8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Friday, April 11, 2008

On 1:59 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine   No comments
I thought I'd take a little questionaire of the staff here with our opinions about "scores" or ratings for wine . . I'll reserve my opinion for the end. It happens every day that I get a question about what "rating" that wine or this wine has, and as it seems to be important to so many people, i thought I'd blog a bit on it.

Paul says and I quote:
"I'm of several different opinions about wine scores, whether it's the 20 point scale that was widely used in the UK pre-Parker, the 100 point Parker system (which really is a 30 point system because he really doesn't give anything less than 70 points) or the 5 Star system used in Decanter.

"In one way, I think the scores can be useful. Reviewers from the major publications taste far more wines than I could ever approach. If a respected reviewer gives a wine 95 points or 19 points or 5 Stars, it's probably a wine I want to taste. That doesn't mean I'm going to like it! My palate is different from any single reviewer, but it is probably a high quality, well-made wine. By the same token, I usually trust that when a reviewer (other than Laube) gives a wine 80 points or less, it probably has one or more major flaws. If it's 84 - 92, it's probably pretty average in quality (and average quality can be pretty damn tasty), and it may or may not be a wine I like.

"Where the system breaks down is trying to cull an 89 point wine from a 90 point wine. There are far too many variables to get anywhere near that precise. It could come down to what you had for dinner the night before or who he (or Jancis) rode up in the elevator (lift) with. Too many consumers think that that point makes some mystical difference, when in reality, they could love or hate either. Parker, for example, has fairly wide ranging tastes, the common threads being that he likes ripe grapes and more flavor will usually score higher than less flavor. The consumer may love his taste in Chateauneuf du Pape, but dislike his taste in California Chardonnay. That will happen - just because you love big, ripe, rich Chateauneuf doesn't mean you prefer big, tropical, oaky, buttery Chards. Is his 93 point Chardonnay better than his 92 point Pomerol?

"I think the real value to the system is in the surprises. It's in the $10 bottle that gets a 91 and the $100 bottle that gets an 82. How many 87 - 89 point scores do you really need to see? Okay, it's a fairly well-made wine - but if you are just looking at the score, you're going to have to taste it to see if you like it. To me, one may be a 92 and another an 84, but most likely, I would be pretty happy with a Parker 88 point Cotes du Rhone or a Decanter 3 Star Chablis with dinner tonight.

Stacey's Ideas were very different, and much more personal as well as very positive toward the "number's" system. Here are her thoughts:

"I like the idea of a concrete number or letter grade to provide the overall assessment of a wines quality. I think clear tasting notes are by far more important when communicating an idea of the wine. I certainly would be more upset to find a rating with no notes as opposed to a note about the nose, palate, appearance, length, body, balance, etc without a "grade". But I think coming up with a ratings system to summarize the experience of a wine can be useful.

"There are some common issues that seem to come up, though. Does the rating reflect the perceived value of a wine? If wines are going to be rated on a number scale, how is each quality weighted towards the final assessment? IE, does appearance carry the same weight as palate, is balance weighted the same as finish? The 20 point scale seems to be too evenly weighted. I know that I'll drink a duller less attractive (perhaps aged or unfiltered wine) over a bland or bad tasting wine, and I'll drink a wine with a less lingering finish over a wine that's overly alcoholic or acidic. Why have a hundred point scale when the worst a wine can receive is 70, in effect making it a 30 point scale? I think in my personal attempt to quantify wines with a rating, I achieve the opposite- My notes are more based on the scientific method of observation, with the somewhat necessary "poetics" as descriptors, and my number is more of a gut feeling of how well it comes together."

Brian had a great opinion on this matter, which was that its hard enough to talk about wine and just as each person is different (have a different palate, nose, whatever); the score would be and ought to be different for each person. As it would be for the wines. Each wine is different, each person is unique and detects individual things in each bottle. He said "it would be like scoring jazz records - or is this track from Bird better then this track from Sonny Rollins, and of course Kind of Blue is going to be the best 100 point record ever made" Finally, My own opinion about this is that the scores are not very useful from a personal viewpoint, I just want to know if the wine is well made, and interesting; my main interest is in wines that show "typicality" and complexity. My simple personal debunk of the scores are that a 100 point wine if the scale is "perfect" would be the same no matter where it comes from; and wines should show their place of origin. The use for the numbers for me are that they are a great indicator over time of the trends in quality of a winery. Any winery that is getting scores that are going up in each vintage is likely a winery to watch. Thanks for reading.

Ben Wood


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