A few weeks ago, we asked Palate Press readers to tell us how they felt about rating systems. Did they prefer the 100-point system, stars, or badges? Or would they rather have no ratings at all? The result?

  • I like reviews without ratings                                49%
  • I want good wines given badges of approval       20%
  • I want wines rated on a 5-star scale                      16%
  • I want wines rated on a 100-point scale               13%
  • I want a system other than those listed above       3%

No rating system received a majority, though no rating at all got a large plurality. There was a near-perfect 50-50 split between ratings and no ratings, so we asked two members of our Editorial Board, Rémy Charest and W. Blake Gray, to take their ongoing argument discussion on-line. Feel free to join in the fray.

Remy: In the world of wine, point scores are stupid.

If you’re going to buy a wine because it scored 90, you might as well buy it because it’s on special for $9.99. Is that really a reason to buy or drink a wine?
A score says nothing. It may say 95 – implying awesomeness – but it really doesn’t say anything. Is it 95 because of its “gobs of ripe fruit”, as Wine Spectator reviews so often throw at us, or because of subtle nuances, refreshing acidity and complex minerality? If you’re just relying on the score, you’ve gotten no useful information. You’re as likely to be disappointed – and pissed off you paid more of your hard-earned money for the wine – than to really like you. Might as well spin around three times and buy whatever your finger points at when you stop spinning and open your eyes, or go “eenie, meenie, miney, moe…”.

Scores are, at best, a lazy shortcut. Most often, they are a tool of mass market distortion. Do I really have to get into the 89 vs 90 question? If the taster got up in a bad mood, the morning of the tasting, your wine doesn’t sell as well because he scored it below that sacred threshold? That’s wrong in so many ways.

Scores also create an aura of objectivity that, quite frankly, doesn’t exist in wine tasting. I don’t mean to say that professional tasters are not doing their work as best they can, that they are not trying to assess wines in as objective a way as possible, but it just can’t be done. It’s not like test-driving a car and evaluating acceleration and gas consumption. Wine is, by definition, a contextual, subjective thing. Assigning a score to a wine is an attempt to take wine completely out of that context, and although there are certain objective means of evaluation, context trumps “quality” at every step. It all depends what you are looking for, what your mood is, what the wine is for. Screaming Eagle may knock all your friends off their chairs at a blind tasting, but it would be disgusting served by the pool on a hot summer day. Does that mean the 8$ bottle of Vinho Verde is better? Well, on a hot summer day, yes.

Point scores are a way to fit round wines into square holes. Not helpful in any way.

Writing tasting notes takes time and commitment, and writing that allows the reader to situate him or herself in relation with what you wrote. Take Wine Advocate, for instance, the poster-boy publication for scores: when Robert Parker assigns a 91 on a wine, and when David Schildneckt does the same, would the same wine buyer be as satisfied by one or the other? Their palates are so different that just reading their scores would create confusion, above all. Read the tasting notes, willya?

Blake: Remy, you lost me on your third sentence, because I think a good sale price is a perfectly good reason to buy a wine, assuming other factors point in its favor as well.

Do I like the region/varietal? Am I familiar with the producer? If there are any tasting notes — and if I can trust them, which is a huge issue — does it sound like the kind of wine I’d like?
I’ll make exactly the same argument about ratings. They are another piece of information. They shouldn’t replace tasting notes, but they are a quick, useful way of learning how enthusiastic the reviewer was about the wine.

The thing I never understand about no-rating zealots (yes, I include you in this) is this: Why do you want me to have less information? You don’t have to use a critics’ ratings as a guide. But why deprive others of the scores?

I also think anything you can say negative about different tasters giving different ratings to a wine can also be said about tasting notes. If Robert Parker likes a different style of wine from me, why would his ratings-less tasting notes be any more useful?

Too often I believe people who rant against ratings are really ranting against critics they don’t like. That just means you need to find critics you can trust. That’s true whether or not you pay attention to scores.

