How do you decide how good a wine is? Most professionals today will give it a mark out of 100 – the higher the score, the better they rate the wine (although I wonder why 100 was chosen as nothing ever gets less than 50 and few score below 70). This system originated in the USA with Robert Parker and has largely replaced the one most European judges used until a few years ago: marks out of 20 – although the same criticism applies: virtually nothing scored less than 10. Indeed, the Australian wine critic Len Evans once crudely observed, “even the spit bucket gets 7 out of 20!”
Some wine lovers will buy their wines based on these scores (fine if your taste and that of the critic scoring the wine coincide, but beware if not), but, for most, the best way to assess a wine is ‘do I like it?’, possibly closely followed by ‘is it worth the price?’
When my wife and I share a bottle (frequently!), we usually sample it while we’re cooking, continue with it during the meal and, if any remains, drink it through the evening afterwards. Although some wines don’t last that long! We opened one like that recently:
Pazo de Villarei’s Albariño from Galicia in North West Spain (Wine Society, a bargain at £10.50) was just so drinkable. Lovely peach and pineapple aromas and flavours and a real richness that went perfectly with some baked hake with chorizo. The bottle went down so quickly, there was no need to consider whether we liked it – our empty glasses told the tale.
But not all wines disappear that fast and, if some lingers throughout the evening, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not enjoying it. There are some wines that are made like that; the Italians have a lovely name for them: Vino da meditazione, literally, ‘a wine for meditation’, a wine to be savoured, to be enjoyed slowly, a wine of depth and character. They can be just as good as our rapidly disappearing Albariño, but different.
And, after all, who wants to eat or drink the same thing all the time?