Wednesday, February 10, 2010
14 is the New 98
It's been noted just about everywhere that the economic downturn hasn't slowed down the pace of wine drinkers, it has only led to them drinking cheaper bottles. I think this conclusively demonstrates that humans, for all of their interminable wine descriptions and snobbery, drink wine to get drunk. Not to taste the terroir, about as stupid a concept as exists in the wine business (OK, factor in about 43 elements to "terroir," swirl the glass, and then let your pathetically human olfactory senses and pedestrian tastebuds pick them all up, add them together, and come up with, Oh, this must be from the fucking Jura!), not to savor the purity and vividness of finely balanced, single-vineyard, highly allocated, David Abreu-managed, Philip Melkanized, Pope Michel Rolland-canonized grape juice, not to perfectly complement their exquisitely produced meal ("It's Shake and Bake, and I helped!"), but to get inebriated, to alter their mental state so that they don't have to think so much about their unemployment, their failed marriage, their stupid blog (OK, I'll cop to two out of three). Suddenly the only points that matter are the ones before the decimal point in the price. 14 is the new 98. We drink wine to get drunk, but in a classier way than just bellying up to the bar and drinking man shots of distilled whatever-the-hell-is-cheapest.
If you go to a wine tasting event at your local wine shop from one in the afternoon until five o'clock, you're a connoisseur, you're pursuing your newly discovered and oh-so civilized passion for wine! If you go to your local watering hole from 1:00 until 5:00, you're a stinking alkie. But the result is the same. You go home for dinner already drunk. Your passion for wine is most certainly a passion for the altered state of being pissed. I have no problem with that, in fact, I play a drunk on TV, but why all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds wine? Sure, when folks were paying $100 for a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet, it behooved one to ooh and ahh about its aroma, its texture, its terroir, the beauty of its balance, how it opens up with air--you're trying to slow down the pinheads you stupidly opened the bottle for from guzzling more than their share. And it's so much cooler to get drunk on expensive wine! It actually does taste better. But right now folks are going for that solid 8.00 point wine instead of that stodgy old expensive 94 pt masterpiece. Why? Well, if we were so spoiled and our palates so easily offended by wines that only scored 82, wines we'd have turned our noses up to before we all had to chip in and bailout AIG, we'd give up drinking. But we don't really care. We drink wine to get drunk. Who cares about the score? What's the price?
And what will this do to point inflation in the wine media? There is point inflation, you know. It wasn't very long ago that 90 points was seen as a breakthrough score. 90 points now is threshold undrinkable. You wouldn't give Paris Hilton's vagina 90 points. (See photo--just kidding) Not in every publication, but in all of the ones that accept advertising, 90 points just doesn't cut it any more. Especially when my wine, which I heavily advertise in your magazine, is still languishing in its distributors' warehouses. I need more goddam points! You don't like it, fine! But if it used to be a 90, these days you'd better give it at least 95! And, as a bonus, all the shelf talkers in inept wine shops will carry your name and not your competitor's! Hmm, Connoisseurs' Guide gave it 88 points, worth a star, that's pretty good, but Wine and Spirits gave it 95...which score should I display? That's a headscratcher.
Wine publications don't just exist to please their advertisers, though that is the main reason. They also try to pander to their readers (if only so that they can charge higher advertising rates). So more and more inexpensive wines are going to get higher and higher scores, whether they deserve them or not. Scores mean nothing anyway, why not inflate them a little, give our readers a little ego boost? They can't afford the 95 point wine that costs $50, why not throw them a Beaune, a nice little Burgundy that sells for about $20? Two years ago it might have merited 86 points. But, hell, it'll sell more, we'll get our name in all their promotional material, our easily influenced, insecure readers will be happy, if we give it 91. But, we must not forget to repeat, over and over, ad nauseum, that our scores are strictly objective and fact-based--like in figure skating.
So the scores of cheaper wine will continue to creep up while the scores for luxury wine will stay about the same. Won't we all feel better? Of course we will, we'll be drunk. I can imagine the cover articles for various wine publications.
90+ Point Wines Under $15!
We're Still Hopelessly Inept, But We've Adjusted Our Scores Just For You
You Don't Have to Spend a Lot of Money to Get Drunk!
WE's Crack Editors Have Bonus Points For All 87 Subscribers!
Wine and Spirits
100 Wines Under $15 That You've Never Heard Of!
It's 90 Points If We Say So!
10 Ways to Get Your Girlfriend to Drink Cheap Wine
Hey, We'll Give You a Subscription and You Don't Even Have to Read this Junk!