One more thing about the anti-ratings argument. As a blogger, I try never to talk down to my audience. I trust my readers to understand my point. Saying readers can’t be trusted with the additional information of a rating shows something bad about one’s relationship with them. My readers aren’t children, and I don’t treat them as if they are. Ratings are subjective — Roger Ebert’s ratings are subjective, and so are Steve Tanzer’s. Do you really believe movie viewers think Roger Ebert’s ratings establish “an aura of objectivity?” I give them more credit.

At least we can agree on the greatness of Vinho Verde on a hot day. I’ll give that experience a 95 — no, make it a 97.

Take the poll:


Remy: Strangely, Blake, you sort of made my point by saying that price can count “assuming other factors point in its favor as well”.  I’m a total believer in the other factors that let you know what a wine is all about.

Ratings, however, are not another piece of information. I believe they actually hinder the passing of information. How many stories have you heard about wine sales going crazy just because they scored 90+, while the 89 stick around the shop? Does that single point really mean that much? Especially when we know how variable our impressions can be from day to day – heck, professional judges can’t even give the same medal to the same wine twice (http://tinyurl.com/d5ay8v). So even when scores can be helpful – in sorting out a panel tasting – they are inconsistent.

Another example of the uselessness of scores is this recent tweet by James Suckling, a guy who really believes in scores: “Just tasted range of Domaine de Chevalier reds. 2009 clearly best. 95+”. The note doesn’t say much, and the score adds nothing.

Which brings us to the core question: notes should tell us something. They should be descriptive, informative, expressive and much more than just a series of aromatic descriptors. They should provide context, situate the wine within a producer’s range and within a region’s production, etc. The problem may well be that a lot of tasting notes are too limited and unhelpful (again, how many “gobs of ripe fruit and chocolatey notes” can you read, and how does that help you choose?), but adding a score to them doesn’t help any.

In the end, I believe that adding a score to a tasting note may well be talking down to the audience, by assuming that they would need a number to help them figure out if your tasting note was enthusiastic or not.


Blake: We agree on so much — Vinho Verde, the importance of context. Yet you insist on forcing me to defend James Suckling. You wound me.

I’m not going to do it. The concept is not the executor.

I could, if I chose, brandish thousands of incoherent, ratings-less tweets about wine to show how useless they are. But the concept is not the executor.

Personally I assume that I’m not always a good enough writer for my readers to tell from my tasting notes which of several wines I would recommend, if I could buy only one. That’s the real-world decision people face every day. Maybe the correct answer is “any of these three or four Albarinos would be good.” But they’re only going to order one.

You’re also assuming that everyone takes the time to carefully read and consider various wines’ taste profiles. That’s a nice ideal, but they might be looking through a wine list and checking out reviews on a Blackberry, and they might have an impatient dining party waiting for them to pull the trigger on a $100 wine. For people in this situation — even wine geeks find themselves in it once in a while — information needs to be transmitted quickly. To not give ratings is to abdicate. If I don’t give them a number, James Suckling will. And so will the PR people who represent the wine, under assumed names at a certain public wine-rating site I won’t mention.

This is how Robert Parker got power in the first place. He gave ratings to French wines that had previously only been described in prose, and people wanted them.

I’ll defend Parker here. His universal-scale ratings helped convince people that they didn’t have to buy a first-growth Bordeaux to have a truly great wine. You might hate ratings, but I don’t think we’d have today’s vibrant international wine scene without them, because people would still believe there’s a pecking order of regions and a great wine for Coonawarra or Maipo Valley is only that — so why bother with it?

Ratings aren’t going away whether we do them or not. You can try convincing me to stop giving ratings. You can convince Joe Roberts and work on Alder Yarrow and any number of our other colleagues in alternative wine criticism. Good luck convincing the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. Every battle that an anti-ratings crusade wins gives those organizations more power and authority. James Suckling is on your side, not mine.


