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Nov 4, 2011 07:41 PM

" Points "

Wine points. I am still very new to wine.90 or 92 points? Is it people like me these points are aimed at ? And who makes up these numbers? I don't know. I like to buy wine, choosing something I have not tried, that's the fun part. Should I believe these numbers . I really don't care about them. Have these helped you or are they just advertising.

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  1. Well, do you look at anyones's recommendations for wine? You may want to ask them how much they liked a wine. That would certinly lead to some sort of a ranking, so nothing wrong with it.

    Of course, you could choose to just read the TN's and ignore the score, but I can show you a myriad of TN's that would have anyone confused as heck if it's a good wine or a bad wine.

    Find a wine reviewer you can match your palate, and you will be happy.

    The Brits have the 20 point scale, Parker has the 100 point, others have a letter grade. You have to be able to rank different wines.

    41 Replies
    1. re: 4wino

      I look to Chow for some recs, other than that I just like tasting different wines. I am drinking Italian wines at the moment because it reminds me of my recent vacation, am I missing something for not having a wine prescibed to my palate from the Brits. I am not sure. But I am happy.

      1. re: emglow101


        I would trust the pros over Chowhound reviews. They follow the tasting process and have been doing this a long time. I have seen plenty of people love certain wines that are a little more interesting then minerals water. If you want to improve as a wine drinker follow the tasting process so you are actually tasting the wine and attend free tastings at wine shops to see what you like prior to buying. I review thousands of wine a year and record them on Cellar Tracker which allows you to go back and see if you liked a wine or not. It is work writing tasting notes and scoring wines but it is a great way to get good at wine. For those not into points I would imagine without an data that you come across a lot of bad wine every year.

        1. re: wineglas1

          "For those not into points I would imagine without an data that you come across a lot of bad wine every year."

          This couldn't be more wrong. I think points are a sham and a marketing tool aimed at the lowest common denominator. I do not come across a lot of bad wine every year. Points don't make a wine good or bad; they're completely meaningless. No one has your exact palate.

          1. re: invinotheresverde


            Marketing tool no. There is different quality of product out there and I do plenty of reviewing and notice huge differences in the quality between Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot (great $10 Merlot) vs. Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Merlot. For me it is much more complex and needs more time to age in the cellar to show its true stuff.

            How do you pick out your wines to sample? I assume you apply the tasting process.

            1. re: wineglas1

              The Pahlmyer tastes better because it's a better wine, not because it scored more points. Points are completely and totally meaningless as far as quality is concerned.

            2. re: invinotheresverde

              Agreed. The point system is a form of numerical tyranny. Winemakers often make wines to score points in Robert Parker's estimation, rather than making a wine they feel has beauty and balance. It's well known that Parker's palate is quite skewed towards a single type of wine. Moreover, customers chase a score rather than learning about wines and flavors.

              Also, when 80% of a reference range is meaningless (below 80 points on a 100-point scale), perhaps another reference range -- a 10-point scale -- would be better and more accessible to all wine drinkers.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                How would a 10 point scale be better? What is a 9/10 vs. an 8/10? Is 10/10 the best wine ever and what about a 9.2?

                I get you both hate points but they are useful. Take Silver Oak for example. WS never gives it a score above a 90 and they are right as it is a terrible wine for the money. By giving it these scores which it deserves hopefully people will catch on to how over priced it is. I have had plenty of people taste Silver Oak blind and think it is a $15 Cabernet.

                Maria how do you make a statement that customers chase a score rather than learn about the wine and flavor? What studies have you done to prove this theory?

                I can assure both of you that you have had some good wines in 2011 that you liked and that Parker and Spectator rewarded big scores for. I am curious who your favorite producers are since you hate scores.

                1. re: wineglas1

                  Parker rates Silver Oak highly. In fact, he called their 02 Merlot (Twomey) the best Merlot made in CA. The 03 Napa was rated twice by him, once an 89 and once 93. The 05 Napa was a 91. Those wines blow. Eloquence be damned.

                  Not to answer for Maria, but. With plenty of sites like, it's obvious that venders know to "score" a wine highly and it'll sell. For example, they rate Wolf Blass Yellow Merlot a 95. Same with the Shiraz. If you can look me straight in the eye and tell me those are phenomenal wines, as a score of 95 dictates, I'll eat my hat. They're industrial plonk at best. But the vender likely bought it cheaply and wants to move it quickly, so high score it is. They gave some insipid Chard a 100. Can't recall which, but it's a gas station wine. Betcha they're moving a ton if it.

                  Blanket statement here, but anyone in the industry knows points do not mean anything about a wine's quality. Any schmoe can score a wine how they please. Take, for example, Charles Shaw Chard getting highest honors at the CA fair. What was in THAT particular bottle almost certainly never graced a store shelf, but Joe Public doesn't know that. All he knows is that Two Buck Chuck won double gold, so it must be good. Marketing at its finest.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    Of course the Charles Shaw wine was not the crap they ship to Trader Joe's that won double gold but that is why I educate people on these topics.

