Wine + Food = Points + Stars, PAZAZ™ STYLE

The grading of wine through a point system has become the benchmark for novices to make an educated stab at a daunting task. Considered the “Emperor of Wine” a term coined by wine writer Elin McCoy, Robert Parker perfected the 100 point grading system while evaluating various systems in their blind tasting group in the mid-seventies.

They tried letter grades A to F as well as the UC Davis 20-point scale, which had already brought numerical ratings to wine with the cache and reputation that UC Davis had already established through their Oenology program. Apparently one person in their blind wine tasting group suggested the 100 point system and so it was born. The main reason for the system was to ground the over inflated wine reviews rampant at that particular time and offer an objective review on a subjective subject.

Robert Parker’s “The Wine Advocate” is a newsletter that rates wine, talks about vintage charts, wine news, and other editorial wine related subjects i.e., food and travel. Typically if you go to almost any up-scale wine store you will see notes placed by the employees that parrot the wine analysis from Robert Parker’s “The Wine Advocate”.

The one caveat is that any rating system can be questionable given a myriad of different circumstances. Wine is subjective, a living breathing organism that can change from when it was rated to the current example before you. Wine ages differently from vintage to vintage and varietal to varietal. Most ratings give a period of time when the wine will offer its most delicious profile. However, if the wine has not been stored at the proper temperature in the proper position… all bets are off.

The use of the 100 point system is especially useful when dining at an upscale restaurant. Of course the sommelier can help you with the correct varietal but the final decision can be an even more educated one by looking up the vintage chart, varietal profile from XYZ producer and then finding the numerical review associated with said wine.

Most upscale restaurants have hundreds and sometimes thousands of choices. This extra tool for evaluating wine can be very helpful when determining which wine to pair with what food. If the choice is correct the wine will taste better and that will enhance the flavor of the food. Typically when someone says, “That’s a good food wine”, they are referring to the acid in the wine. The acid balances the fat in the food to produce a quality experience that can transcend your wine and food expectations. That’s the home run, that’s the mike drop.

Moving from points to stars it is very important that if you want an exceptional dining experience you need to look at the most respected food evaluating system which invokes stars as opposed to points.

According to the Michelin Guide, one star signifies “a very good restaurant”, two stars are “excellent cooking that is worth a detour”, and three stars means “exceptional cuisine that worth a special journey”.

The first Michelin Guide was compiled in 1900 by French industrialist Andre Michelin, along with his brother Edouard Michelin. They wanted to create a demand for automobiles… and therefore, the tires they manufactured.

The first print of the Michelin Guide was 35,000 copies which were given away for free and included maps, instructions on how to change and repair tires, hotels, restaurants, mechanics, and gas stations along popular routes in France. The guide became such a hit that in 1926 the rating system for dining began with a one star system and expanded in 1933 to two and three stars.

In 1955, Michelin came up with a rating system that acknowledged restaurants serving high-quality fare at moderate prices. The Bib Gourmand highlights dinning opportunities that are more reflective of economic standards. This gives diners a chance to eat well without breaking the bank.

To give you an idea as to how difficult it is to produce a 3 Star Michelin Restaurant, the French Laundry owned by Chef Thomas Keller was the only 3 Star Michelin restaurant in California for over 10 years. Now there are seven in all of California. At $310 per person (dinner at the French Laundry) you are making quite a commitment as that price for the nine course meal does not include wine, tip, or tax. Just figure a grand per couple to experience a once in a life time culinary trip to places you’ve never been from those that are legendary in the industry.

As you prepare for your next trip take at least one night to truly experience an amazing meal with the perfect wine so that you will have another memory that will most certainly last a life time.