Rémy Charest is a Quebec City based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food for over 12 years in various magazines and newspapers. He writes two wine blogs (The Wine Case, in English, and À chacun sa bouteille, in French) and, as if he didn’t have enough things to do, he recently started a food blog called The Food Case.

Wine writer W. Blake Gray is Chairman of the Electoral College of the Vintners Hall of Fame. Previously wine writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, he has contributed articles on wine and sake to the Los Angeles Times, Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits, Wine Review Online, and a variety of other publications. He travels frequently to wine regions and enjoys coming home to San Francisco.

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  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    My heart goes out to W. Blake Gray’s hypothetical host with the impatient dinner party. Imagine the guests’ disappointment should the host exercise his own judgement. Assuming the host instead selects a wine based on a score, and assuming no other guest is quicker on the Blackberry keypad, there remains the question of the group’s overall satisfaction with the host’s choice. Clearly, if a few find the point-driven selection unsatisfactory the host can simply blame the score. But wouldn’t his guests find it more pleasing should he have chosen the wine himself? I mean, should the host consult Yelp before ordering his meal? When does this lemming-like behavior end? Man-up and order a damn wine! The guests will appreciate the host’s independent spirit (especially the mysterious brunette at the end of the table).

    I have been to numerous restaurants and shops where many of the wines have not, in fact, been rated. Or where only previous vintages have been. Indeed, many of my favorite retailers, those I’ve come to know over the years and who graciously keep a database of my previous purchases, can offer me informed advice no critic, certainly no score, can hope to equal.

    A score presupposes, in part, that the wine drinker lives in a partial information vacuum, that s/he is otherwise excluded from wine’s greater conversation. With no friends or shopkeepers or even somms to talk to, this sad wine shut-in may need a score, true enough. But really, why the anxiety such that a score becomes relevant? Are we not adults?

    I do not know what wide-screen tv Mr. Suckling owns, what car he drives, or the books he reads. And I do not remotely care what he rates any given wine.

    Hopes this helps!

  • http://www.twitter.com/tairanniew Tai-Ran Niew

    We have to start by first deciding whether we are only interested in defending the integrity of wine, or in helping more consumers explore and enjoy wine. I am neither for nor against points. I want more people to enjoy and explore wine.

    The points system has been abused by merchants and PR departments. Attack them! Not the points.

    To FORCE people to explore and trust their palate is silly. They may not have the financial means, OPPORTUNITY nor time. Taking the training wheels away will only take them away from wine. Or are you suggesting that people who are not willing to devote half their lives to truly appreciate wine should not be drinking?

    People are aware that wine cannot be summarised with a point. But most tasting notes are useless. So provide people with the opportunity to explore, instead of just ranting about points.

    For those that are genuinely concerned by the integrity of wine, I would suggest that we load up a bus with the most diverse and wonderful range of wine possible and tour the country for the next 10 years providing free sampling and tasting sessions. It will cost $1bn, but will make points irrelevant.

  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    Not quite sure where to begin! I do like the idea of touring the country in a bus full of wine. Road trip! But I don’t think a malevolent agency is threatening to ‘force’ folks ‘to explore and trust their palates’. That’s what individuality and self-respect is for.

    One of the problems with scores is that they create and sustain the illusion that the wine drinker needs training wheels. And not only among newbies. As a frequent visitor to the Squires’ forum at the Wine Advocate web site (before it required a subscription), I can assure you that quite sophisticated wine drinkers alternately depend on, struggle and disagree with, the score of given wine and of the utility scores themselves. Even within the heart of the beast healthy and perfectly ordinary discord finds full expression.

    I, too, want more people to enjoy wine, and to taste widely. Being opposed to scores, in my view, is merely a modest effort to promote greater independence among wine drinkers. Courage! Buy that scoreless wine! Take a risk!

