I’m not needy, but I do like a little affirmation every now and then. I cannot wait to hear about this line from Husband or a few other select occasional readers…..
But that’s why I find articles like this one so wonderful. Do we really want to continue relying on a point system that is based on someone else’s preferences to determine which wines we should purchase?
A high score doesn’t always mean the wine is excellent, however. In many regions a high score merely reflects the style of wine currently trending or preferred by a particular critic. Over the last few decades, especially in California, that translates into very ripe, concentrated, full-bodied wines with a bludgeoning of new oak. Many high-scoring wines are also transient: Because they are designed to be flashy in their youth, they end up aging about as well as a child star in Hollywood (with some exceptions).
I have previously argued that points probably don’t matter because we each have to come to terms with what we appreciate and want in our wines. At the end of the day, a wine expert who rates the wine, is really rating against what she or he thinks wine should taste like, and it’s usually heavy intervention with yeasts added to emphasize certain characteristics and lots of new oak or *gasp* oak powder put into the wine while it ages and develops. If that’s what you want and like, more power to you! But if it’s not your preference, where is the rating system that helps you find your bliss in a bottle?
From the earlier cited article:
A few years back, I tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon from a respected Sonoma County winery that mainly sells direct to its mailing list, so the winemakers really didn’t care about scores. They simply make wine the way they want, leaning toward the balance of earth and fruit typically found in Old World wines. This 2010 Cabernet from a single vineyard in Chalk Hill was pure magic. It was a near-perfect expression of classically proportioned Cabernet, a style found in the golden era of California before the push in the later 1990s for high scores. It evoked memories of a great Pauillac, a region known to make top wines from Bordeaux’s Left Bank. One month later, a famous critic (to remain unnamed) gave the wine a score of 85! How could a critic who has been scoring wine for decades not see the greatness we did? Simple: We have different taste buds, but also, that classic style was not trending.
I do worry about the way these scores impact the overall wine industry. Virginia has new wineries opening regularly as the industry grows and expands. A few negative scores/reviews because the wine isn’t in the preferred style can harm the diversity of the wine industry. A few of my favorite wineries either don’t enter the contests or do and don’t win anything. Or only the sweet wine wins recognition — which is great for sweet wine drinkers, and thank god it helps the winery I love survive, but at the end of the day, the winery isn’t getting recognition for their artistry. Many of the wines I love the most don’t ever get any awards. Is it just me?
So what’s the alternative? How do we develop a system of scoring wines that accounts for the variety of tastes and the artistry of the winegrowers/winemakers? I’m actually shocked that there are not more wine bloggers out there writing about Virginia wine, or writing more frequently about it. Of course, going too far down that road, you end up in this April Fool’s joke article I loved…
During a well-attended press conference, held at the New York Marriott Marquis, the nation’s top wine publications announced in tandem that numbered wine scores, also known as the 100-point system, will be replaced by crowd-sourced “likes” by the summer of 2020. “Millennials have rendered wine scores all but obsolete. Crowd-sourced, peer reviews are au courant,” said Wine Aficionado publisher, Bill Paide. Standing beside a Power Point presentation, Paide then lead the mostly media and trade audience through a multitude of slides illustrating the refreshed approach to wine reviews. “On our website, we’ll be asking subscribers to click the “like” emoji from white to red, to demonstrate their fondness for a wine.” Modeled on Instagram’s white-to-red heart approach, a clear emoji, shaped like a wine bottle, may be clicked upon to turn red, indicating the consumer’s approval.
Yeah, great idea.
And at the end of the day, the author of the original citation analyzes it as follows:
My point is this: The integrity of classically great wine is at risk for those who enjoy it, especially collectors. Don’t assume the score tacked onto a shelf is Holy Writ—drink and acquire what you like. Above all, remember that wine is about the land, the people who make it, and the friends with whom you enjoy it. A single score never defines the full story.
And that’s what I really agree with – so if we just seek out information about the wine, the growing and winemaking process, and identify what we really appreciate, we can use that to find the wines we will love. We should still try new wines and new places (and I still try to drink and like Chambourcin, I really do try …….. and I’ll even try a Norton again….. egh.). But don’t rely on someone else’s taste buds and ratings to tell you what you should like.