bed with a stocking cap and a handful of Nembutal, Marilyn Monroe style.
Onward and upward, droogies.