    About tasting notes I’ll offer this simple advice: Buy a wine. Drink it. Jot down a few words the wine brings to mind. Then go on-line and look up reviews of said wine. Read the critics’ take. Perhaps you will find one or two who’ve jotted down the same words. Bingo! They are the folks to read as you move forward on your wine adventure.

  • http://www.1winedude.com 1WineDude

    I *dream* about retailers that have DBs of my past purchases and recommendations for me!

    Alas, I live in PA… :-(

  • http://www.wineforall.com Tish

    Fantastic debate, guys. At this time, I would just add that WS and RP scores are now the only ones that matter (anecdotal evidence: notice how often Gary V. at Wine Library uses RP or WS over all others in e-blasts… about 90% of the time) are getting more and more marginalized. Retailers are starting to wake up to this fact (I am still pulling for Gary V. to quit smoking the 90-pt crack pipe). Meanwhile, the Palate Press poll clearly shows that the anti-100-pt scale movement is gaining real momentum (especially among the type of wine savants who read PP).

    Arguments against the 100-pt scale are not new (my take back in 2004 still holds up: http://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/?go=getArticle&dataId=36265). We all need to remember that the 100-pt scale was popularized during a time when it was actually functional. Fewer wines, fewer critics, less grade inflation…. The wine world is different now than it was in the 20th century; the 100-pt scale is now flawed beyond utility, a veritable victim of its own success. It has also become a parody of itself: wines these days are basically 90 or they’re Not.

    On a more generic level, with something as subjectively interpreted as wine, how can any sensible person accept a scoring system that is so hopelessly irreplicable? Of course, I have managed to solve that dilemma: I just give all wines 88 points. Done.

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  • Don R

    I think the poll results tell us that roughly 50% WISH they didn’t care about scores, but I hardly think it can be trusted as the actual figure of those who don’t. Blake: more information, not less, for sure. Ken and Tai-Ran also both raise excellent points above. My own perception is that scores create excitement, and often, a rush of success after having hunted down that highly scored bottle you’ve always wanted to taste. Descriptors are MOST important to me in determining the styles and flavors that are to my liking, but a low score will tell me it’s probably flawed, so read carefully. That’s important. A high score tells me it’s usually not (destined to be) flawed, and will likely teach me something about stylistic ideals. Safer bets, particularly where higher priced bottles are concerned. So I buy what I like, being attracted by higher scores (as much as reasonable prices), but choosing bottles that sound like “me”, in the end. No head in sand here, no way!

  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    Lord help me… Don R, my PERCEPTION is that SCORES do NOT create EXCITEMENT. They create DEPENDENCE.

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  • Karl s Mann

    Ratings on a point scale are nothing more than commercial tool to sell wine. buyer beware….Even the Wine Spectator got caught see story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2607308/Fake-restaurant-invented-by-author-wins-prestigious-award.html

  • Don R

    Ken, dependence on what? Good, impartial advice based on years of tasting experience? Why shouldn’t the consumer seek out higher scoring bottles which are described as being to their tastes, if they wish? These reviewers who assign the scores have reputations which many people trust (with good reason: consistency), and their reputations are earned (point for you, Karl, they have to live with their reviews, and eat or go hungry based on them). They have personal preferences, yes, and just as you mentioned, Ken, and everyone finds the reviewers that they click with. Would you seriously now have me ignore their scores? Once I know my palate aligns with theirs, my money is safest in the bottles they recommend. If you have trouble selling 80 point wine, sorry bout that, but it’s probably flawed in some way: liquid mudballs, herb broth, or just boring, fruitless drain-cleaner. That’s what the low scores from the best reviewers reveal: imbalance & flaws. But you want me to buy one blindly. No way in hell! I’ll taste it, but unless someone I TRUST recommends it, forget it. What you recommend, essentially blindly buying bottles one at a time, would drive a new wine consumer away in one week, unsatisfied and cash drained. Do you work for a distributor or retail wine merchant, by any chance? I only ask because your perspective does not resemble that of a serious consumer.

