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The Trouble With Wine Ratings: Part 2

I'm glad to see that my post last week on the potential troubles with the 100 point wine rating system has spurred so much interesting dialog in the wine "blogosphere" (man, we really need another word for that...).

Probably the most interesting conversation on this was triggered by Steve Heimoff's response on his excellent Unreserved blog. It's worth reading, and Steve makes some great points about tirades against the 100 point system being a dime a dozen these days.

I thought that Steve's response was very good, but I felt that he might have misinterpreted some of my points. This got me thinking that I might have been unclear in that post, and maybe some 1WineDude.com readers might have misinterpreted it also (uh oh....!).

So I responded in Steve's comment thread, and I've reproduced my response here in the hopes that it will clear up any misunderstanding between us - and by us, I mean you and I, dear reader. Because, you know, we've got a special thing goin' here and I don't want to jeopardize our love-fest...

Here 'tis:

"Man, there is some excellent banter going on in these comments! I really enjoy your writing so I was particularly pleased to see that my post sparked some debate on your blog. I agree with quite a bit of what you say, I think the 100 point system does get abused too often in the wine blogging world.

Having said that, I think you might have misconstrued my post for one of those rants, which might be selling it a bit short (massive subjectivity of that self-appraisal duly noted, of course!).


To justify that, I should probably clear a couple of things up about that post of mine:

1) Steve, your palate would totally *smoke* my palate when it comes to reviewing wines (which is one reason why I typically don't review wines at 1WineDude.com). If our palates shared a prison cell, my palate would be your palate's b*tch, would bring it tea and biscuits every morning, and call it sir!
I wasn't railing against the 100 point system in my post. You want to see a rant, pull up any post I've written about the PLCB ( http://1winedude.blogspot.com/search/label/PLCB ) for comparison; now *those* are rants. :-)

My point was that the 100 point system can be confusing to consumers, because it (as you say in your post above) is really a gradient quality scale based on one person's palate.
But that's not how most of the wine media treats it, and it's certainly not how the industry of wine sales treats it. So it doesn't really do what it says "on the tin."

2) I wasn't bashing critics or consumers. I am bashing *anyone* who would blindly follow any rating or scoring system without doing any homework whatsoever. The truth is that there are too many people out there who do that, and part of being a wine blogger these days is to help point that out and hopefully add a little entertaining education for those consumers to show them what they might be missing. That doesn't imply that they are stupid, just uninformed.


3) I should also try to clear up a bit about the 89 Project ( http://89project.blogspot.com/ ) - I did not found this but I do plan to contribute to it. If you take a look at the 89 Project home page, you'll find that its charter is to try to bring exposure to the wines that fail to meet a 90 or above score in the 100 point scale - these wines are perennially doomed to lower sales figures, because consumers consider the 1 point difference between a 90 and an 89 score to be substantial (but probably not so for a 93 vs. a 94).


So, this is *not* an alternative rating system - it's simply a review of these wines in our own voices. I don't plan to give any of these wines a review based on a scale - I simply describe what I taste and explain if I think it's good value for money (or not).

Hoping this clears up some of the confusion about my post. I certainly think that the 100 point system has its merits (after all, no one has offered a more popular replacement yet) and I'm not calling for its demise, just pointing out the gaps. I also am NOT a fan of inexperienced wine critics offering up their reviews as viable alternatives to more experienced tasters - I fully believe that expert criticism has its place.


I should also mention that I'm not hurting for blog material, and it was a conscious choice on my part to write a piece about the possible perils of following the 100 point rating system. I literally have more than enough ideas for material that I could post every day for a year without repeating myself (yes, even if I remove my rants against the PLCB - ok, maybe 9 months then ;-).
I'm only pointing that out because I wouldn't want any potential bloggers to read this thread and think that they shouldn't blog from a fear of running out of material. That should be the *last* thing that they worry about when blogging."


Cheers!

(images: affordablehousinginstitute.org)

5 comments:

Andrew said...

Judging by the number of responses I dont think blogging about the 100 point scale is anyway a cop-out for a 'lacking material blogger'. If anything the debate SHOULD be continued and discussed; perhaps one day a mutualy agreeable system will develop from the discussion, although I doubt it.

In regards to the inexperienced taster - and there is obviously a heck of a lot of them blogging away - to become a critic you have to taste, taste and taste as many wines as possible.

I have to agree with Steve Heimoff though - despite all the top rated wines I am lucky to try over the years I am more than happy with a decent 8.99er (£'s). The more wines I trry the less snobbish I become (I hope!) White Zinfandel not withstangin! It is more often the company, the mood and the food that makes a wine memorable, such as that Ch. Musar we drank with those lamb steaks in Windsor...

dhonig said...

What a putz. I wrote a response there. It will be interesting to see if it survives moderation. I will Twitter.

Steve Heimoff said...

Hi Dude, I laughed out loud at your prison cell analogy. You're good! Did you ever send that to me as a comment? I never got it and would love to put it up. By the way, dhonig, can we keep this discussion free of ad hominem attacks? I happily posted your comment.

dhonig said...

Yes we can, and I thank you. d

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Thanks all! Great stuff...

Steve - I've been trying to post a comment to your website on and off for most of the day, doesn't seem to be taking though (sorry - I think the issue is on my end somehow... probably mentally...!).

I would only add that I should not be held up as an example / hero / scapegoat for any movement for or against the 100 point rating system. My intention was only to point out potential pitfalls in the system for my readers to avoid. I may do the same for other systems in the future (the 100 pt. simply being the most ubiquitous and therefore the best with which to start).

I do understand the frustration with the bashing of the 100 point rating system - I'm just not the poster child for that (PLCB bashing, yes; 100 point bashing, no ;-).

Cheers!