                    The 90 point club I am not familar with but just like John Newman on WTSO rating all these wines 91-94 people should be on to them. They are not professional wine reviewers though. I take wine reviewing seriously and admire Steve Tanzer and his crew. They are pretty accurate and when I try 40 wines my scores almost mirror what they are doing so I buy according to what they are saying. WS and Parker are right for me about half the time which is still better than nothing.

                    I still don't get how you buy your wine? I use Cellar Tracker, WS Tanzer, Parker to make decisions often and of course if I am at a trade show better to try it for myself without shelling out the dough.

                    There are plenty of bad up wine reviewers without clue and if the consumer can't figure that out then there is little help for them. Anyone who sells wine should never review wine personally with a score.

                    1. re: wineglas1

                      I'm a stay at home mom with a fairly full cellar currently, so I'm not buying right now. I left a job as the wine director of an upscale hotel. I tasted hundreds, and sometimes a thousand, wines a week. There is no need for me to buy based on what other people think.

                      I realize I am not the average consumer. However, if said consumer doesn't buy a "bad" wine from time to time, how will s/he learn what s/he doesn't like? It's all part of the learning process.

                      You're someone who spends a lot of time scoring and reviewing wine. That's nice. I realize that makes you think it's important. Just realize the vast majority of the industry believe that scores are bunk except when used to increase sales.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        So I am wondering your process when tasting 1,000 wines per week on how you determine which wines to have on your list. Wouldn't you rate these wines in some way? I would imagine some numbers come into play like the number one best value white under $10 (your cost), number two, etc. While not the hundred point scale certainly ratings were used.

                        Also why would you want to taste 1,000 wines in a week? When I go to an industry tasting I avoid the mass produced, sweet reds and whites that I already know are going to be bad.

                        1. re: wineglas1

                          No, I don't rate them. I say, I have spot on the list for 3 new Graves. I need one in the high, mid and low price range. I will pick the best for each spot. I'm not sitting there saying this wine is a 92, this wine is a 93, etc.

                          You're assuming an awful lot in your second paragraph. You really think I'm knocking back the Beringer White Zin at tastings? I was tasting a ton because my list was the biggest (by a long shot) in my area, so everyone wanted to sell me something. I assume you don't work in the industry.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            Invino -- so do you have the Beringer White Zin on your list? Do you, for your customers, just grimace and close your eyes as you sign the purchase order, or is it banned from your list altogether?

                            To be fair, it was my gateway wine, so it served its purpose -- but I can't drink it anymore.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Not on the list, but we kept a few bottles for when people would freak out if we didn't carry it. Most BWZ drinkers are unwilling to try anything else.

                          2. re: wineglas1

                            Just to chime in with my own two cents . . .

                            >>> So I am wondering your process when tasting 1,000 wines per week on how you determine which wines to have on your list. Wouldn't you rate these wines in some way? I would imagine some numbers come into play like the number one best value white under $10 (your cost), number two, etc. While not the hundred point scale certainly ratings were used. <<<

                            When I was the wine buyer -- be it for a restaurant, a single retail store, a small group of six stores, or a chain of 104 stores -- I never used points. No need for them. I just used codes:

                            IFC = In-F***ing-Credible! I would take detailed notes on these, and definitely bought them for the store/restaurant.

                            GSM = Good, S#!+, Maynard. (My own homage to the television show "Dobie Gillis.) I'd take notes, and purchase if I needed that wine type/style.

                            PGS = Pretty Good S#!+. No notes necessary. Good wine, but not for my store/wine list.

                            DNS = Does Not Suck. It's a commercially acceptable wine but commits the worst sin of all: it's boring. Not a wine to buy.

                            DNPIM = *originally* this was Did Not Put In Mouth, as there was some obvious flaw that made tasting completely unnecessary. But over the years, it evolved into a warning: "Danger. Danger, Will Robinson. Do NOT Put In Mouth!"

                            STW = Shoot The Winemaker! This was reserved for a wine that *should* have been great, but the winemaker screwed it up.

                            >>> Also why would you want to taste 1,000 wines in a week? When I go to an industry tasting I avoid the mass produced, sweet reds and whites that I already know are going to be bad. <<<

                            "Tasting" includes any wine you pick up and smell; it need not pass your lips. (See DNPIM above -- why bother ruining your taste buds?) That said, it depends upon WHY you're tasting. If I'm buying wines for a restaurant/wine bar, I, too, didn't have to taste the "mass produced" wines, etc., etc. If I'm buying for a retail store, I have to. I need to know whether or not I'm going to buy a case or two of the new batch of (e.g.) Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zin, or whether I'm going to buy 50 cases of it! That's crucial


                            True Story. Beaulieu Vineyards used to make wines labeled "Burgundy" and "Chablis." These were vintage-dated semi-generic wines (vintage dating was unusual for semi-generics), that retailed for $3.25 in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and were consistently good values, dry and honestly quite tasty. We'd go through a case or so every week -- week in, week out -- in the retail store I worked at back in those days.

