Does putting a number to a wine increase or decrease one's enjoyment of the glass?

The Terroirist: Ratings Rumblings

One in a continuing series

One thing that differentiates The Terroirist from many other wine columns is in my use of ratings - put simply, I don't publish ratings when recommending wines. Part of this is simple mechanics; when I'm only recommending three bottles out of over four dozen, you can be sure that they're all going to be top-notch. Compare this to say, Robert Parker, who has the luxury of the editorial space to publish reviews of every wine he samples, and it's clear why he needs ratings more than I - without them, it wouldn't be as immediately clear which he preferred and which he panned.

The other reason, though, why I generally prefer to leave ratings out of my reviews is that I've found it can often have a delibrating effect on the rest of the reviews. From my experience (especially with devotees of the aformentioned Mr Parker), rating scores can quickly become the focus of the review, and make everything else come second to that. One need only see the pandemonium on a Saturday morning when the LCBO releases a wine that scores in the 95-100 point range to know that people can too easily become affixed to numbers.

This is not to say though, that I don't use ratings - I do, on a scale from one downwards arrow to three upwards arrows (for the record, most wines that I recommend here I've scored between two and a half to three arrows) - to help me determine the relative quality of wines that I taste at different times. However, I generally feel that once people know a wine is good, they are more interested in knowing what it tastes like than simply if it's better or worse than another wine. But I'll leave it to you, dear readers; send me your ideas.

As a side note, one wine that didn't make the three this week, but represents supurb value nonetheless is the Chateau de Treviac 2004 (670505) from the Corbiere region of France. At only $13.95 it's the bargain of the release. But now the recommendations...

Something Red:
Rabbit Ridge 'Westside' Zinfandel 2003 (Paso Robles, US) $26.95, 695072
There are some wines that are easy for anybody to enjoy; this is not one of them. If you're a fan of lighter, finesse-driven wines, you can skip ahead to the 'Something White' section right now. If however, you're looking for a big, rich, powerhouse of a wine then step right up, this is Zinfandel at it's most extreme. A deep garnet in colour, the first scent that hits your nose is straight up alcohol (not surprising as it clocks in at 15.6%). Once you get past that though, the aroma is full of eucalyptus, strawberries, mint and blackberries. The mouthfeel, perhaps a bit boozy to match with food, is equally rich, with notes of blackcurrant, strawberry preserves and mint. Drink this one with a date by a fireplace.

Something White:
Domaine Schlumberger Grand Cru Riesling Saering 2004 (Alsace, France) $21.95, 67950
When people tell me that they don't like Riesling it's a near certainty that they've never tried one from Alsace - or indeed anything beyond the 'Blue Nun' type of schlock. Fantastically priced for a Grand Cru, this light straw coloured wine is fantastically complex and tasty. A nose swirling with tones of smoke, mineral, rosewater, violets, and lime perpares the palate for what is to come. In the mouth it has just a hint of residual sugar, but more than enough acidity to keep it dry and crisp. Flavours of lime and white berries come to the fore, with smoke and baked pie bringing up the finish. This wine would suit pad thai or an Alsatian tarte flambee.

Something Different:
Yves Lambert Cremant de Loire Rose NV (Loire Valley, France) $16.95, 656488
It's not only Champagne that produces sparkling wine in France, and a number of regions, such as the Loire Valley, produce high quality sparklers at a fraction of the price than can be had for the 'real' stuff. This pretty pale salmon coloured bubbly really hits the spot with strawberries, cherries, and raspberries on the nose. When you take a sip, the mousse explodes into lots of tiny bubbles, filling your mouth quickly. Cherries, strawberries, and cream predominate on the palate. Though light and delicious, it's firm enough that you can serve it with a main of light meat. A fantastic wine all around.

'The Terroirist' is published every other Thursday

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