  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    Don R, your reply is sufficiently unfocussed to suggest to me you’ve taken my tongue in cheek approach personally. But, to perfectly honest, I, too, cannot decide for myself! This is especially true when faced with unscored wines. How hopeless I must seem on the CCTV monitor as I’m taped turning in confused circles when in a wine shop without scores! I’m told some shops actually edit down surveillance footage of perplexed customers, gag reels if you will, which they then send to Parker et. al. As I understand it, the tapes are played at their dinner parties for the amusement of guests.

    First of all, that your tastes align with a given critic’s palate must mean that it is based on something more than the scores: tasting notes, perhaps? It is the idea that such a number corresponds in any rational way to the note that is at issue here. So, rather than dismiss the critical establishment, as delightfully amorphous as it currently is, I simply prefer a bit more narrative depth and gustatory analysis in a recommendation. Surely we can agree on this.

    Secondly, I am not sure just how many 80 pt wines are out there. Modern winemaking tech virtually guarantees a score of at least 85. By ‘flawed’ I presume you simply mean unbalanced or boringly non-desrcript. ‘Flaw’ has a more rigorous definition, as you must know, bearing upon bio-amine contamination, whether the wine is cooked, corked, reduced, etc. (A jug wine is exactly as God and the winery intended.) Further, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, the 100 pt scale is actually a 15 pt scale at best. I would go further and suggest (as many writers have) that it’s a two point scale: 89 and 90. At a certain point along the road of your tasting adventure you will learn this valuable lesson. The sky will then open upon new vistas. Profound music will play. You might even be a little scared of your new-found freedom. But it WILL WORK OUT (despite Dionysus’ deserved reputation for wickedness).

    (BTW, it bears repeating that there are significant cultural impediments to fair wine rating. It often happens that when a critic writes of a ‘natural’, or organic, or bio wine, an entirely different grading metric is applied.)

    Thirdly, yes Don, I want you to buy a wine without a score. Do it now. Do it today. That is an order! No, I do not work for a retailer or distributor. I’m from Montana, dude. We don’t listen to anybody but our inner frontiersman. Best wishes.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tairanniew Tai-Ran Niew

    Ken,

    I do actually see your point on dependence perfectly. I have been extremely lucky, and through the years have had the opportunity and the means to taste and try thousands of wines. I don’t buy wines on points or tasting notes.

    But for someone who can only afford a bottle of decent wine a week or a month, the task of exploration becomes much more onerous and daunting, especially when faced with a choice of 10,000 wines. How can we help? Or again, are we suggesting that if they cannot afford the time or money, they should not be drinking? It’s their problem! Why are we helping THEM?

    On tasting notes. Almost ALL of them (except perhaps Jancis Robinson’s team and Oz Clark) say no more about a wine than a list of grocery items and some vague use of the words “balance”, “structure” and “potential”. It’s like describing a painting by telling me what colours are used. They are COMPLETELY useless. Unless you are looking for “bags of fruit” or “cassis” (ffs!)? Even then, how big a bag? Is your bag bigger than my bag? But that will then lead to numbers … no!

    Perhaps if the less literary critics start matching wines to evocative pictures and a sound track, they can convey more accurately the sensation of the taste of that wine?

    And Jancis and Oz do not taste and comment on all 10,000 wines that are available. What is one to do?

    Perhaps your own notes do capture the essence of every wine you drink! Please, please do publish them. I await with bated breath.

    And a slight inconsistency in your philosophy: If I find a critic that I “like” and follow him/her, I am implicitly following their internal “points” system!

    So if you are true and pure to your intentions, we should only trust our own palate and trust no-one! Neither their points nor their words.

    So we are back to square one. We should not have points and most notes are useless. In fact we should ignore the words too, for they are but a reflection of the critics internal points system. Consumers have a choice of 10,000 wines and have limited time and financial means. Should we help?

    The issue is not that the consumer cannot afford to buy a bottle of wine. But that they cannot afford to buy 100 to find one. Or again, are you suggesting that is the true cost of wine?

