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    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Wine Ratings

    What is the point of wine ratings? I am sure you know what I talk about if you buy wine, the little score on the shelf talker next to some wines. OOOH this wine got a 95 and only costs $9/bottle it must be a good buy, etc. However, I encourage you think about what that is really saying before you buy a bottle based on the scorecard. It's really just like a standardized test score for wines, and I am sure we have all met bright people who make great employees, friends or whatever, who didn't score well on their latest standardized test. I am not saying the wine scores, or standardized tests for that matter, are completely irrelevant, just that we have to think critically about what we are seeing and realize there is a wine, or person, behind that score that has a tale to tell.
    What a wine score is really telling you is one persons impression of that wine. Wine is a very subjective thing, like people I would argue, so reducing it to this level of objectivity in the first place seems like a bad idea. However, I understand that not everyone can try lots of different wines and want to know they are getting a quality product not just a quality marketing campaign when they drop $20 on a bottle of wine. I encourage you however to look beyond the score, look at who gave it the score. Every wine score should come with a name attached to it, not just a publication, as publications often publish scores from several wine reviewers. This way you can begin to attribute certain characteristics to particular reviewers. This allows you to make even better choices in your wine selection not just by looking at the number but by understanding a little about who gave it the number. For example Robert Parker, the worlds pre-eminent rater of wines, has an affinity for dark, very tannic, big red wines. Now if you too like this style of wine great! Get anthing Robert Parker gives a 90+ and you'll probably be happy with it. If however, like myself, you prefer your wines a little more subdued, with a lighter tannin structure with more finesse, the you will probably be relatively disappointed with a lot of wines Robert Parker gives high scores to. (Robert Parker does give high scores to other wines, he is good at what he does, but it is well observed that he has a preference)
    From another standpoint wine scores are very bad for the wine industry. Because everyone looks at the scores and we can look at what gets high scores over time, we can begin to tailor our wines to the scorers. If you can get a 90+ point score from Robert Parker your wine will sell very well. So what do you do, you make a wine Robert Parker has a predisposition to like, aka big, tannic, dark, Cab Sauv's. There is a place for these wines in the market, and many people would argue that they are the true kings among wines, but I disagree. One way or the other I think in any industry it is bad when most of the competition wines up piling into one category.
    So next time you are at the store, I encourage you to take a closer look at the scorecard, at least note where the score comes from. Finding a scorer to follow is like finding a good somelier at a local wine shop. It will help you find wines that fit your palette, instead of just hitting your over the head with a hammer until you agree that your palette is wrong, or agrees with the scorer.

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