“And the winner is….” Wine Rating Simplified

pourHave you heard of Tyler Colman? If you’re any kind of a wine blog reader, you’ll know him as Dr. Vino, author of the #1 wine blog on the web. Apparently he does more than blog, because I recently came across an article he wrote for the USAirways in-flight magazine. My wine-drinking friend Jerome forwarded it to me, and I’m passing it along to you.

The gist of the article is that the rating system used by wine critics to score wines is seriously flawed. Amen to that. Colman contends that we should use a much simpler rating method — “The Drinkability Scale: Put out a bunch of wines, invite friends over for dinner, and (all things being equal) the bottle most quickly emptied is likely the best that evening.”

This is brilliantly simple. It recognizes how wine is consumed in the real world: rather chaotically. At our parties, folks are wandering from room to room, group to group, chatting, eating and drinking. We’re sure not sitting around a table taking notes.

So bravo to Dr. Vino. I’ll let you read his article in its entirety. Cheers!

Quickly Emptied: Rating Wine on a Drinkability Scale

Tyler Colman – DrVino.com

After surveying several dozen choices in my basement last night — too cool an evening for a rosé, never enough Pinot around — I settled on the 2008 D. Coquelet, “Vieilles Vignes,” from the often-overlooked appellation of Chiroubles. Still in his twenties, Damien Coquelet is both the stepson of Georges Descombes, the Morgon vigneron, and a rising star of Beaujolais.

I chose the wine because I wanted a good wine with dinner. I did harbor a hope that my wife and I could enjoy it over two nights, thus extending what I hoped would be a good bottle. But something happened: It was so delicious, we drank it all!

Somehow, the best bottles always seem to disappear quickly. Put out a bunch of wines, invite friends over for dinner, and (all things being equal) the bottle most quickly emptied is likely the best that evening.
That made me wonder if this might be the best way for wine drinkers to rate wines, where the highest praise is a rating of “quickly emptied.” The rest of the scale might look like this: empty, half-empty, sipped…and spit.

Sure, it’s kind of goofy, not very precise, and has some obvious flaws — such as discounting future improvements of the wine — but it’s very here and now,  unabashedly so. And it’s a great tonic to what ails the point system, which aims for precision and objectivity but often lands wide of the mark. In his memoir, A Life Uncorked, Hugh Johnson wrote, “The weakness of [the 100-point system] is that it is based on tasting, rather than drinking.” Indeed.

A rating system for wine drinkers instead of merely wine tasters reshuffles the deck: Suddenly, being an utterly drinkable Riesling or Beaujolais becomes a trump card, rather than the hindrance it can be in a blind-tasting lineup. Moreover, it limits the number of wines that can reasonably be reviewed to a hundred or more a year — really, how many people need thousands of wine recommendations? Also, it brings context to the evaluation: the food, the seasonal appropriateness, where the wine is in its evolution, if you’re drinking it on a vacation. With the wine drinker’s ratings, the best wines become memories in a scrapbook, rather than trophies traded at auction in Hong Kong.

Anyway, it’s not perfect. But it’s worth discussing. And maybe even worth raising a glass to!

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