                            When the new vintage of the BV Burgundy came out, it was not good. It was not quite tasty. It was IFC! It was fantastic, exceptional, outstanding! Instead of a case, we ordered 25 -- put one on the shelf, and 24 in the back room. The next week, another 25 -- one for the shelf, 24 more for the back room (actually it was the basement). Week after week we did that until we had 100 cases stashed in the back, and then cut our orders to five cases a week.

                            Shortly after we cut our orders back, our salesman from Young's Market Co. came to our store along with two representatives from the winery. The announced a "recall" of the Burgundy. The winery reps said it was flawed, bacteriologically contaminated, and they were here to pick it all up and issue a credit.

                            We gave them all the bottles we had on the shelf, and one case from the basement. Told them that's all we had let . . .

                            Three months later, Beaulieu introduced their "Beaulieu Special Reserve Burgundy," a very special wine (according to the winery) from the 1968 vintage that had a retail price of DOUBLE the "regular" Burgundy -- $6.50. Our local sales rep, and a winery rep, came by excitedly to taste us on the wine and anticipated a huge order from us -- after all, we'd sold (according to their invoices) well over 125 cases of their regular 1968 Burgundy. We ordered three cases. They couldn't believe we didn't want more. We told them we didn't really want three, but only one -- given the price -- but we figured they would promote it, and so we'd take three . . . .

                            When they left, we pulled a bottle from the 100+ cases of the 1968 Beaulieu (regular) Burgundy we had downstairs. It was EXACTLY the same wine. So we were sitting on a ton of GREAT wine that we purchased for $1.84/bottle, rather than $4.33/btl., and sold it to our customers for $4.50 . . . two dollars LESS than the Fair Trade price of $6.50.

                            It *pays* to taste the "regular" stuff sometimes . . .


                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            OK, so now that this is PUBLIC knowledge, I can talk about it . . . . *probably* best if we start a new thread . . . . I'll post on it tonight, when I'm not rushing off to work.


                            1. re: zin1953

                              it's time for a redux "Judgment of Paris - judgment of paris california vs. france and the historic 1976 paris tasting that revolutionized wine"


                            2. re: invinotheresverde

                              invinotheresverde, Jason,

                              Yes, I remember the Hodgson competition debacle, borne of sour grapes, by the way, because HIS wine only won one medal in one competition, even though it was submitted to many competitions. So, just as Hodgson had, I wrote Pooch as well (he keeps a database on all the wine competitions and all the wines entered). Pooch sent to me everything he had going back, IIRC, 12 years. An in-depth analysis of all the competitions (believe me it took many hours) showed Hodgson was a complete goof, cherry-picking data to confirm he'd been wronged. What I found was remarkable correlation among the same wines entered in several competitions. The same wine often won gold/silver in different competitions, and I found this to be true for many wines. Later on, I spoke with the organizer of several competitions, and shared with him my observations. He said he'd done pretty much the same thing, and found a great deal of correlation also, even when the same wine is entered into different categories in different competitions. For example, I've seen chardonnay categories like: chard in three price ranges [high, medium, low, all with a dollar amount], unoaked chards, California chardonnay, non-CA chardonnays, white Burgundy, non-US and non-French chardonnay, and on and on.

                              Remember, the whole point of competitions is to get marketing kudos to sell second- and third-tier wines, and to make money for the competition organizers. As a judge, I've been "advised" several times to award as many medals as possible. It's like every kid on a sports team gets a trophy, no matter the performance!

                              Most important: The best wines are never entered into competitions because there is already demand for them.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                The tone of the article did imply Hodgson was ticked off, definitely. Swaying data is a bummer.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  Well, I'm still at work, and don't have the time to post a long in-depth answer, but ML -- you're spot on (and I don't need to now write a big long deal). ;^) Suffice it to say I agree with your comments.

                                  Hodgson *is* (as the WSJ article points out) a retired statistics professor at Humboldt State, AND the owner/winemaker of a small winery in Humboldt County, Fieldbrook Winery -- -- and, *yes* this study was borne out of his frustration at not winning more recognition for his wines/winery via the "medal route" (California State Fair, Orange County, etc., etc.).

                                  I remember having to explain -- and this goes back some 20 years of so -- having to explain to the owner of Cooper-Garrod Vineyard how (and why) one of his wines won a Gold Medal at the Orange Co. Fair, but got NOTHING at the Santa Cruz Co. Fair (for wines from the Santa Cruz Mtns. AVA). Something similar was taking place with Bob, and we discussed this several times at meetings of the Wine Advisory Board.

                                  Note: I served on the California State Fair's Wine Advisory Board for some 20 years, as well as being a Judge there numerous times.

                                  Then, one year, Bob proposed a statistical study. Although there was some discussion paid to "improving the overall validity" of competitions such as the State Fair, there was also a number of us who predicted the outcome prior to start of any study . . . and we were right!

