User ID:

Remember me
Lost password?

Wednesday Warblings
When Rankings Lose Their Meaning

By Stephen Eliot

New Pinot Noir was on the CGCW docket last night. There were no disasters among the sixteen contenders, nor were there any wines of great stature. Some were recommendable, others were not, and what the group may have lacked in ambition and achievement, they more than made up for in price.

At the end of the evening, however, there was little consensus among those at the table regarding any order of hierarchy of the wines, and a cursory glance at the preference rankings of our three guest tasters and ourselves might well lead one to believe that utterly random chance ruled the evening. There may be absolute truth in mathematics, but numbers can lie, and what on the surface looked like a jumbled mess was anything but.

The truth of the matter was that once that discussion began and tasting notes were compared, there turned out to be remarkable agreement as to the character and worth of the wines. Commentary was incisive, and there was no question but that the wines individually spoke in voices that were clear and easily heard. What may have ranked as a favorite by one taster might have wound up near the bottom of the tally sheet of another, but there was great concurrence when it came to actually describing most every wine.

Scoring the wines will not be difficult despite the seemingly mixed results. I suspect that, for us, most will ultimately fall within a fairly narrow range of 85 to 88 points, but, as is always the case, “scores”, “points”, “stars” et al do not tell a wine’s story. You have got to look past the numbers for that. Yes, we use them; “points” are the lingua franca of the day and are useful depending on how one source or another chooses to use them, but this is not intended to be a defense of scoring systems. That poor horse has been beaten until it is senseless.

No, this morning’s musings are merely meant as a reminder of how much better words are than numbers when it comes to describing and understanding this or that wine. There are those who would make the case that tasting notes are next to useless, and, while I would agree that I have seen and read many that are exercises in incomprehensible prose, well-chosen words can cut to the quick of just what a wine has to say.

It is the simple truth that lies behind what we do every day, and it was very much driven home once again last night. Rankings have value, but well-chosen words deliver the truth.


The CGCW Experience - Take the Tour

Meet the New CGCW

For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.


A Word
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:7/24/2013 4:57:19 PM

Amen. Oh and another one, Bravo.

Pointless in Toscana
by James Suckering
Posted on:7/25/2013 5:04:13 PM


I'm 83 points on today's Wednesday Warblings.

Leave a comment below, but please limit your comments to 1,200 characters or less. We find it helpful to make a copy of our comments to be sure that they fit. In that way, you can edit them if they run long.

(Please note: your e-mail address will not be visible after posting)



Note: Refresh your browser to see your latest comments.

Having technical problems with the comment system? Click here.