The Demise of Mystery & Anticipation in Wine

Mystery and Anticipation. Surely these two characters are the Imps of our soul. The constant dance they do at the outer edge of our thoughts is the jig that can lead to an outer life of searching and exploration, two pastimes that can lead to trouble as well as revelation.

Nevertheless, it seems these two troublemakers cause more good than bad.

Mystery is that circumstance of information and events that present questions needing answers. We tend to be drawn to mysteries. And the answers are always more satisfying for having been mysteries first, rather than simple questions.

Anticipation. Here’s a devil that does its dirty work slow and regular. Though we know it’s coming, sure as dawn, anticipation keeps us wondering just exactly what it will be. It keeps us thinking but eventually trips the wire on us and forces our hand. We have to know.

It’s no coincident that Mystery and Anticipation are two sides of the same coin. When asked if we want to know the name of our future child, some love the mystery and choose accordingly. Others, pushed harder by the pressure of anticipation, need to know right now.  Those inclined to either response both want to know. They just revel differently in how they get to the answer.

Is it possible that the mystery of a new wine and the anticipation we feel for the
next wine is being ruined by the certainty and omnipresence of numerical ratings?

I think maybe it is.

I like those songs where you can sort-of-a-little understand the lyrics, but can’t quite understand them completely. You have an idea what the song is about, but it’s not quite clear. Every time I hear the song, I listen closely. I enjoy the mystery. I enjoy the anticipation the next set of garbled lyrics and the chance of figuring it out. So there’s nothing worse than having someone shove the lyric sheet in front of you. It spoils everything.

That’s sort of the case with wine ratings. Isn’t it?

Yet somehow this casting off of mystery and anticipation isn’t the same when it comes to, say, a movie review. We can read a good movie review and still want to see the film, or not at all. But not because we now know for certainty what awaits our $10 and two hours of stale popcorn.  Rather, movie reviews offer a quick lifting of the veil and a good description of the size, color and pattern of the veil. But we don’t really know all of what’s underneath it.

Wine reviews pretty much yank off the veil from a wine when they come with a strict numerical rating. The mystery is gone. There’s no anticipation.

I think this is all a tad sad. However, ratings are a fact of commercial life. They sell wine. They put roofs over peoples’ heads and they take the onerous weight off consumers’ shoulders that comes with spending $40 on a scant 750ml of a liquid that will be gone in only moments.

I think a lot of people would argue that were ratings to go away tomorrow that we’d sell a lot less wine in this country. I’m with them on this assessment. However, my advice to those who needn’t work with wine to survive, but only to enjoy, is try to ignore numerical ratings. Keeping the mystery and anticipation in your wine makes the sip the best part of the experience, not purchase.

One Response

  1. wino sapien - May 10, 2006

    Lovely piece of writing.
    I don’t see that a numberical score lessens the mystery or anticipation that can be gained from drinking wine.
    I can see, and agree, that focusing on numbers is not the same as appreciating a wine. Scores are a useful short hand and that is why buyers and sellers of wine use them. Personally I am just as likely to buy a wine just on the verbal description – as this too entails an implied statement of quality / character.
    Life is too short, and the liver / brain / heart / pancreas etc too weak to drink bad wine. That is why consumers like to read reviews. Whether there is a score attached or not – we, or at least I am looking at some clue as to the merits of purchasing that particular bottle.
    I think the anticipation and mystery is still there once I have purchased it.

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