Course Correction

by Tim Elliott on September 9, 2008

CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, FRANCE - DECEMBER 12:  A ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I’ve been reading Neal Rosenthal’s book “Reflections of a Wine Merchant” for the last few days and I’m starting to triangulate this, with recent events, to change the course of this blog and podcast. Around page 144 Mr. Rosenthal starts his attack on wine ratings and he makes a lot of sense to me although he would likely comment how much of an amateur I am here (or worse, as the owner of a San Francisco wine bar once did in email… but that’s another story).

Money quote:

“There is little journalism, which is to say fact findings and reporting, and virtually no effective prose; there is, however, a series of judgments backed by a sadly limited descriptive vocabulary and powered by precise scores.”

Therefore, from now forward, I will drop the 100-point rating scale in my reviews and use my proposed standard 5-star scale. That is, until I decide to drop that as well. I will endeavor to provide more investigative journalism and concentrate on my prose. A review of Neal Rosenthal’s prose is forthcoming.

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  • http://1winedude.blogspot.com 1WineDude

    To quote the movie Te Doors: “F–k `em, Morisson, it’s great!”

    I need to read this book to confirm my opinion, of course, but I strongly suspect that he’s going to on a spleen-venting rant. If that’s the case, his is *exactly* the kind of viewpoint that makes me want to blog about wine.

    Wine doesn’t need eloquent journalism right now. It needs to be accessible – and its ultimate descriptive vocabulary will come from the scores of new wine lovers who benefit from a world where wine is viewed as approachable & understandable.

    Oh, crap, did I just go on a spleen-venting rant? How ironic…

  • http://israeliwineblog.com Richard Shaffer

    This sounds great, Tim!

    Wine writing in the Point Scheme has gotten almost clinical to me.

    We need some real Purple Prose.

    Rock on!

    Richard

  • http://catavino.net ryan

    tossed our ratings awhile ago, little good comes from them…Check out the great roundtable though that we had at the EWBC2008 on the subject, very provocative, and some really interesting opinions on them in general.

  • Rod

    You could always use 1-3 puffs ;-)

    Oh that’s taken.

    Seriously, good idea. Join it up with 1winedude. It needs to be accessible and make me want to drink — or pass — on the wine.

  • http://winecast.net Tim

    Joe: You should read the book; I think you’d really enjoy Neal’s point of view… very hard-nosed New York City old school.

    Richard, Ryan and Rod: Thanks for your support!

  • http://www.wineforall.com Tish

    Good to hear, Tim. Numbers are repidly becoming the calling card of fools, dunces and other wine ninnies.

    I saw that Steve Heimoff, on his blog, saw your post and took it as yet another vast conspiracty. Alas, it is no more or less than COMMON SENSE to avoid the 100-point scale.

    His kneejerk reaction to the quote was quite tellling as well… It reminded me how the so-called “critics” who are so defensive about their numerical scale often have “beats” that require them to taste and rate countless examples of basically the same juice. Besides the boredom factor, I can’t help but wonder if this puts those critics at a significant disadvantage in seeing the big picture of the wine world.

    WHich reminds me why I would much rather take advice from a fellow wine lover, a blogger, a retailer or a sommelier than from wine magazines.

  • http://www.ourwinestory.com Dylan

    Wow, you were really inspired. I see you’ve already made the change present in your September 8th, La Sirena post–a day before this announcement. Already you’re keeping to your word and you didn’t even start yet.

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