The Blind Side

There’s an old Hollywood adage, famously coined by screenwriter William Goldman that when it comes to predicting which movies will succeed and which will fail, “Nobody Knows Anything.”  To wit:  Columbia Pictures passed on the chance to produce “Star Wars”, leaving the plucky sci-fi movie to Fox, thereby losing out on billions of dollars in revenue.  They did however say yes to “Close Encounters” which earned them about the same amount of money (at the time) while it was 20th Century Fox that said no to Spielberg’s masterpiece.

Even more telling is that in asking studio executives of the era about their choices, they commented that if they’d said “yes” to everything they said “no” to and vice versa, they’d have pretty much ended up in the same place.  Put another way you can’t over or under-estimate the public when it comes to what they like.  They just do.

This proved to be true the other night at a dinner party where we did a blind tasting of various wines.  Now I’ve been an advocate of blind tastings many times before and while part of me still believes it’s the only fair way to gauge a wine, I’m now second guessing that in favor of Mr. Goldman’s assessment.  That when it comes to the evaluation of any subjective thing, the only person who does know anything is you.

There’s no need to get into the details of the tasting but I will tell you that the wine I brought – I wine I was a fan of and still am –  a Pinot from New Zealand called, Latitude 41 scored the lowest of seven wines (I had it as my third worse) or that a 2007 CA Cab from Jam Cellars was far and away everyone’s favorite.

What really struck me was that in looking at the scores of the individual wines, the loser I brought was scored (on the ubiquitous 100 pt. scale) by one person as 100 and by another as 1.  Holy swing, Batman!

And it was then and there, in a suburban kitchen, that I realized all this hand-wringing over scores/reviews of anything that isn’t decided by a clock or a scoreboard is a wasted exercise; whether you are trying to evaluate a wine, a building by I.M. Pei or a Hollywood movie, nobody does know anything.  And anyone who leaves their own choices to someone else is missing out on one of the true pleasures of freedom, the ability to do so for oneself.  I know too many people who won’t buy a wine that scores under a 90 (and I bet you do too) or takes the word of (fill in wine reviewer’s name here) as gospel.

I now realize, more than ever, the best wines in the world, the ones that get my 100 points, are the ones I like.  And that makes any number of wines I drink better than anything you drink no matter what’s on the label, who scored it or what its provenance.

The Founders envisioned a world of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So from now on I suggest you embrace the things you like, be it a no name $6.00 wine from Slovenia or a nonsensical movie set in 2154 where science has made it possible to telekinetically leap into the body of a blue alien but the weapon of choice is still a bullet.

At the end of the day, no one knows anything but you.

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Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 10:43 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My favorite on the subject was this from Randall Graham: “Point scores miss the point. One talks about an experience that is far more about the experiencer than the experienced.” That said, still a huge fan of blind tasting, it is a great equalizer, but only for those that really care about equalization!

  2. Welcome to the real world.

    Your problem has been that you mistake evaluation for preference. They aren’t the same thing.

  3. Thomas…there will always be people who need to validate their opinions on movies by reading Cahiers du Cinema or feel that without RP they can’t possibly know what it means to enjoy a wine based on ones own personal criteria. What I think I was getting at was simply that for *most* people who drink wine, academic or professional evaluation is meaningless when it flies in the face of preference.

    Unless I’m not understanding what you think my “problem” is…

    Thanks for commenting.

    @Jason – Spot on.

  4. Jason,

    I wrote your “problem” has been, not presently is.

    Yes indeed, there are people who will always feel the need to go by someone else’s vision (or preference) but those of us in the wine writing biz should point out that critics often get the message across that there’s are objective evaluations when in fact, they are preferences. So what consumers receive is information more about the critic than about the wine.

  5. oops– I meant to say that “theirs” are…not there’s are…

  6. Great point, Thomas. And I think I responded to a comment you meant for Jason. Either way I guess we’re all on the same page!


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