Long in the tooth

Being born with a small physical frame has its advantages and its disadvantages.

As a youth, the advantages of my small frame produced a decent track runner and base stealer, not to mention an ability to squirm through small spaces like side windows to perpetrate my share of adolescent indiscretions.

Some of the disadvantages of my small skeletal frame include a put down at a party for being too short for a great looking Air Force nurse, a small bladder that has caused me to rack up many miles over my life on my small feet as I made my way—frequently—to restrooms across the world, and a mouth of gums that are too small to house all my teeth, making flossing a challenge as the string continually gets caught and snaps between the tight spacing.

Speaking of gums, the phrase “long in the tooth” refers to a particular condition of aging, when gums begin to recede. In some cases, the recession can expose nerves located where the teeth’s roots begin under the gums. A person long in the tooth, as I am, sometimes knows exactly why wine is considered an acidic medium.

Last weekend I was a judge at the New York State Fair Wine Competition. The State Fair competition draws more Finger Lakes wineries than wineries from the other New York appellations. The common thread among Finger Lakes wine is acidity. A guy who is long in the tooth has to be careful.

The judging was broken into panels of four judges each. After each wine flight, each panel of judges compared scores then decided whether or not to award medals by forming a consensus.

Only a few times did the judges on my panel have to discuss to make a case to gain consensus. The majority of times we had to do nothing more than to compile our aggregate and form an average to arrive at a consensus that fit the wine.

In a field of more than 100 wines that day, our panel awarded only one Gold Medal, a few Silvers, mostly Bronzes, and a number of no medals at all.

With so few outstanding wines having reached our panel, I began to wonder whether or not wineries have the ability to determine the quality of the wines they submit for evaluation. Or maybe they have little regard for the abilities of the evaluators. Or maybe, since winning medals is one way to promote and sell wine, they just send in their wines and hope for the best.

This is volunteer work. Judges are paid only for expenses incurred, like travel to the site and overnight hotel and dinner. It would be nice to know that wineries try to send us their best. In my case, I don’t even mind suffering a little pain afterwards for the good of great wine, and by the end of this all-day judging I was rewarded with short bursts of pain every time I drank or ate something cold, hot, sweet, or salty. The acid worked on my gums.

Yet, considering the results of the judging, I have to wonder whether I should try to suffer a little less in my waning years. Maybe I need to lobby the organizers of the wine competition so that I wind up on the panel with the most Gold Medal entries instead of the least!

I probably should retire from wine judging, but I won’t.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
June 2008. All rights reserved.

3 Responses to “Long in the tooth”

  1. winophite says:

    I think I’ve addressed this a bit before, but…I still cant grasp the meaning of these medals. This post seems to indicate that they represent a certain level of “quality”, rather than a winner of competition. Olympic medals have a winner in the gold, and second with the silver…this is probably what throws me off-(how can there be “two golds” in the same class?)

    My daughters take dance classes and compete in “dance competitions”, I can’t figure out their golds and platinums to tell who won either.

    This post seems to shed a bit of light on it. Also, I’m thinking the judges perhaps are the winners :)!

    Thanks for hanging in there on vinovict. WP

  2. Thomas says:

    It’s not too complicated:

    Wines are assigned a score up to 20 points, based on a few parameters: after first identifying whether or not there are technical flaws, we score for color, aroma, and overall varietal characteristics. Any wine that receives a score lower than 13 does not wine a medal. Between 14-15 Bronze; 16-17 Silver; 18-20 Gold.

    The competition is when all the Gold Medal wines compete for the titles of Best in Class and Best in Show.