                                  Everyone IN THE TRADE has long known that environmental factors affect tastings -- as I've often said on these pages, taste wine at 10am, and get one set of results; taste the exact same set in a different order after lunch, get a different set of results. Taste left-to-right, and get one result; taste right-to-left, and get a second set of results.

                                  The idea has LONG been to develop a system of ***reproducibility*** but -- bottom line: as long as wines are tasted by human beings and not machines, that just ain't gonna happen.

                                  The California State Fair is one of the very few competitions that TESTS its judges, and the test is a bitch! The San Francisco International Competition USED to do so, back with it was merely a "National" competition, but then the new Chief Judge thought that would be an insult so discontinued the practice.

                                  Be that as it may . . .

                                  >>> What I found was remarkable correlation among the same wines entered in several competitions. The same wine often won gold/silver in many different competitions, and I found this to be true among many wines. Later on, I spoke with the organizer of many competitions, and shared with him my observations. He said he'd done pretty much the same thing, and found a great deal of correlation also, even when wines are organized differently (chard in three price ranges, unoaked chards, California chardonnay, non-CA chardonnays, and on and on.) <<<

                                  Again, I have long said that I'd rather have a wine that received SIX Silver Medals than one that received a single, solitary Gold -- that consensus is far more meaningful!

                                  >>> Remember, the whole point of competitions is to get marketing kudos to sell second- and third-tier wines . . . <<<

                                  How true!

                                  >> and a judge (I know) is often "advised" to award as many medals as possible. <<<

                                  Yes, we all have, I should think, but we all ignore the instruction.

                                  >>> Bear in mind, the best wines in a category are never entered because there is already demand for them. <<<

                                  That's why Opus One was my favorite Silver Medal in the history of the world . . . the Orange County Fair has a mandatory entry policy, and they purchased an early vintage (when it was new) of Opus One for entry into the competition. Since there was, at the time, no category for "Meritage/Red Bordeaux Blend" wines, it was entered into the Generic wine category, where it placed Silver ($55) behind Hop Kiln Winery's "Marty Griffin's Big Red" which received a Gold ($6.50).

                            3. re: invinotheresverde

                              >>> What was in THAT particular bottle almost certainly never graced a store shelf <<<

                              As one who judged at the California State Fair that year, I can say there's no "almost" about it!


                            4. re: wineglas1

                              >>> Take Silver Oak for example. WS never gives it a score above a 90 and they are right as it is a terrible wine for the money. <<<

                              For YOU, it's a "terrible wine for the money." For someone who likes/loves/enjoys the wine, it's -- as Tony the Tiger says -- g-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-e-e-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t!

                              And ***THAT*** is the problem with points. It is, barring any technological/bacteriological flaw, simply a matter of personal opinion. Nothing more. Some people may have more experience behind those opinions, but it's opinion nevertheless.


                              >>> Maria how do you make a statement that customers chase a score rather than learn about the wine and flavor? What studies have you done to prove this theory? <<<

                              I'm not Maria, but can I answer?

                              I don't need studies. I need (and have) experience. I worked in the wine trade for over 30 years, and started tasting wine, studying wine *and* the wine trade since 1963. Many (if not most) of those years, I worked on the retail sales floor directly assisting consumers with their purchases. Three years was spent in restaurants as wine buyer/"sommelier" (I am NOT a Master Sommelier [MS], nor am I a Master of Wine [MW]). The rest was spent working directly for wineries, primarily in national sales but also production, and for wholesalers and importers, working in statewide (California) or national (US) sales.

                              I don't know where you live, nor your own experience, but clearly you at least enjoy wine -- given your "nick" -- and may be in the trade. I don't know. But in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a wine writer for the Los Angeles Times named Robert Lawrence Balzer. He was INCREDIBLY powerful -- the "Parker of LA," if you will. When the 1970 Beaulieu Vineyards George de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was first released (California was then a Fair Trade state, and the minimum retail price had to be posted with the state), the winery posted the price at $8.00. Balzer wrote it up as basically the best wine ever produced in the history of California, and people -- whether they enjoyed Cabernet or not -- literally vacuumed the wine off the shelves. BV raised the price to $10 the following month, and then to $20 the month after that! And STILL the wine kept selling . . . and -- yes, it's true -- lots of people returned it because it was tannic, yucky, and "I don't like it." OTOH, Balzer happened to be right, in that it was indeed a great bottle of Cabernet and when I opened my last bottle in 2000, it was superb!

                              I've seen -- countless times -- people walking into stores I worked in, or stores I sold wines to, carrying their lists of Parker "90+" (or maybe 95+) wines, or the Spectator's "Top 100" list, demanding to buy these specific wines and, when told they are sold out but there are other great wines available, the comment most often heard is, "Well, this isn't much of a wine store, is it?" and they walk out.

