Monday, October 04, 2004

Numeric Wine Scoring

Okay, okay, this has been done before but its always been a pet peeve so I thought I'd put my own spin on it........

My least favorite events at the Olympics are: gymnastics, figure skating, diving, boxing, etc, all of the sports that have a highly subjective component that must be judged by an official. Hopefully, the tie-in with wine scoring is obvious - I dislike subjective scoring of wines using a number. It creates many problems, chief among them:

  • Consumers become helpless, can't buy wine without a number whether or not they would have liked it anyway. "Honey, this only got an 87, I don't buy anything below a 90!"
  • Confusion between critics - if Wine Speculator gives it a 90 (Outstanding) and The Wine Enthusiast gives it an 84 (merely 'good'), what's a girl to do?
  • Unfortunately retailers and wholesalers make purchase decisions not based on their own palates, but rather the palates of the tasters in the major magazines (principally Wine Spectator). Bad WS scores mean bad sales even for good wines.
  • Wineries who make wines that aren't to the liking of the wine popes, but are otherwise great wines, have an uphill climb to get attention for their products
  • Winemakers can end up having to compromise their wines in order to make them for a style that will score higher and please the critics.
  • There is no correlation between scores and price, although is a start
  • The whole idea of describing what wine tastes like using numbers reminds me of the quote attributed to Elvis Costello "writing about music is like dancing about architecture"

The solution is that consumers have to be taught (or learn on their own, usually) to find ways to make a flawed system work for them. Find a reviewer that you like and who has tastes similar to yours (Dan Berger is usually right on for me). If you shop for wines at Target, I guess you can look to Andrea Immer for guidance. Also, don't buy wines that have a score on the shelftalker that either doesn't attribute the score to a reviewer or one that reviews a prior (usually inferior) vintage. Buy from producers you trust based on your own palate, not their most recent score. Buy a bottle to try and if you like it, go back and get a case.


Blogger Rich said...


Fair enough - point systems can have adverse impacts on wine preferences, sales and winery creations. Also agree that consumers need to make the most of a flawed system.

But my question to you is, how should a wine enthusiast personally review, categorize and rate their own tasting notes? Is a numbering system appropriate? Any reason that a 10pt vs 20pt vs 100pt is superior? What do you personally use?

Appreciate your thoughts.

October 05, 2004 11:24 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

I confess, I drink wine nightly but I'm not an oenophile really. I love wine, but I don't "geek out" on micro-discussions or terroir and French vs. American oak. Just not interested in it that way. I love the end result and if I like a particular wine, I stock up on it. I don't find a need to tag wines in my cellar with my personal tasting notes or a score. I'll leave that for those who worry if there is a hyphen or not in anal-retentive.....

October 05, 2004 1:19 PM  

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