Why Publish Wines under 88 Points?

Some things simply baffle me more than others. I always look for the cost/benefit equation that drives my various businesses. I figure people want to be in the know and always be ensured of value for the dollar. That makes perfect sense. But telling what I want or what is perceived to be better is always a shorter list, and quite frankly more useful – or is it?

Case in point is the outdated 100-point system for rating wine. It is beyond me why WA, WE, and WS publish ratings below 88, but I have a few points and a couple different angles here. Before I go too far, you need to know I am not 25 years old and was raised with ‘if you did not have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

I firmly believe that they believe they are doing us (consumers) a favor by publishing all wines. This theoretically allows us to read all their ratings. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I just can’t spend that amount of time in the bathroom to go from cover to cover, which is why the iPhone and Droid were created. In life, I seek “the short list” or contenders for consideration as my time remains at a premium. I think we’re all in the same boat here. Speaking of boats, here’s what I think an ’88’ looks like!

Oldsmobile '88'

There would appear to be two main reasons why they publish all the ratings. First would be that they want to leverage all the information they gathered. I get that. But the other reason may be to fill the pages of a publication, at a cost not only to the consumer of having to peruse through a lot of non “short list” information to sort out the perceived gems. Another theory is that maybe they were perhaps a bit unsure with their ratings (face it, they rarely agree on the numbers) and perhaps the consumer can pull out from the descriptors that a wine, not highly-rated numerically, has those characteristics and fruit and aroma notes they seek. But here is where the ’88’ rubber hits the road.

The number 88 is THE number that says there is just something not right with the wine and it could or should have been better. THIS HURTS THE WINERY AND CONFUSES THE CONSUMER. Why would you want to do that? Isn’t that ‘bad speak’? Let me reiterate the food chain here for clarity. WA, WE, WS would not exist if it weren’t for wineries – PERIOD. So why would you speak badly about the hand that feeds you? I fail to see the purpose here.

Look, I am not going to pontificate and tell the consumer or winery all wines are good. We know that’s simply not true. But here is my dilemma. Say you’re a winery owner. Harvest was tough, had some changes of personnel, some barrel issues and the wine just doesn’t shine. You know it, your wife knows it, the folks at the winery know, maybe even the winery dog knows it. You’re mentally down as you know it’s gonna hurt your reputation and your wallet. Then the ratings come out and one of them give you an 83 or something like that, telling the whole world. Seriously, did you need to be kicked while you were down? Folks, this is the net effect of ratings of 88 and lower, but here’s the real clincher.

They could and often times are missing what folks like in a wine. Only yesterday, I spoke to a winery owner who sold out of what one trade rag had rated as an 83. He stated that everyone who came into the tasting room not only loved it, but the wallets opened up and they left carrying their gem. This reminds me of movie ratings. If the critics like it, I usually don’t and the reverse holds true as well.

Critics are just that, critics. They are trained to look for what’s wrong. At WineMatch, we look for what’s right and represent the wine for what it is, not for what it’s not. As in the 83 example above, a whole lot of folks found what was right. I am also thankful my wife sees me for what’s right with me, not dwelling on where I fall short as that would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. A big baby at that!

Folks, I believe it’s time for a change and we hope to be the leaders and champions of that change. Look at wine differently. WineMatch may not be the perfect answer, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction – and we don’t hurt wineries!

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About misteredwine

Owner of WineMatch.com, Roundbrix.com, love wine, horses, things done right, my three girls and two boys, Paris and most things French, technology that works, Rogue River Blue Cheese, a day off!
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3 Responses to Why Publish Wines under 88 Points?

  1. Surely publishing scores below 88 lends credibility to the whole enterprise? Without having a lower-end benchmark, the upper has no meaning.

    Like seeing a bad painting, or reading a poor novel, it’s important to understand the bottom if one is to appreciate the top. And drinking a wine which a critic has scored low allows you to understand how/why they have scored another high.

    In our own writing, we are constantly encountering bad wines. And actually, it helps us enjoy the good ones.

    • misteredwine says:

      Thanks for your comment. My thinking is not that the lower scores for anything might exist and certainly they do, but more if there are enough ‘good’ scores to pick something ‘good’ from, why publish the other ones as they hurt wineries and winemakers.

  2. Even more baffling is why publish reviews of wines that only the reviewer and 22 other people will ever get to drink. A recent review of burgundies published in Spectator scored the wine 93 points (so far, so good), showed a price of $325/btl (lost me right there) and said 2 CASES IMPORTED (yes, I’m shouting at the computer screen). Spectator needs two bottles to do a review, presumably in case one of them is corked, leaving 22 bottles to be purchased by rich people (nothing against rich people, I’d like to be one of them) who probably won’t appreciate it anyway. Oh, i guess a 23rd person might get to enjoy it. The reiviewer who takes it home if the first bottle is OK.

    Another reason to allow my subscription to lapse.

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