                              The Wine Spectator's "Top 100" list is particularly offensive for this reason. The wines are often released for sale in February or March of that year, but the reviews are reprinted in December. Customers take them as new releases and demand them now, despite the fact the wines were sold out by April or June. But the same holds true quite often for the "regular issues" of the Spectator, Parker, Tanzer, or any other publication you can name.

                              By the very principles of publication, one groups (e.g.) Washington State Cabernets, or reviews of the new Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintage into one issue. That means -- ignoring reviews of barrel samples -- that many of the wines have already been released (some as much as six months earlier) and may be unavailable by the time the issue is published.


                              >>> I can assure both of you that you have had some good wines in 2011 that you liked and that Parker and Spectator rewarded big scores for. <<<

                              Absolutely! But I've also had a number of wines that that received "big scores," as you put it, that I thought were horrible, gawd-awful, and an abomination! Conversely, I've also had wines that Parker, the Spectator, and/or other publications have slammed (scores below 80) or "damned with faint praise" (scores below 88), that I thought were excellent, and purchased cases of -- enjoying them over the years -- ***as well as*** wines that received scores below 80 that I thought deserved scores even lower!


                              >>> I am curious who your favorite producers are since you hate scores. <<<

                              Domestic, or imported?

                              Most of the wine I purchase, most of the wine I drink, is imported. But -- from the U.S. -- my favorite producers are (alphabetically) Ahlgren Vineyards, Andrew Will, Dashe, Donkey and Goat, DeLille Cellars, Edmonds St. John, Equinox, L'Ecole No. 41, Mount Eden Vineyards, Ridge, Storrs, Unti.

                              Imports are, of course, another matter, and -- for me -- I use importers to guide me, not points. I do not like every wine in someone's portfolio, but there are certain importers that, when I see their name on a bottle, I know the chances are dramatically increased that I ***will*** like the wine. So names I look for include (again, alphabetically) Jorge Ordonez, Kermit Lynch Imports, Kysela Pere et Fils, Louis/Dressner, North Berkeley Imports, Terry Theise Selections. I enjoy, but am a bit more cautious with, wines imported by Beaune Imports, Broadbent Selections, Classical Wines of Spain, Robert Kacher.


                              1. re: zin1953

                                Jason some nice producers on your list! Ridge is one of the few along with Anderson's Conn Valley and Bressler that I will buy in any vintage.

                              2. re: wineglas1

                                For the Silver Oak, are you referring to the AV, or the Napa?

                                Just curious,


                                PS - I am not much of a fan of a 10-pt., a 100-pt., or a 1000-pt. scale. Great TN's will sway me, far sooner than a 10, a 100, or a 1000.

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Does it matter? I have tasted these wines for the last five years and neither wine is more than an 85 point wine. Columbia Crest Grand Estates is much cheaper and about the same quality level and in my opinion better.

                                  1. re: wineglas1

                                    Are you sure none are an 86 point wine? Or is it an 84 point wine? 83?

                                    1. re: wineglas1

                                      85 points by whose standards? Yours, or someone else's?

                                      It can make a world of difference.


                                2. re: maria lorraine


                                  While you mention Parker, I think that you mean a whole lot of prominent "tasters/raters." Is that correct?

                                  Points mean little to me, except when I am typing notes for an auction lot. Then I use them, just to reflect on what the bidders might find useful, and to UP the bids.

                                  For me, I want TN's, that reflect THAT wine. I do not care if Laube, or Parker assigns X pts. Tell me how it tastes, and in details.


                                3. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Maybe not with that strength of terms, but I feel similar.

                                  Since a points scale will depend on the taster, one could easily surmise that Laube would have a slightly different scale, than Kramer, who would have a different scale, than Parker. Get the picture?

                                  Let's take another example: a taster is only slightly familiar with red Burgs, and loves a wine, so they give it a 95. Now, another taster, who is basing all red Burg reviews on some rare DRC's, gives the same wine an 80. Who is correct? How will YOU rate that wine, and especially if you have never indulged in a very limited group, who have tasted the greatest red Burgs, that the world has ever experienced? Now, I have been fortunate to have experienced some of the really good ones, plus a very few of the great ones, but not the ones, that leather-bound books have been written about. What do I base my reviews on? Well, I base them on how I enjoyed that wine, and try NOT to rate it against some stellar wines. I try to give TN's, so that all can read what I found, and then, determine whether they will like it. Nothing more.


                                4. re: wineglas1

                                  >>> It is work writing tasting notes and scoring wines but it is a great way to get good at wine. <<<
                                  Yeah, much better than tasting wine(s) for yourself and making up your own mind . . .

                                  >>> For those not into points I would imagine without an data that you come across a lot of bad wine every year. <<<

                                  Uh, no. Not really.

                                  1. re: zin1953


                                    You take the time to research 99.5% of people don't. The problem with this whole thread is those who hate points are not thinking of the 99.5% of wine drinkers. They need all the help they can get.

                                    1. re: wineglas1

                                      Research? What sort of research do I do???

