Wine scores are ridiculous. They also are the reason for the increase in wine consumption the past 40 years. They are wine’s deal with the devil.
Wine is complex, complicated, enigmatic. Who knows what is good and what is not so good until you buy and taste? So, you call upon someone with experience to help.
Robert Parker filled the void, followed by a host of others. Wine sales took off. The formula is simple. Score wines like grade school tests. Everyone understands that.
In practice, the “100 point scale” is an 80-100 point scale. Which means it is a 20-point scale, which some critics—notably Jancis Robinson—use. And then Robinson puts some of her 20-point scores in decimals, which makes hers a 40-point scale. Except she only uses decimals at a very narrow range, which makes it more like a 25-point scale. And, by the way, the lowest score she gives is 12, so we are back to 20 points. Well, you see where this is going.
Wine tasting is not science. Your experience with a particular bottle cannot be reduced to a report card number. Drink a crisp, chilled white poolside paired with melon slices and bites of brie. Add good friends and bonhomie. The wine will be spectacular even if it cost $9 at Sam’s Club and Wine Spectator scored it 82 and noted its nose whispers of acetone.
Pop cork on a 96-point Robert Parker favorite you secured for $195. You are going to like it even if the wine is corked and paired with the wrong food. That is not to say all opinions about wine are worthless—if that were the case, I would be out of a job—but it is to say wine appreciation is subjective with many influencers.
Readers know I don’t do scores. I think a general description of how I experienced the wine, often abetted by observations by other wine professionals, plus a backstory about the winery and its owners enhances appreciation.
If I mention the wine in this newspaper column or on my website, it means I experienced it and found it drinkable. If I did not enjoy in the wine, I do not waste your time with a review. Online, my reviews are much more extensive, and the newspaper’s online version of the column links to my website and the much longer reviews.
Last round: Three unwritten rules of enjoying wine: