On the role of context in wine tasting and scoring
Training as an accountant several decades ago, I learnt that debits are debits and credits are credits; there's no discussion or debate, them's the rules.
The higher-level elements of business strategy call for more imagination, creativity and flair, but historic bookkeeping has to be built on solid foundations in order to bear the weight of assumptions about the future.
The same applies to advertising, the sector I worked in for many years until recently - there are provable, testable scientific bases to the way people react to advertising and to what works and what does not.
I have always, therefore, tended to feel that any discipline that seeks to be taken seriously, such wine-scoring, should equally be based on solid principles; in my world, scoring a wine (should you choose to score it) needs to be based on an objective assessment of its qualities, not merely a subjective opinion.
Yes, there may be bottle variation, wine evolution over time, and sometimes just the emotions of the moment (according to Robert Parker), yet I fundamentally believed that wine scoring, when done properly, is objective.
Then two things happened.
First I read Richard Hemming's account of scoring one particular wine at a measly 14.5, one of the lowest possible scores, and another one at 17.5.
The trouble was - he points out - it was the same wine.
Second, I took along a Chianti and Canadian Riesling to a tasting with friends and found that the Chianti (which I had previously tasted and rated well) became an unassuming wallflower and faded into the background when lined up against better, older or just more interesting wines.
Then, even more unexpectedly, the Riesling, which I had marked down as an aperitif / starter wine, showed brilliantly when tasted out-of-order as an end-of-tasting palate refresher.
As a side-note, I think the Riesling had the advantage of being big enough to cope with coming after the reds; a fresh, lean, mineral Pays d'Oc Chardonnay (think entry-level aperitif-style Chablis) hit a bum note when introduced in the middle of the tasting.
By an appropriate coincidence, the Riesling had been a gift from one of the best business speakers and advisors I know, Blair Enns.
One of Blair's speaking topics is how to Win Without Pitching; in simple terms, the more you do something unique that no-one else quite does, the more business customers will actively seek you out, rather than you having to go out and pitch for it.
Conversely, if you just do everything the same as everyone else to about the same level of competence, you will find it hard to stand out in the scrum.
So, my Dievole Chianti Classico 2015 (which I had previously rated as Good) did not stand up to a comparison with its peer group, whereas the Orofino Riesling 2014 shone when tasted against some very different wines.
For those interested in tasting notes (if not scores):
Orofino Riesling, 2014, Similkameen Valley, Canada classic Riesling dieselly-limey nose; expressive, rich, vibrant and supple with crystalline lemon-lime and pear flavours; mineral finish.
Dievole Chianti Classico 2015 (my original tasting note) very fresh, cherry fruited and floral with spice; structured, mineral and concentrated with fine tannins and a firm, muscular core. Fine and precise.