There is a song of the Cheyenne people that I came across in a library book my son and I were sharing for our nightly story time. The song was a mantra during times of sickness, or before going into battle. It was a song to bring strength and remind us of both our mortality and our potential for greatness in our lives.
Only the stones
Stay on earth forever.
Use your best ability.
I’m pausing. I almost want to just leave it here for each reader to ruminate and cultivate their own thoughts. But as is often the case, so many of my “life” moments overflow into my “wine” moments and this one is no exception. Pour yourself a healthy size sip here and please be obliged to continue.
The sauce and I have spent the last couple of weeks doing some promotional work for Falling Bright through guest spots on a few local (and national…and international) radio programs. On most occasions when we are interviewed about our professional backgrounds and our thoughts on wine and other trivia we receive a lot of questions such as…how do you choose wines for your collection? Those wines that are so expensive, are they really worth that much? Can you taste the difference? Do scores matter? And you get the point. My interpretation of this line of questioning from the wine consumer’s standpoint is fairly simple: People want to know what they are getting and they want a stamp of approval that it’s top notch and they want to know that other people would envy what they got and want to get some too. And you know what? I love this piece of the human nature that seeps into the world of wine appreciation. If there were not a drive to seek out the best of the best and the hidden gems and the over-deliverers then the wine world would be set to become a pretty boring destination. But with human nature being what it is, the simple soon becomes so much more complex.
Here is where my roads diverge. Critical ratings of wines seem to be focused toward the consumer. The purpose of the score is to provide tasting insights, a short preview of the wine, and a summary of it’s merits in a quantitative format. However, if it is so well-known that wine appreciators are out there benchmarking and precious gem mining then why is there such a move to ignore the score? It seems there a tendency to reject what is said by the critics only so that we could all return to the mines with our pick axes and no headlamps. Now let me be clear, while I certainly appreciate what a wine critic has to say, I most definitely do not live and die by the numbers when I am considering the wines that are best for me or best for a consulting client. This being said, I would never wish for a world of wine where there were no benchmarks and no scores to follow. For me, scores are a road map for a leisurely journey rather than GPS navigation in heavy traffic to an appointment you’re late for. There are options along your route and the options are laid out to enhance your pleasure rather than to bring you to your destination with the least delay.
So where did that other road lead? If critical ratings and reviews of wines are focused ahead to wine consumers, it seems that they leave winemakers and wine producers in the rear-view mirror. The picture this paints for most wine appreciators is that winemakers will always be chasing after the critics for the next big number. But I have to say, of all the winemakers I’ve ever spoken with, very few if any of them speak of scores. There are plenty of numbers on their minds – lab sheets, calendar dates, degrees Celsius, degrees Fahrenheit, degrees Brix, the price of barrels, etc… but usually not critics’ scores. They give a wave to the rear-view mirror just before getting back to the work that’s cut out for them, the vintage that is on their hands.
So what about the poem from my introduction? I’m trying to keep a reminder around for myself to constantly be aware of the work I am doing – to give my best effort. This includes the work that we are doing to build quality into the wines we are bringing to our shop. We recognize that our work is under constant review and that it is a reflection of the work that has been done all the way back to the vineyards – and the work of the winemaker. When the time comes for review and recognition, there is one thing a good winemaker will be able to stand on – the stones on the earth. The stones will remain right in place on the earth and a good winemaker will know that he/she has used their best ability. We should all be so sure in our every endeavor that we have used our best abilities.