03/25/2011 08:20 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Rate Your Wine - It's All About Drinkability!

Almost all wine scoring systems purport to reflect the quality of a particular bottle of wine. Wine reviewers like to fool themselves, some very effectively, that what we do is somehow objective.

It's true that there are objective observations that can be made, using scientific analysis, regarding a wine's alcohol, sugar, tannin, acid, and dry extract levels, but this is not what gets written about.

Don't let the fact that these are objectively measurable fool you into thinking that a reviewer's words are anything more than their subjective perception of these elements of a wine.
Just take a look at how sugar affects the perception of acid or tannin in a wine -- and let's not even delve into temperature as a major variable of these tasting experiences, both ambient and serving temperature. No, let there be no doubt about it, a typical numerical score for a wine reflects one person's opinion and no more. They certainly are helpful, and allow consumers to identify writers whose palate preferences align with theirs, but taken in the abstract, as they so frequently are on retail shelf-talkers, they are worse than meaningless, because we insist on attaching some importance to them!

So, what should we be discussing when we talk about wine? To steal a word, because it sounds so much better in Italian: Bevebilita. Ask any group of wine lovers what the best wine was at any particular tasting and you'll usually find that it's the first dead soldier.

What's a dead soldier? It's the first bottle that's been emptied. Sometime, with some groups, that might be the wine that is supposedly the best, or has the most impressive label or pedigree, but more frequently it's the most drinkable wine. Now drinkability (I told you Bevebilita sounds better) is another complex concept that a single number attempts to simplify, but with a fairly significant difference. I think almost everyone would agree that water is more drinkable than vodka, to use an extreme comparison. This concept of Bevebilita has certain almost universal qualities to it, and a Bv score -- or Bevebilita Variable -- used in conjunction with a more traditional score, can help to inform a reader far more than either score alone.

So, where does that leave us? Well, for starters I'm going to begin using the two scores to form an amalgamate score for my reviews. What does that mean? Well, potentially quite a lot. Allow me to explain how I will score wines.

I will continue to use the traditional 100-point scale, which is not more than about 22 points in my case (from 78-100) within which range I find wines that I might want to drink. Below 78 is a wine I generally can't recommend; there are simply too many better wines out there.

In addition, I will now average in my Bv score, which is itself going to be an average of two qualities important to drinkability: the drinkability itself, which boils down to balance, freshness, and, well, ease of drinking; and the ease with which the wine can be paired with food. This is far from a perfect system, and only the first iteration, but I think to most people it will be an improvement over the status quo.

My Bv score will be a score that ranges from 50 to 100 and will be arrived at by adding a wine's drinkability and food friendliness. Each of these scores will be out of 5, though I can see pluses and minuses creeping into the equation, so the scale itself will actually range from 0 to 25. Some examples are in order.

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