Please Stop Caring About Wine Scores
« This exceptional wine got 94 points from Robert Parker. » « Wine Spectator gave him 98 points » « This red wine received 5 stars from Decanter ». James Suckling has awarded this Burgundy 92 points! » So what ? Do you really buy wine based on scores given by other people? Let’s talk about it…
By Frédéric Arnould (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Did you ever see at your local wine store any 82 points wine ? If so, please send me a picture of it ! I might wait for quite a while… Because nobody is going to post a wine that has 82 points out of 100. I do not know about you, but when I was in school, getting an 82% for an exam or a homework assignment was not bad at all. Even very good, no ? So how is it that a wine that has scored 82 points out of 100 is also ignored?
The Ridiculous 100 Points Scale
Always higher, always bigger … the Anglo-Saxons like to reach the summits. It is for this reason that this 100-point scale quickly became the preserve of these Robert Parker critics. Let’s stop messing around a bit. Recently, we have seen here and there wines that have obtained perfect scores of 100 points. Breaking news! The perfect wine exists! Sorry for the other winemakers, you did not get the perfect score, it’s over for you.
All these notes, however superfluous, exist only to justify the price charged to the consumer. But, to also legitimize the knowledge and personal preferences of the expert à la Parker. And wine producers as well as wine stores use these notes to bait the customer. But where is the appreciation of the personal taste of the most important person in this equation, ie you, the wine lover? Nowhere…
When Robert Parker, a recently retired lawyer, launched his « newsletter » a long time ago with his notes on 100, he managed a feat, imposing his vision of wine to the entire planet. Knowing that he loved concentrated wines, packed with ripe fruit and oaky style, many winemakers dropped their prey for shade and changed the way they worked in the vineyard and winery. The frenzied race at 90 points and more was launched … And many other critics have followed suit towards this homogeneity of thought …
Except that the tastes of the consumer evolve and at a given moment, the palates are refined, tired of these wines sometimes heavy on the stomach. Those who sold their souls to the devilish 100-point race found themselves quite helpless when the breeze came.
The Wine Spectator Case
The highly respected American magazine Wine Spectator has chosen its rating scale according to these criteria of categories of points.
95-100 Classic: a great wine
Outstanding: A wine of superior character and style
85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50-74 Not recommended
Funny too dissect the difference between 80-84 points (a good wine), between 75-79 (a mediocre, drinkable wine with possible defaults) and between 50-74 (not recommended). A question may arise, why not make a quotation on 50 or 25 since everything that is down between 50 and 74 is not worth it? Or why not on 10? Or 5
Even Decanter Succumbed
The prestigious British magazine Decanter had stuck to a 20-point scale for many, many years, but today it’s enough to read one of the recent issues to find that the sacrosanct 100-percent scale has won again.
Let’s take a look at it because they have created a conversion scale of their old system.
Is not it fascinating to note that a score of 90 points means 17 to 17.25 out of 20 (and not 18)? And that 89 is equal to 16.75? And that 70/100 (wine of poor quality according to them) is worth 11 or 11,25 / 20 … We no longer have the mathematical rules that we had, you will agree. As for a wine that would get between 69 and 50/100, we are talking here about defective wines.
Personally, when a wine advisor or a wine import agent praises me the notes of such and such bottles, I abstain from any comment because these abstract figures do not matter to me much. Let’s be clear, how do you compare a Chateauneuf du Pape who gets 88 points for a price of $ 45 while a Languedoc wine sold for $ 19 gets a score of 89 points? And if you set a goal to buy wines that earn at least 90 points, imagine all that can be missed as good surprises.
The Audacity of Surprise !
My long diatribe on the subject brings me to the obvious: why entrust to others who do not necessarily have your palate, the delicious task of tasting wine? Yes, the wine market can be intimidating because it’s so big, but why stop seeing it one glass at a time? We choose our wine according to what we like in it: the aromas, the acidity, the tannins or not, the fruit, its capacity to age and not because someone decided that he deserved 86 points and more. Yes, buying wine a little blind can be scary and lead to bitter disappointments but also to great unsuspected discoveries. Enjoy tastings in wine fairs and festivals to get an idea and abstract these notes that do not mean much.
From my point of view, I have too much respect for these winemakers to compare their work in absolute terms regardless of their means, their chances of success, their misfortunes and other imponderables that all have an impact on the product they are trying to develop year after year.
So, when I taste a wine, I do the olfactory analysis (aromas, characteristics etc) and note what I like about what is in the glass. Thus, I speak on this site with words that I hope simple and inviting, while keeping in mind that all the palates are different and that I am able to appreciate a wine according to this variety of palates .
In fact, let’s never forget that wine is and will always be fermented grape juice … And remember that if your child gets a 72% in an exam, he still deserves congratulations … At least , do it in memory of the 72-point wines that will never have this chance to be appreciated. Cheers !