So anyway, I’ve been carrying this copy of the Wine Spectator around with me, the March 31st issue with “50 Best Bordeaux Below $50” on the cover, and I finally settle back and start going through those telegraphic reviews — “Firm, almost austere, with good concentration to the mineral, citrus and tropical fruit flavors and a short, intense finish” — and I notice something really strange about page 162. (I’m back at the Starbucks at the corner of Third Avenue and 66th Street, by the way.) Something vital is missing, and it takes me a few seconds to figure out what it is. The reviews are there and the bold-printed numerical ratings and prices, but — but — holy phylloxera! — the names of the wines aren’t there!

Yes, friends, an entire page of wine reviews in WS omits the names of all the wines, 31 of them.

At first I ascribed this unprecedented omission to a production error, but on thinking about it, I decided that Marvin Shankman and the crew at WS are wilier than that. I think the “mistake” was deliberate, not as an effort to confuse me personally — “Man, are we ever gonna mess with this guy’s head!” — because my copy of WS was plucked at random from the magazine shelf of a big-box store in America’s great heartland. No, I think WS is striking back at the vocal critics of its controversial 100-point rating system. Long-time readers of the glossy magazine have always noticed that it’s difficult to determine why one wine, for example, rates 93 and another 92 or 94 and that the curve — there are effectively no scores under 50 — is steep indeed.

So I think that this page of ratings, prices and brief reviews lacking the names of the wines reflects a stroke of genius. “You don’t like our rating system?” says the Spectator. “Well, in your face, Jack! All yer getting on this page is ratings! Live with it!”  

I predict that the Spectator with increase its new scheme page by page every issue, so that by the end of 2007, readers will be confronted with no names of any wines anywhere in the magazines, only prices, descriptions and scores, scores and more scores.

The 100-point rating system will triumph at last!