Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The problem with scoring wine...

Everyone is at it, Parker does it out of 100, Robinson does it out of 20 and Broadbent rates his out of 5 stars.

According to the three systems above, which would score more highly, the world renown Bordeaux 1st growth Chateau Latour or a holiday rose from the local co-op? I am sure the Latour would win hands down across the board.

However, the answer is not as clearcut as you might think. A numerical score is too one dimensional as a basis of both expression and comparison, since, although both wines are leagues apart, both can be equally enjoyable.

I propose a better, two tier system, one that acknowledges both the quality of the wine and the satisfaction gained from it. Using the example above, marking the quality out of five stars and the satisfaction out of ten might deliver the following scores:
  • Chateau Latour 5* 9/10
  • Vin de Pays Rose 1* 9/10 
Is the Latour really as good as the cheap rose? No, but they were equally enjoyable, albeit in a different league (hence the big difference in stars awarded).

The result, a more flexible and accurate system that not only reflects the qualities of lesser wines (instant enjoyment without the need to engage the brain) but also captures quality of the higher echelons of wine for what they are (superior in quality and but not necessarily enjoyment). Without this system, wine scores recognise only the finest of wines, which for the majority of tasters, are seldom tasted.

Smitten with Tete de Murger!

One of the joys of drinking wine is its capacity to evoke happy memories as well as titillate the senses. Patrick Javillier's Meursault Cuvee Tete de Murger is one such wine that did both in spades. Bought in 2005 during a visit to Meursault, the 2001 is not only the best white wine I have ever tasted, but it also evoked happy memories of a holiday in the Cotes de Beaune.

The wine is a combination of two vineyards, les Casse-Têtes and les Murgers de Monthelie. The Javillier website adds...

"This Meursault is born from a marriage of two vineyards: Meursault les Casse-Têtes exposed on the classic hillside of Meursault (between Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet) under the quarries – exposition east. Very little topsoil. Meursault les Murgers de Monthelie exposed on the hillside of Volnay exposition west. Height of 80 cm of clay on rocks of volcanic origin (Volnay)."

Having recently tried a slightly dried out Javillier Meursault "Les Clous" 1999, I was concerned that the 2001 might be over the hill. So, I was both pleasantly surprised at the sheer quality of this wine and relieved at the fact that a £50 bottle had not gone to waste!

So what did this elixir taste like? My slightly cringy verbose note is below (the wine must have gone to my head!)...
  • Appearance:Light straw & lime
  • Nose:Beguiling, Meursault on steroids yet delicate too with white pepper, passion fruit, lots of toasty oik but balanced with light tropical fruit. The best facet of any wine I have ever tried!
  • Palette:Showing some age as fruit no longer primary. Rich oak overtones complement syrupy pineapple & white pepper finish of Werthers Originals!
  • Conclusion: A truly incredible & memorable wine 4* 10/10

Letter to Decanter

The following letter made letter of the month in March's edition in Decanter, which means yours truly received a free magnum of Bolinger NV!

Dear Sir,

In the recent Decanter Italy 2009 guide, I read with interest about the white grape variety, Aspirinio of Campania: “[It] grows in a remarkable manner: the vines are supported by poplar trees, and shoots reach as high as 15 meters… so tall ladders are needed to [harvest the grapes]; this type of training method is known as Alberata Aversana.”

The world of wine is one of constant discovery, change and innovation. While the famous elixirs of Montrachet and Chateau Latour are undoubtedly among the finest wines in the world, less well-known wines, such as Aspirinio, are equally enjoyable to both our palates and our intellect.

My aim is not to promote Aspirinio per se, but to highlight that the rich tapestry of wine contains more than the titans of Bordeaux, Burgundy & Californian 'Cabs'. Only by tasting and learning about new wines and their regions and cultures, do we learn more and challenge ourselves and our prejudices. It is this constant process of discovery that makes wine a uniquely interesting and challenging subject.

Decanter, the self styled 'route to all good wine', plays a key role in this process of discovery and education. However, 'good wine' includes more than the regularly featured Bordeaux, Burgundy & Californian 'Cabs', which perennially dominate the pages of Decanter.

Like the alphabet, the world of wine stretches from A for Aspirinio to Z for Zinfandel. Please try to move on from B for Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Yours faithfully,