In this week’s news Robert Parker and Jay Miller appear to be the hot topic for Iberia – sorry Mark, but Spanish wine reviews seem to overshadowing Portuguese wine reviews. On Mark Squire’s bulletin board, people don’t know what to think of the high scores Spanish wine received in the Wine Advocate #169. Half of those who responded feel it’s impossible that Spain can actually make wine this good, while the other half are trying their best to prove that Jay wasn’t entirely off his rocker when he rated 5 Spanish wines at 100 points. Personally, the entire subject is driving me nuts. Why wouldn’t Spain be capable of receiving high scores? Reading the whole thread, linked to above, I became bored and annoyed that this debate is even happening. Generally, Spaniards don’t have a lot of trouble selling their wine. Spanish wine is good, actually, it’s GREAT! And now, 40,000 subscribers to The Wine Advocate also have this information, allowing them to save space in their cellars for a Spanish section. Evidently in the past, it’s been a bit embarrassing to admit that one housed any Spanish wines in one’s celler.
I really don’t care! I know I probably should when I think about it, but I don’t. My question remains, has a wine which has been given 100pts in the Wine Advocate ever had a problem selling out before they go the rating? NO! Are there some wines that, due to their ratings in the Wine Advocate issue, will no longer have problems selling out? Most likely. Having been a retailer in the States, I know that right now I would be getting a flood of phone calls from the small group of people I see once a year wanting to know which wines I had in stock from the latest Wine Advocate. Then, when these wines were sold out, I wouldn’t hear from this same group of people again for another year, or at least until the next big news from the Wine Advocate. What I would be doing is returning to my normal task of explaining which wine went with salmon, which one was a good value, and one could be cellared for their child’s 21st birthday. These were the people who made my store succeed. These were the people who were fun to sell wine to. Show them a high score and their response was, “what does that mean?”
Wine is fun. Spanish wine is fun. Portuguese wine is fun. French, American, Australian and Chilean wines are all fun, but the fun is in the drinking, not in the coveting. I know I sound like a broken record, but this fury about Spanish wines being rated so highly has made me furious. I realize that wine scores sell wines, but why don’t stories sell wines? How many of the point crazed hoards are going to rush down to there store, buy up the latest high-scoring wines, and run them home to store according to the “suggested drink by date” given by Jay? Then when they finally do open them, while their friends pry for more information about the wine, their response will start with points and end with “Spain is really starting to produce some great wines”. They won’t know who made the wine beyond the winemaker or even the owner’s name. They most likely won’t know what the region the wine came from looks like or care about the local traditions that are upheld when drinking those regional wines. Thus, they will have stripped the wine of all it’s fun, leaving it to its own acid, tannin, fruit balance and thoughts of another’s arbitrary points.
Wine is alive! Wine is people. Wine is culture. Wine is amusing. Wine is for wooing. I’ve never reached the bottom of a 100 pt wine and felt differently unless I shared it with my wife or friend. All of the wines Jay rated are worthy of their points as relative to his personal experience. The one thing that makes me sad is that each of these great wines he rated were most likely were opened in a room by themselves without any grilled lamb chops or Spanish olives. No Chuleton de Buey, Cochonillo asado and no one who can appreciate the wine’s uniqueness. Each wine was tasted and promptly spit out. It was noted, analyzed and inspected. For this, I shall not cheer the scores but mourn the loss of great bottles that never met their intended fate. Instead, they gave themselves up as sacrificial lambs to provide subjective ratings so that others could then covet their brethren.
To these bottles, I say, “may you rest in peace”.