Wine columnist-cum-lawyer RICHARD CALVER offers a little free legal advice to surviving Christmas parties…
AT the time, my mates were perplexed about my dislike of the 1979 movie “10” starring the buxom Bo Derek. I didn’t like the whole thing about scoring (in the numerical sense only).
Plus purloining “Bolero” in the pursuit of a tempo to lust just didn’t gel. “Don’t Cry Out Loud” by Melissa Manchester was probably more like what my then dates had as a musical accompaniment.
I’m the same about giving scores to wine. I’m not a fan. The experience of wine is circumstantial and individual. The enjoyment of wine is, obvious faults aside, a matter of taste in the literal and figurative sense. It is a pity that a person would buy wines just based on someone else’s rating. That phenomenon is, perhaps, discouraging people to learn from buying and tasting in accordance with their own preferences built from a unique history. As with so much of life, what you like as a matter of personal taste matters more than what an expert says.
That comment is not to disrespect the industry’s giants. It is very good to, for example, read James Halliday’s scores out of 100 for particular wines. The scores are a reflection of his legendary experience, which I respect completely. But I don’t get why a score of 75 is deficient: there seems no way to objectively correlate this scoring system with those commentators who use a five-star rating or a score out of 20. Hey, I can do the maths but the numbers don’t necessarily add up from a consumer’s viewpoint.
One of the wine critics using a different method to Halliday might give a 15 out of 20 as an indicator of a fairly good/average wine but that wine would be rated as deficient using the Halliday system when mathematically scaled. Halliday uses a 100-point wine-scoring system:
94–100 – Outstanding;
90–93 – Highly recommended;
87–89 – Recommended;
84–86 – Fair to good;
80–83 – An everyday wine; and
75–79 – Deficient.
Obviously, the system Halliday uses starts at 50 rather than 0 so that in itself is confusing unless you are part of the cognoscenti.
So when I read that Halliday has allocated 99 points to a certain wine (as he did recently to the Hill of Grace by Henschke) I know it is a quality wine but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to like it or think it appropriate to every circumstance (I do like Hill of Grace though, in case you want to send me a gift).
But the thing is, I want to make up my own mind about wine and when to drink what. Sometimes, for example, a fruity moscato will be a better wine for a specific occasion than a Hill of Grace; say, at a picnic on a very hot day when you want something to drink with fresh raspberries. I pick Moscato because Halliday has said that he embarks on tasting this style of wine “with reluctance”. It’s not generally my favourite either, but the point is that an objective mathematical score can never be translated to the way you experience the flavours in the particular moment or what is right for your own personal taste.
Just as it seems to me to be a demeaning way of viewing women to allocate a number to their looks, wine is something where respecting individual taste makes for the best relationships. Make up your own scores.
“All experience is subjective,” – Gregory Bateson, anthropologist.