    I quite like the idea of an Independent Wine Drinker’s Fund sponsored by Ken Payton ….

    What about a forum where groups of people can help direct others to say, 500 interesting wines out of the 10,000? Would that help a little? Maybe? May one suggest putting the number “90” against the interesting wines, and “89” against the ones that you can further explore at your discretion and leisure?

    But that would again feel like being “told” what to do. And we don’t like that, do we?

    What a dilemma!

  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    I am feeling a bit guilty scribbling so much in the shadow of the excellent work of Remy and Blake, but here goes…

    Tai-Ran, you have a very cool name.

    Secondly, would you buy a bottle of wine with a well-written note but no score? Because it turns out that there are many critics who do not, in fact, score the wines they write about. My earlier suggestion centered on following critics with whom your own notes agree. This to me seems a useful bit of advice. A drinker learns to concentrate on a wine by first writing their own note. Only then do they search a critic’s database. Besides, many newbie drinkers I know very much enjoy any and all inexpensive wines. We are living in a veritable golden age of quality wines at lower price points. So, it is not that a newbie has to try 100 wines to find one they like. Rather, the reverse is true: most newbies will find only one unacceptable out of a 100.

    In my opinion the blizzard of wine blogs is both a blessing and a curse. The imperative to draw distinctions, to judge a wine, is ultimately commercially driven. Wine bloggers wish for a certain recognition after which, of course, free samples will flow. I’ve no problem with that. But what happens when a wine blogger’s reviews become routinized? What are the emotional/intellectual consequences of receiving case after free case from an increasingly anxious industry looking to move backed-up inventory? We can both agree that they can lose interest in the customer of limited means, the one who does not want to get suckered out of their hard earned cash yet enjoys wine on a daily basis. The (cultural) fact is that a wine blogger’s success can (sometimes) be estimated by the progressively higher price of the wines they come to review.

    Indeed, I agree with you that much of what passes for tasting notes is discouragingly vapid. But a point score suffers the same disability. The inconsistency here is not mine, but properly belongs to the marketplace. One cannot simultaneously ridicule notes yet embrace a wine’s further dumbing down via points. Each is the fun house mirror image of the other.

    However, your question about how ‘we’ might help is a good one. A fund in my name is a bad one. Though a wine writer after a fashion, one who sometimes receives free wine, I prefer to suffer in solidarity with the paying public. I think the sense of outrage at having just wasted $15 makes a review all the more forceful!

    There are other ideas in your note above that I don’t really understand. No matter! Cheers!

  • http://www.twitter.com/tairanniew Tai-Ran Niew

    Ken,

    Cheers to you too!

    If it is indeed true that 99 out of 100 wines made will be enjoyed by consumers, than I agree that any form of filtering is probably not necessary. I have never seen a proper survey, so I won’t know. My 1 out of 100 is based on my own experience, but I agree that is hardly a proper sample!

    I also think there is a simple premise in these discussions that points are “dumbing down” wines whereas words are by definition more “intelligent”. In fact, points actually provide a critical if not the most crucial bit of information: did the taster really really enjoy it? That is all that it conveys and that is useful information.

    Even if I don’t agree with the critic and I find the wine foul, at least I have to hand it to the winemaker that they made someone happy! That is more useful than a note reflecting the critics ability to deconstruct a wine into component parts.

    We enjoy music, great scenery and love without ever having to really deconstruct it and write notes. Why do we have to do that for wine?

    I do agree though that the fine gradation (92 vs 94 vs 96) are completely meaningless.

    As for the integrity of reviewers, that is another matter altogether! Neither words nor numbers will solve that problem.

