Friday, February 18, 2011

When words are scarce...

I came across something interesting this morning whilst reading a few of my favourite blogs over breakfast. As you may have ascertained, from some of my past posts on Vinsanity, I am not a fan of wine reviews in general and I personally think the 100 point wine rating scale is a load of phooey!
A certain Dan Sogg, who used to work for The Wine Spectator, has a new blog: thesoggblog. However, it was not one of Mr. Sogg's posts that caught my attention but rather a comment on his post from a gentleman called Tom Ferrell. I have no idea who Tom is (so I can't give him proper credit) but his comment went something like this;
"...an interesting exercise is to go to the Wine Spectator web site and search, sort, show, copy and paste wine descriptions into a document, then after you have accumulated a bunch, cut and paste all that verbiage into a word counting tool (like http://www.writewords.org.uk/word_count.asp). The tool will list all the words and show the number of times each is used. If, for example, you do this for the 303 Cabs that scored 95-100 at W.S. you will see that, after sorting out non-descriptive words (the, and, J.L., Napa, etc), the three most widely used descriptive words are “black”, “rich”, and “ripe”. Do the same for the first 303 Cabs they list that scored 84 and the most often used words are “cherry”, “currant”, and “plum.” For the high scoring Cabs the word “concentrated” is toward the top at number six, whereas for Cabs scoring 84 “concentrated” is in 39th position. Whether you do this for Pinot, Zin, Chardonnay, or any varietal it is easy to see that for the critic who judges wine, dozens of them at a time, size definitely matters."
I don't have time to perform such nonsense as cutting and pasting wine reviews and the suchlike, so I am simply going to take Tom at his word. Besides, I already knew that "black, rich, and ripe" were synonyms for cult, overpriced, and unobtainable.
Wine reviews...gotta love 'em!

7 comments:

Affer said...

This was a bit of a revelation! The basic format of the WriteWords thingy is rather like the plagiarism checker we use; it never occurred to me that it could be developed to check BS in wine reviews....or car road tests, political speeches, to name but two other areas!!!

Thud said...

You lost me.

Vinogirl said...

Affer: Having been threatened with the plagarism-checker by many an instructor at Napa Valley College, I have always behaved myself. I just wish those who write so much other BS, whether it be wine reviews, political speeches etc., would just behave themselves!

Thud: I personally think wine reviews are
P-H-O-O-E-Y!

Do Bianchi said...

reading about the Robot Watson and his performance on Jeopardy, it made me imagine what it would be like if we programmed a computer to write WS- and WA-style wine reviews...

but then again, the great poets of the western canon made their fame by recombining the very same elements (words and images) in new and exciting ways...

great thought-provoking post Vinogirl! as always...

phlegmfatale said...

Clever observation.

Vinogirl said...

2B: Sure, "there is nothing new under the sun" - I'm probably guilty of using the word 'apparently' too much, but then I'm not trying to influence the wine buying public...

Phlemmy: A certain Tom Ferrell seems to have a lot of time on his hands :)

NHwineman said...

Vinogirl, as you can imagine, little ol me, as I try to assist family and friends in their quest for QPR wines in little ol NH, and that without remuneration, found this post a bit intoxicating, but like Elvis' home, the application of grace brings forth much fruit from the land, but then again, when one has so much more understanding of what wine is about, there is less need for such oxymoronic quantitative subjectivity as a 100 point scale, excellent or plonk will do.
This debate seems endless, but it is what it is, and since I'm really doing this as a hobby and for fun, part of the "game" is assigning some semblance of a hierarchy in the quality of various wines.
As for WS, I've often found their scores wanting, but overall , if you can find their value wines (not very often) in NH, their advice can be better than nothing when one knows "nothing" about wine.
My last thought (here) on the subject is this: If I'm going to plunk-down a hundred or maybe more greenbacks for a wine, I sure want as much advice as I can get, but ultimately, the responsibility is mine, and only experience will increase my satisfaction with the wines I purchase; I no-longer need any input to whether I will buy a Groth Reserve Cabernet; just watch me grab another come June's 15% off sale:-)