                                      In actual fact, I would respectfully suggest that I *am* thinking of the 99.5% of wine drinkers -- suggesting that they will find better wines, and more affordable wines, if they stop relying on points and start relying on the advice of reliable merchants -- to take advantage of a two-way flow of information and dialogue, rather than the High Priest of Points telling people what they should drink . . .

                                      How hard is that?


                                      1. re: zin1953


                                        Because while all these points and buzzwords are flying around, nobody's pointing out (no pun intended) that points are assigned by either a marketing department or a single person issuing his or her own opinion. Nothing more.

                                        Everyone has different tastes, and a wine seller worthy of the name will be able to steer you toward something you'll like way faster than any list of anything with points.

                                        (and by restricting yourself to scored wines, you're missing out on the wonderful wines that don't even have a score -- which doesn't mean anything more than the person assigning the points didn't taste it. It doesn't mean it's bad, it doesn't mean it's deficient -- all it means is that it didn't end up in the taster's glass)

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          If there are no points for a particular wine, could it also mean that when it ended up in the taster's glass, the taster thought it was "rot gut" and didn't rate it at all?

                                          When one sees 'no rating for 200_," one could think that not one person/taster thought it worthy of tasting; nor when tasted, it was not worthy of even giving it a rating.

                                          1. re: Rella

                                            You have hit on the one snag with ratings -- a lack of print space. It would be *wonderful* if critics would write something along the lines of "Also tasted: x, y, z." with no reviews whatsoever. The reader can draw his/her own conclusion. HOWEVER, there are inherent problems with that as well:

                                            -- Printing such a list would lessen the available space for publishing reviews of wines.
                                            -- Most consumers would see those wines as "rejected," i.e.: foul, rather than, say, just missing the cut (say, "84" instead of "85").
                                            -- Most wineries would balk at sending the reviewer free samples in the future if their name appeared on that list too often, fearing the consumer reaction described directly above.

                                            As it is now, a wine missing from a list could EITHER mean the reviewer never tasted it (for one reason or another*), OR the reviewer tasted it, and decided not to publish a review. One will never know . . .

                                            However, I would respectfully suggest that -- given the tens of thousands of wines in the marketplace, versus the hundreds or thousands which get reviewed -- the odds of the wine being "not tasted" (as opposed to "not reviewed") are rather high.


                                            * Many wineries do NOT submit samples for tasting. One California winery I worked for would not submit barrel samples to a critic, despite repeated requests, stating -- quite rightly (IMHO) -- that barrel samples are NOT the final wine. (It's one thing, for example, to ship one bottle of a barrel sample to the East Coast for tasting; it's quite another to have a writer/critic come to the winery and taste through several barrels.) As a result of that refusal, that particular writer/critic NEVER again reviewed anything produced by this winery again . . .

                                            1. re: Rella

                                              but it's far, far more likely that it just wasn't tasted -- there's no way that any taster could ever taste even a significant percentage of wines produced in any given year.

                                              Some wineries aren't big enough to support the sales volume that would result from being published in a widely-distributed publication. Others don't send their wines in to be tasted.

                                              One of our favourite producers in the Loire has told us that the tasters for magazines " 'ave der head oop dere asss" and so he refuses to send in samples for tasting. He doesn't participate in any of the foires, either -- but he produces wines that we love, some AOC for his region, and some wines that he enjoys making that don't fit any official profile, and for which we receive lots of raves when we serve.

                                              It's *possible* that it could be bad, but arithmetically, the chances are infinitesimally small.

                                5. re: 4wino

                                  The big problem that I have with what you have written, is that is seems as though you are saying "disregard the TN's, and concentrate on the points." If I am incorrect, then I apologize.

                                  I would MUCH prefer good, comprehensive TN's, and could care less about any points. Tell me how the wine tastes, and do not spend time on telling me how it fits into some personal scale. I can make up my mind, with good TN's.

                                  Just me,


                                6. I think that you have to choose a wine rating reviewer whom or which you trust. I trust the ratings of "The Wine Spectator." (Anything 90 or above is usually terrific--and mostly costly.) I don't read Robert Parker, but he has such a sterling reputation that I suspect you can count on him. The other wine rating magazines and reviewers, I do not know, but many of them seem to be a creation of liquor distributors who want to sell wine.

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: gfr1111

                                    Parker has a sterling rep? That's hysterical.

                                    Also, I agree with your last sentence, but The Spectator is more guilty of it than any other rag out there.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      "Parker has a sterling rep? That's hysterical."

                                      I'm not sure how to interpret either gfr1111's statement, nor your reply.
                                      So mysterious to me.

                                      My little knowledge of Parker is that I thought that he liked wines of a certain type - I'm paraphrasing - so that if one liked his 'type' then one could be somewhat assured that they would be safe in buying his recommendations.
                                      But somehow during the last few years, I thought that Parker was/is tending to 'like' California wines, too. My thought has been: how closely do California wines fit into his types of wine that he likes. Or has he evolved and his tastes have changed.

