A Conversation With A Wine Newbie
Noob: So when these wine experts taste wines, it's not just a matter of whether they just like it I see. It looks like there are 100 different levels of quality.
Me: You mean the 100 Point system? Yes. Well, No. The 100 Point system is really a 50 point system because no wine is given 50 points. That's really the starting point.
Noob: So when a wine is rated 88 Points out of 100 points the wine has really only been given 38 points because the 50 points is automatic?
Me. That's righ….Wait. No. Not quite. The 100 Point rating system is just something we all think consumers can understand better than, say, a 50 point system or 20 point system. And sometimes a 10 point or 20 point system just doesn't provide enough source of differentiation in quality.
Noob. So wine experts can tell the difference between an 87 point wine and an 88 point wine.
Me. That's right. Plus, since we all probably got graded in school on the 100 point system, we all understand it.
Noob: Why not just go with F through A+?
Me: …………Well, it goes back the issue of differentiating the qua….You see, some wine…I don't know. Everyone just used the 100 point system.
Noob: So I guess everyone wants 100 points for the wines they make.
Me. Well, sure, but perfection is rare.
Noob: I guess so. So, what does a wine need to do to go from, say, 81 points to 82 points to 83 points and such when wine experts taste them?
Me: That's kind of hard to say. It's all fairly subjective.
Noob: Except when you are adding up the score?
Me. That's right.
Noob. I think I get it. But what I don't get is how the wine experts give a wine a higher score or a lower score.
Me: Well, that depends. Different experts are looking for different things. For example, This English wine magazine, Decanter, has experts who taste wine and score them in part on their typicity.
Noob: What's that?
Me: Well, it can mean different things. But basically, "Typicity" means how closely a wine's characteristics match the characteristics of wines made from the same grape or from grapes in a specific region.
Me: For example, Chardonnay from Napa should taste like the Chardonnay grape and should really taste like what Chardonnay tastes like when it is grown in Napa's climate and soils.
Noob: So wines get higher scores for tasting like every other wine?
Noob: I mean, what if some guy makes a wine with Chardonnay grown here that tastes different than most Chardonnays grown here, but it's really really good…And, hey, wait, what if the expert hasn't really tasted many Chardonnays from Napa, but really loves the wine…Do they get to rate it?…Where can someone find out exactly what a Chardonnay from Napa is supposed to taste like…Does Napa Chardonnay really taste that much different from Sonoma Chardonnay?….So is a perfect Napa Chardonnay one that tastes perfectly like Napa Chardonnay?
Me: ….Um….there's more to it than that.
Noob: I guess so.
Me: You see, some wine exhibit more balance and purit…
Noob: And what exactly is "terror". I was at…
Me: You mean "TerrOIR"
Noob: Ok. "TerrOIR". I was at a winery today and the guy said their Chardonnay is meant to portray the "TerrOIR" of their own vineyards. That's good, right?
Me: That's very good. It means the wine tastes like the the place it was grown, and wasn't a manipulated concoction of the winemaker's desired style. Wine is a product of the earth and is really best when it reflects its geological and climatic origins.
Noob: So what's the difference between "Typicity" and "TerrOIR"?
Me: Each vineyard is unique and will deliver specific characteristics or "TerrOIR" characteristics to a wine. A grape, like Chardonnay, also delivers certain typical characteristics.
Noob: (….Silence)…..What about "Lubricosity"? I tasted this wine called "Lubricosity" they said they made from Syrah, Carignane, Mourvedre and Grenache. I loved it. But how is this wine going to have typicity if it's not one grape?
Me: Well, you would expect it to taste like a red blend made in Napa for it to have typicity.
Noob: But…But, how does a blend….how can a blend….Are all blends supposed to be…I don't. I don't get it.
Me: It takes a great deal of study and experience and lots of tasting. You'll get there if you keep tasting and studying and asking questions.
Noob: It gives me a headache. What if I just want to drink?
Me: You can do that too.