I guess I'm a purist - and a classicist. I've always felt that the "art" of wine was that experience when you're having a 20 year old Burgundy or Bordeaux that aged well and the group of friends or family finds itself speechless. Quiet groans of delight echo throughout the room. Light sniffing sounds deep in the glass intersperse, minds are alive with the complexities wrought from time, care, patience, commerce, craft and all the way back to farming: nature, soil, air, water, sun, fog, day and night. Smell, sight, taste, a kaleidoscope, a vivid panoply of dried flowers, ripe fruits, spice scents, ribbons of memory, traces of moments forgotten suddenly ever present.
Someone speaks. "Wow."
So now I pose the question: Does anyone care anymore? Would wines that evoke this experience have scored 95 points back in the day? First of all, probably not since points have only been around about that long. Wine reviews have changed from descriptions of quality, style and service with food to a totally distorted 3 minute drill. Show me what ya got. Now! Bigger stands out, better get your oak in there. It better be silky (sweet or alcoholic), it must be inky-black. Don't even think of sending those subtle wines.
Update: Great article by W. Blake Gray in the SF Chron HERE
And the dilemma worsens. Chefs are feeling it more than vintners, I suppose, because the demand it created by high scores so the food has to match the WINE, not the other way around like in the past. Worldwide, vintners are faced with this dilemma. If you want to succeed, you need the big scores, if you want big scores, you better get out the wine steroids so you can slug 'em out of the park. Otherwise, it's a hand-sell all the way down the line.
Now, back to the question: does anyone care? I've heard this is all a fad. I've read a lot about it all going back the other way. Talk talk talk. Big scores still rule. Big wines and big scores are the meat and potatoes of the wine business (salad, anyone?). And as for caring, what I also want to know is - and I don't think anyone will know for a few more years down the line - will they age well? Will we have those experiences that set you speechless? The wine married with the food and the seamless, pure pleasure of art and grace and flowers and dirt and and and …
And so, I hope, we can all have a good look at this before the whole point system tosses the baby out with the bathwater. I think it would be a shame to lose all of the last 1000 years or so of food and wine pleasure. I, for one, can only eat so many charred steaks. And yes, I think there’s plenty of room for an array of styles, some suited with fine food, some for cocktails and after dinner. And yes, I believe the Napa Valley in particular has arrived in a worldwide sense with a distinctive advantage and style that is here to stay, something for which our worldwide competitors will have to reckon with. More on this later… Cheers!