                                      1. re: Rella

                                        Parker is controversial at best. There's so, so much out there that shines a negative light on him (from his love affair with low acid/high alcoho/flabbyl fruit bombs to his inability to deal with any criticism to his lack of detection of common wine flaws (brett, VA)). Really, there's tons written about this kind of stuff. I feel he's been worse for the wine world than better.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            "Word." ???

                                            What does this mean, please?

                                          2. re: invinotheresverde

                                            "...his lack of detection of common wine flaws (brett, VA)).""

                                            The closest I can imagine is that I live in Virginia (VA) and I have tasted BRETT once. I think the opinion was that some can taste it, ome cannot. At any rate, DH could not taste it at all, and it was truly barnyard to me.

                                            Is this something akin to some person's tongue can roll up in the middle when sticking it out, while others just cannot roll the tongue at all :-)) ???

                                              1. re: Rella

                                                Probably not genetic, more like flavor/taste acuity that's learned.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  "Learned" - Spouse raised in city; wife raised on farm.

                                                  Wife knows barnyard when she smells it.

                                                2. re: Rella

                                                  You have probably encountered Brett (Brettanomyces) much more often, though found it a flaw that once. Much depends on the wine, and also on the tater's palate, but in some circles is actually seen as an attribute. Some winemakers strive for it, others shun it.

                                                  Also, and like TCA (and other flaws/problems), some are more sensitive to it, than are others.

                                                  This article:
                                                  goes into more detail.

                                                  It can be a flaw, or to some, can be seen (tasted) as a attribute and a contributor to the overall flavor of certain wines.



                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Thanks for the good article.
                                                    Here is the wine that bretted-me-out!

                                                    Andre Brunel Producer
                                                    Cuvee Sabrine, Cotes du Rohne villages
                                                    Red Rhone; 75% Grenache with Syrah and a dollop of Mourvedre
                                                    2007; $12; 14% alcohol; Robert Parker 90 points;
                                                    Robert Kacher Selection

                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                      Rather like other aspects, such as ABV, if all things are in balance, then the consumer might not be aware of the constituant parts. However, if some aspect, say Brett, is out of balance, then one should notice.

                                                      Good luck,


                                                      1. re: Rella

                                                        There are several reds from the CdR region that are **very** barny -- Gigondas in particular tends to have a very farm-y aroma...but oh, I do love a good Gigondas.

                                                        (Hubby, OTOH, can't stand the smell of barn, and will walk a mile to avoid a Gigondas)

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Hubby and I agree - I even shudder reading about it.

                                            1. re: gfr1111

                                              The value of point a point system is only if your tastes match those of the one doing the rating. As mentioned previously on this board, to my taste a rating from Senor Parker would have to be below 90 for me to pay attention. As for +90 ratings they are not necessarily "usually terrific-and mostly costly" although receiving such a rating is often the mechanism for driving up the price.

                                              1. re: PolarBear

                                                Cut to the chase--"points" are more about the critic than the wine.

                                                Just as there are people with poor eyesight and those with exceptional eyesight, there are those who can't distinguish tastes/flavors/aromas and those who are officially and rightfully labeled "super tasters." A pro wine critic knows his/her palate very well--and has great "reliability;" that is, can taste the same wine on different dates and still deliver remarkably similar TN and points. HOWEVER, reliability (consistency) doesn't equal validity (accuracy about the wine); that is, points are about the critic not the object (the wine). Critics can and do differ, sometimes dramatically, in their opinions of a wine--rarely has the wine changed! So, is a 92 pt Chianti somehow "better" than a 90 pt. one? Hardly. It really means that the critic checked off a couple of things he/she was looking for--things you or another critic might not value as highly.

                                                The importance of finding a critic whose palate is similar to yours simply translates into "we'll probably agree" about this wine. Sometimes this is valuable. My advice--taste (different from drinking) as widely as possible--get to know and then trust your own palate.

                                                1. re: PolarBear

                                                  That's exactly how I look at his writings -- he enjoys a very different kind of wine than I enjoy, so I tend to actually steer away from the ones he likes, as I probably won't enjoy them.

                                                  I realize that's not really how he (or the producers) want the rating system to work, but it works for me, which is really all that matters to me.

                                              2. Thank you for your replys. I was using 90 or 92 points as a example. I just picked a couple of numbers, could also be 85 or 87. Anyway, do you think there are any wine and dining or payoffs to W.S or Parker from wineries or whoever to sway these numbers?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. I think the best way to buy wine, particularly until you are confident enough in your own preferences to sift through all the noise, is to find a good wine merchant and get to know him/her.

                                                  That doesn't mean having them over for a barbecue -- but talking with them, asking questions, and taking any opportunity to taste that they offer -- most decent wine shops have tasting nights, and some offer pretty solid tasting courses to teach you how to sift through all the noise.

