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Readers Take on 100-Point Scoring System

In the last issue of the PinotFile, I wrote an article about the decline of usefulness of the 100-point scoring system and provided a number of explanations. I asked readers to respond and here is a consensus of their illuminating comments.

Usefulness of 100-point system “I’m still not enamored with a point system of any kind and rely more on the sensory perceptions I glean from the descriptors”........”Put me down as frustrated by the scoring.”........”The usefulness of the 100-point scoring system will depend on the audience as serious Pinot Lovers will benefit from the descriptions of the wine, whereas the average person will look at a review and say that wine X must be better than wine Y because it is rated 95, not 91. I think it is useful to have both.”........”I agree with your assertion that the 100-point system is passé.”........”I agree with your premise that the 100-point scoring scale is almost useless. A high score for a wine only tells me that the taster liked it. The next question is who was the taster and how close does that taster’s palate match mine? So, based on the taster, I either buy the wine, ignore it, or do more research before I buy it.”........”Today, with the 100-point system, it’s all about where the wine gets at least a score of 90. This is critical as far as the wine’s pricing and desirability in the marketplace. Essentially the 100-point system has become a 6-point system, with most wines scoring between 89 and 95 and a rare wine receiving a score over 95. Essentially has become a joke.”........”Points do not have aroma, flavor or mouthfeel. Points can be useful IF you have reliable knowledge of the rater’s wine preferences. The question really is, ‘Will I like this wine?’ Points don’t answer that question, although they can be an indicator if you know the rather’s wine preferences.”

Value of wine descriptions “I believe Parker was so successful, not because his palate is so much better, but he had a real way with words and if he liked a wine, you know it. If he loved a wine, you had to taste it. He was opinionated and you knew it. Agree or disagree, you knew what types of wine he liked and you could decide for yourself if that was the wine you wanted. Also, Parker’s 100-point scale was easy to understand, and it drove wineries to work even harder to succeed with their wines.”........”My main guide on what to buy are notes, not points. It doesn’t matter who you choose for tasting notes with a caveat. It does matter how well the taster describes the wine, and it does matter where the taster is consistent from wine to wine. With experience, the amateur wine geek can figure out which wines to buy based on the notes, as long as the notes aren’t too far afield from their own tastes.”........”I do read your descriptions closely looking for key phrases or words. Balance and good acidity are a must and fresh raspberry or cherry are also key words I look for.”

More highly scored wines “I have noticed many more highly rated wines in the past few years than ever before and do not know if that is a change in palate, the wine quality, relaxation of the scoring system OR all above.”........”The 100-point system no doubt has its flaws. My biggest concern at present is score inflation. It used to be that 90 points as a great score, and still is in my book. However, over time, 90 as become ‘ordinary,’ and so the review needs to be a 92, 93, 94 and up to break through with retailers and consumers. As a result, you have a lot of wines out there that get extremely high scores that I just don’t think are that deserving.”........”The higher your scores are, the more retailers reference them, the more wineries reference them, and the more influential the review becomes. Hence the writer and publication gets more cachet.”........”Non-blind scoring increases the high scoring bias.”........The 100-point scoring system was OK when Parker began. As he evolved, grade inflation set it.”

A standardized review format “I LOVE the format and have wished in the past what you described existed. To be able to compare specific attributes that I sense and taste to a professional’s would go a long way towards allowing me to better understand why I like the wines I like.”........”I totally like your suggested format although it would need to be thoroughly thought out. If all reviewers were to adapt to using the same format, it would be much easier for me to make an informed buying decision. I think you are on the right track!”

On prime drinking years “One thing I think is important and helpful to me, and possibly many your readers is your guess-estimate on the prime drinking years of any particular wine.”........”The difficult angle is age ability. What is the expectation for serious development including bottle bouquet and secondary flavors? This has been difficult, and I’ve handled it by looking at pedigree, age of vines, commune, published tasting notes of older wines by trustworthy people before buying.”

On wine costs and scores “If I’m spending over $40 a bottle, and I did just order some Maggy Hawk at $70, based solely on your recommendations, I don’t want a good wine, I don’t want a very good wine, I want a wine that is going to knock my socks off.”........”I taste a 95+ point wine and I expect it to be near life changing.”........”When I look at reviews now, I tend to quickly look for price and score. For Pinot Noir, if I see a 92/93 or higher score on a wine priced from $25 to $45, I would read it. For me to be interested in a wine priced above $45, it would need to have a score of 93 or higher. I am still looking for the great value bottles like a 90/91 score on a $20 or under wine.”........”My dilemma has always been the role that price plays in the rating.”

Summary Readers emphasized the importance of matching their palate with the reviewer regardless of whether they hone in on the description and or the score. As one reader noted, “Your scores and tasting notes seem to fit my palate or tastes, so I will continue to read, dream and buy (way too much) wine.” Price is also an important consideration for many as they search for the combination of high quality at a reasonable price. I might add here, that I do not look at prices before reviewing wines and try to keep this irrelevant in judging a wine. Most responders felt that their has been score inflation that has diminished the usefulness of the 100- point scoring system. The description of a wine seems of great importance, especially if the reader can see “between the lines,” and understands certain words or phrases that the writer uses that are a tip off indicating a special wine. The idea of a standardized review format used by all professional wine reviewers makes sense to many responders, but the enormity of creating an agreeable format, and instituting it among prominent wine writers who are notoriously protective of their individuality, makes it unlikely or even impossible. Finally, the demise of the 100-point scoring system in the foreseeable near term is improbable, even as Millennials are said to spurn the wine scores of experts. The reason is that scores are still remain the main driving force that sells wine.

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