  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    Tai-Ran, ‘deconstructing’ a wine into its components is a very different exercise than some of ‘grocery item’ review written by Oz and Robinson you properly castigate above. Some reviews I’ve read are tremendously sophisticated (Jefford and Broadbent come to mind). But it is important to remember that neither writers’ reputation, Oz nor Robinson, is built solely upon their wine reviews. Far from it. Their credibility in the wine world naturally follows upon the far more substantial (carbon) footprint of the many books they’ve written. One learns to situate their remarks in a larger body of work. Indeed, the further into the wine world a soul wanders, the greater becomes the individual’s responsibility to be at least be marginally aware of a critic’s overall literary/academic production. The idea is to finally arrive at the banquet sufficiently informed to positively contribute to the on-going wine conversation. Or to know the important questions! There are plenty of good arguments/discussions in which to participate, you can be sure. Besides, a soul would not be much of a dinner companion were they incapable of communicating their joys and sorrows about the food and wine placed in front of them!

    And this is where points come in (or are asked to leave). From my perspective, points ridicule wine culture. They create the illusion of a wine’s comprehension They foster indifference in the drinker, I am convinced. For to buy the highly rated wine becomes a substitute, a fetish, for any real or durable understanding of its (agri)cultural origins. So too do scores interfere with established credibility. They are not a precipitate of a wine writer’s accumulated wisdom but its abandonment.

    Lastly, yes, we can enjoy love without having to ‘deconstruct’ it. But as with wine, when among those I love, I find it impossible to keep keep silent!

    Other than that, I completely agree with you!

  • Don R

    Ken, yes we agree on the importance of the verbiage (the “descriptors” I mentioned). They are of paramount importance, especially since so few store clerks have the ability to really focus in customers’ tastes. I trust my favorite reviewers’ reviews over clerks, absolutely. Especially important (to me) are the interpretive words that Laube & Parker use, like “opulent”, “expressive”, “full-bodied”, etc. (which sadly I do not find everywhere, my response to the latter part of the thread going on here). But you accused me of not buying unscored wines, and I wonder where you got that from, because I never said it and you’re dead wrong. I buy at all “point levels”, based also on price and score. But I’ll buy any bottle if I taste it & like it. Or (here’s what I’ve been saying) I’ll buy blindly if it is described well (by Laube or Parker) AND has a high score (because they are clearly confident about the implicit recommendation). I’m not in denial about it, but (here’s what you did not understand before) I do not require it for a purchase. This is what you assumed, but I sure do blame my un-learned, scatterbrained self for that. But thanks for the opportunity to defend my personal preferences, it’s refreshing.

    Regarding 80pt bottles, can you be serious? You don’t acknowledge them? Plenty in Wine Spectator, Enthusiast, Advocate, etc. Does that somehow suggest you actually use those low scores to ignore those wines and remove them from your consideration? I have enjoyed numerous 75-85 point bottles that I thought were fantastic, despite the score… some I would have given 90+ to. But generally I tasted them first and the imbalances were beneath my threshhold for objection; or I had testimony from trusted salesfolk that it would truly please my tastes. Scores do not mean anything to me if I don’t agree with them. Is that wrong? I still care about knowing we disagree because it’s educational.

    But my point all along (one last time here)… let’s not fool ourselves and try to deny how important it is to know (the score, i.e.) how emphatically the reviewer feels the wine is a success, or whether it’s flawed. Yes, flawed wines are reviewed all the time. If you’re looking for something more than a laundry list of flavors, then isn’t this what you’re looking for? Isn’t the score just the exclamation point or emoticon on the end of the review?
    (87pts) “if it’s cheap enough, you might take a chance” is different than
    (91pts) “everyone should buy this wine!”, which is also different than
    (95pts) “buy this remarkable, exciting wine now!”. That’s what the scores do. Let it be.

  • http://reignofterroir.com Ken Payton

    So, Dan R, we part as friends. That’s all I really care about at this moment. I’ve spoken my piece. I yield the floor…

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  • http://www.twitter.com/tairanniew Tai-Ran Niew

    Ken,

    I am using Jancis (who I know) and Oz as examples of people who do it right!

    Regards

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