                                                  A decent wine merchant will be able to listen to what you like, and pick up the important stuff out of the conversation with which he/she can recommend something you're likely to enjoy.

                                                  Just make sure you stay loyal to them (you owe them that much!) once you take the training wheels off and are comfortable making your own choices regardless of the ratings.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    I'm not sure whether by "wine merchant" you mean the wine shop owner/seller or the wine negociant or importer.

                                                    I tend to go with Kysela Wines. I'm not sure how Fran Kysela works. If he tastes these wines, but I don't go wrong as much buying the wines imported by him.

                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                      Rella, I'm pretty sure that sunshine is speaking of "wine merchant" in the traditional sense, as the retail purveyor to customers.

                                                      Fran is an importer, not a retailer nor a négociant in the true (French) meaning of the word. I can personally attest to the fact that -- in addition to receiving samples sent to his Winchester, Virginia office from producers overseas, he personally travels to Europe at least twice a year on buying trips.

                                                      I went with him on one of these trips, and we drove some 4,800 kilometers (almost 3,000 miles) over 13 days, and tasted more than 400 wines.


                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        I live about 30 miles south of Winchester, VA and have been in his warehouse on my own, just looking around. They let me wonder around - I was astounded because I'd never been to a wine warehouse before. I've never met him, but I feel I know him by looking at his website.

                                                        What a trip!

                                                  2. TO THE OP . . .

                                                    Let's go back to the original question(s).

                                                    >>> 90 or 92 points? <<<
                                                    There's no difference. Prior to the 1980s and Robert Parker, UC Davis (one of the world's leading universities for viticulture, enology, and sensory evaluation) used a 20-point scale, and various people/publications modified it. Parker expanded it to 100 points. The Wine Spectator soon followed, and the rest is history.

                                                    But let's stick with the 20-point scale for a moment. Two things of import: a) you pretty much get 10 points for showing up, and b) studies at UC Davis showed that the human tongue has a "built-in error factor" of +- 1.5 points. That means that, on a 20-point scale, there is NO STATISTICAL DIFFERENCE in a score of 16.5 and 18.0, or between 18.0 and 19.5. (There is a difference between a 16.5 and a wine scoring 19.5.)

                                                    OK, so let's expand that to Parker's 100-point scale: a) you get 50 points for showing up, and b) there is no statistical difference +/- 5 points. So, when someone can tell me -- definitively, objectively, scientifically -- the difference between a 90 and a 92 . . . .

                                                    >>> Is it people like me these points are aimed at? <<<
                                                    Consumers. The 100-point scale resonates with American consumers in a way the 20-point scale never did because of high school: we all know what it means to get a 100 on a test, or an 85 . . .

                                                    >>> And who makes up these numbers? <<<
                                                    The individual writer, and "makes up" is the key! What is far more important than the numbers, however, is the words used in the description. As long as the reviewer (whomever it is) is CONSISTENT with their reviews -- and *that* is Parker's REAL strength -- then the WORDS can and will tell you far more than the numbers!

                                                    >>> Should I believe these numbers? <<<
                                                    Well, I don't. But you need to decide such things for yourself.

                                                    >>> I really don't care about them. Have these helped you or are they just advertising? <<<
                                                    The only people who SERIOUSLY care about them are the people who have wines to sell, and in that case, they are both a blessing and a curse! High scores in publications will certainly help move boxes, but that's the problem: if the wine was great to begin with, it would have sold anyway; and if the wine sucks but gets a high score, a whole lot of people are going to buy it and EITHER be disappointed (because they don't like it) or confused (because they don't like it but think they are supposed to).

                                                    Think of it this way: a magazine comes out, let's say, bi-weekley -- 24 issues a year. Let's say they review 100 wines per issue. Heck, let's say 200! So in any given year the publication prints 4,800 wine reviews per year. That's a lot of wine, right? Well, yes and no -- there is no doubt that 4,800 is a big number, but it's the proverbial drop in the bucket when it comes to the number of wines available in the marketplace. As of 2010, there were 7,626 bonded wineries in the United States, so that magazine isn't even reviewing one wine from every US winery, let alone all of the imports out there.

                                                    How many great wines out there never get reviewed???


                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      Jason--I'll give you 100 points for that response!


                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                        Thanks for all your information. Smart !

                                                        1. re: emglow101

                                                          I think the numbering system is an attempt at shortcuts. However the numbers won't really help if you don't have a sense of your own palate. I buy wine from many different sources, local wineries, wine bars, websites, and wine specialty stores. I stopped looking at rating numbers and taste what I can and take a few chances on what I can't . I try not to spend over $30 on a wine I dont know. I still get the occasional clunker but less than 1 in 20. I just had to get over the fear of buying bad. Sometimes it is not bad but not your thing.

                                                        2. re: zin1953

                                                          Personally, I be more inclined to buy a wine, based on Jason's TN's (or, fill in the blank ____), than Parker's, Laube's, Suckling's, or whomever's pt. scale.