Wine scores 4 of 5

We’ve slogged through wine scores for three weeks, discovering perhaps what we thought we knew about points was off-point, maybe pointless. We push on.

There is a fifth “100-point” panjandrum to ponder before we visit the only female-led wine authority in the group, who—not surprisingly—brings a dollop of leavening to wine points pomposity.

Wine & Spirits is the fifth wine rating publication, and like Wine Enthusiast, it does not deign to designate points for wine deemed unworthy. Only quality sees print. Here is the W&S system:

• Good examples of their variety or region: 80-85.

• Highly recommended: 86-89.

• Exceptional examples of their type: 90-94.

• Superlative, rare finds: 95-100.

Which means Parker’s 74 means “average”; Spectator’s 74 means “not recommended”; Tanzer’s 74 means “below average”; WE and W&S deign not even stoop to comment on such pedestrian plonk.

Enter Jancis Robinson, English wine expert and producer of the definitive wine book: The Oxford Companion to Wine.

Jancis writes: “I know that Americans are used to points out of 100 from their school system so that now they, and an increasing number of wine drinkers around the world, use points out of 100 to assess wines. Like many Brits, I find this system difficult to cope with, having no cultural reference for it.”

Give Jancis credit for honesty about the limitations of judging wines so similar that, when pondering the pandemonium of your palate on a particular tasting day, you must take into account: personal whim and preference, the alignment of Jupiter and Mars, pollen counts, the bouncy flight into Barcelona, a two-hour mandatory Windows update on deadline, and your laundress putting too much starch in your skivvies last Saturday.

Jancis sagely continues: “Perhaps strangely for someone who studied mathematics at Oxford, I’m not a great fan of the conjunction of numbers and wine. Once numbers are involved, it is all too easy to reduce wine to a financial commodity rather than keep its precious status as a uniquely stimulating source of sensual pleasure and conviviality.”

Could not have said it better; will not try.


• Big House White 2011. Blend of 11+ whites, led by viognier; flagrantly floral, notes of all fruits known to wine; crisp, refreshing, nice at great price. $10

• Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvee les Trois Soeurs 2009. Delicious Côtes du Rhône blend value (grenache, syrah, carignan); smooth, full body; simple, but big fruits; Parker 90 pt. $13