Thursday, October 1, 2009

My opinion regaring the 100 points score system

Here is a long comment that I posted on Tom Wark's blog regarding his post about the 100 points score system.

Hi Tom,

In response to your post about the 100 point score system, here is my opinion.

I've been a Sommelier, Wine Director and more especially wine buyer for the past 17 years for restaurants, wine retail store and private customers, and all I can say is that customers like this system because it guides them and give them easy direction regarding which wines to buy or not to buy, but I personally do not care about it.

Where I used to work before as a wine buyer, it used to be our only focus: buying wines with score above 90 at all cost. It was very important for my ex-boss who believes in the score system, but I didn't really care. Of course it helped us selling a vast amount of bottles, but I didn't necessarily always agree with the scores. In fact, in many cases, I didn't agree at all, and was even wondering how good was the palate of the person who gave certain ratings and scores, depending on the magazine.

Now, I work as the wine buyer in a store where my boss is like me, he doesn't care about the scores. Our main focus is to taste everyday, and dissect, evaluate and analyze each wine that we taste to be able to offer the best, most interesting and most intriguing, most varietaly correct wines from smaller, less marketed and more Terroir oriented producers from all around the world.

You're a blogger and you like wine, so you'll know what I'm talk about. Descriptions are very important yet they only correspond to one palate that shouldn't be trusted blindly. And scores only correspond to a personal yet approximative estimation of the quality of the wine (that also depends of the mood you were in and the conditions of the tasting that day). Moreover, we all know that wine tasting is very subjective.

Even moreover, we can all agree that sometimes it is very difficult, when reading the (ultra) short wine descriptions in certain magazines (that I will not named), to differentiate why they give an 85pts to one wine and a 90pts (or more) to a similar wine from the same region and grape varietal, when the descriptions aren't so different after all and don't say much about the difference between the two (or really why the 2nd one is better than the 1st one)....

For me, this is bullshit! Unless you really try to compare both wines and define why they are different and more especially explain clearly why one deserves a better score than the other one, it is bullshit! Most magazines just describe the overall taste in a few vague sentences that, in most cases, aren't sufficient enough to really have a complete overview of the described wine.

There are three schools of wine people in the market: people who only read the numbers (whether it is the price or the score, or both); people who read the description but don't really care about numbers or pay less attention to them; and people who diversify their source of information and are interested to learn more about wine and prefer experiencing themselves rather than follow blindly and be too influenced by the wine press.

After all, everyone can do as they please, that is their choice. I just think that sometime, 100pts score system is a bit unfair and somewhat dated.

In the 70s and the 80s up to the mid-90s, it was surely the best way to discover and learn about a wine without having to try it or spend the money for it (except for the magazine itself). People were less educated about wine than we are now. There were less wine schools, programs and tastings. And if we talk about the American market, there were much less wines to choose from and certain brands were the benchmarks of their appellation and nobody questioned it, because nobody knew better.

In 2009, the world have changed. There are much more wines, producers, wineries, wine schools, wine programs, wine blogs and websites dedicated to wines than ever before. And people are much more educated about the subject than they ever were before. The wine information networks via the internet. It is free, full of info and descriptions about most of the wines from all around the world. Wine bloggers and wine websites, like you and me, have flourished and blossomed on the net over the last 5-10 years, and more and more people are writing about wine (and food, etc). Giving their opinions and guidance about which wines they liked (or disliked), where to buy it, at what price, from which importer or distributor, where and when they tasted it.

In short, these people (including me) do exactly what people like Robert Parker Jr., Wine Spectator, Decanter, La Revue du Vin de France, Stephen Tanzer, (etc..) used to do and continue to do...but with more conviction and somewhat less influences (IMO).

Customers don't have to follow the voice of only one or two persons, they can choose what they want to read and make their own judgment about the described and desired wine from hundreds of websites (including the winery websites in many cases). More over, winery websites, Bloggers, Facebookers, Twitters, and other articles (press or not) are usually more thorough and less critical than the wine magazines and press in general (certainly due to the fact that most websites and blogs (etc..) mainly write about the wines they liked and barely not about the wines they disliked).

Somehow, it is true, how can we and what gives us the right to score a wine which took months to achieve, many people time, stress, passion and skill (and money), to just destroy it with a ridiculous score that will hurt not only the image and reputation of the winemaker, the producer and the winery, but will also affect the current and future sales of the wines.

In my opinion, wine tasting is very subjective, so if you don't like a wine, do not write about it or do not score it. There is enough misery and bad things in this world, and as the grand-son of a winemaker I truly think that wine is a culture, an "Art de vivre" and a pleasure in life, like food and ...(you get the picture). It is happiness in a bottle that shouldn't suffer from mediocre revues and scores.

At the end of the day, a good winemaker will always be good no matter what, good year - bad year, as a good wine buyer with a good palate will always be a good wine buyer. Only your palate should be the judge of the quality of the wines you taste, buy and drink. Descriptions should help you and guide you, not influence you or impose you an opinion (especially if it is a bad one), and remember, as I said earlier, that a score (good more especially bad) only reflects the personal yet approximative estimation of the quality of the wine (that also depends of the mood you were in and the conditions of the tasting that day).

LeDom du Vin

I'm open to your comments

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