What’s your favorite rating system? 100-point? 20-point? Five stars?
My favorite one, these days, is found on a blog called Grape Juice. Written by “Erin” and “Michelle”, who seem to have a liking for the fruitier side of wine, the blog is full of interesting information, from harvest reports to industry news, like the fact that Wayne Gretzky has entered the wine world, creating Wayne Gretzky Estates, in the Niagara region, with all net proceeds going to his Foundation. And guess what his first prestige bottling is? 3-liter bottles of a family reserve 2004 merlot: 99 bottles produced. Of course. And the three wines released so far are all VQA – true Canadians.
Anyway. The Grape Juice rating system is a five-sentence classification that ranges from “Not even on pain of death”, all the way up to “Bet your bottom dollar”. In other words, from “I’d never want to touch it again” to “I’d get a second mortgage on my house to get some”. (Hey, wait a minute, that sounds like an idea for a great rating system!)
Of course, it’s still a 5-point system. Which most systems tend to get close to: for instance, Wine Spectator’s 100-point system divides up into five commendable categories, for ratings between 75 and 100, with a sixth below 75, “not recommended”. But at least, the Grape Juice model approaches the idea in a more lighthearted manner, and with a reasoning that better reflects, at least in my mind, how we appreciate and buy wine. When you taste a fine wine, enjoyment is key. And if you enjoy it enough to want to drink it again, that’s the best appreciation, from a personal standpoint.
I don’t mean to put down technical criteria. That would be very simplistic. Those criteria are very useful, and quite helpful, essential even, when you’re going through flights of 20, 30, 40 wines at a sitting. Clearer bearings and guidelines are key to making sense out of such a range of successive sensations. It’s great for professionals, and helpful for readers – although you should always read the notes carefully, to see if that 95 comes from “luscious, intense fruit and loads of ripe tannin” or “restrained, balanced, subtle flavors with refreshing acidity”.
At home, however, we should be talking about enjoyment, first and foremost. If bottles just drink themselves, if the wine puts a smile on your face, if you immediately wonder how many bottles – no, cases – you want to buy, you know you’ve found yourself a winner.