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Wine Scoring Begins in the PinotFile

Robert Parker, Jr.’s 100-point wine scoring system, which became popular in 1983 and was adopted by the Wine Spectator in 1985, has been the guideline for consumers seeking to buy good wine. Over the years, there have been many other scoring systems developed. The UC Davis 20-point scale was introduced in 1959, but is extremely objective and does not differentiate between objective observation and subjective evaluation. Another 20-point system, the ASTAB, suffers from the same disadvantage. Hedonic scales are popular because they are quick and simply ask, “How do you like the wine?” An example would be the 10-point Bo Derek hedonic scale: 1-2 for dislike extremely, 3-4 for dislike slightly, 5-6 for neither like nor dislike, 7-8 for like slightly, and 9-10 for like extremely. International Wine Review once used a 13-point hedonic scale, but has abandoned it for the 100-point scoring system.

Currently, every major United States-based wine critic, wine publication and internet review site uses the 100- point scale. Even Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, translates their three puff or star rating system to the 100-point scale (three stars: 95-98, two stars: 91-94, one star: 87-90, no star: 86 or less). There are many misgivings about the 100-point system, one of which is that there is no measurable difference in say, a rating of 89, versus 90. Respected wine critics Steve Tanzer and Allen Meadows have stated publicly that they have some apprehension about the numerical scoring system, but they have no choice but to use it as their readers expect it and rely upon it.

In reality, scoring a wine only matters to the person doing the scoring since we all have different tastes. That said, the wine drinking public has come to depend on scores in choosing wines of quality and have become used to having others tell them what is good. Consumers often pay little attention to descriptions of a wine, focusing instead directly on the wine’s score.

To insure that the PinotFile is relevant in today’s wine marketplace and for many of my readers who prefer scores, I have started to use the 100-point scoring system beginning with this issue. My scores will reflect how the wine is drinking at the time of the review, not the wine’s potential in the future as I believe this cannot be predicted with any certainty. The rating system is as follows. 95-99: an exceptional and complete wine. 90-94: a wine of great charisma that is distinctive and well-crafted. 85-89: a highly drinkable, solid example of a type of wine perfect in the context of a good meal. 80-84: undistinguished but decent wine. 79 and below: flawed or a wine I would not buy or drink.

The Pinot Geek Icon will continue to appear, signifying only the most transcendent Pinot Noirs that I personally would make an effort to seek out. The Pinot Value Icon signifies an appealing wine that represents a bargain at the wine’s retail price in relationship to the quality of the wine.

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