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89 Bottles of Wine on the Wall... (An Update on the "89 Project")

It's been one month since I posted about the 89 Project, the brainchild of 2 Days Per Bottle's David Honig. I figured it was time for a check in to see how the little guy was faring!

You might recall from my previous post (the one that Wine Enthusiast's Steve Heimoff, bless his soul, interpreted so darn incorrectly as a disparagement of the 100 Point wine rating system, which isn't quite what I was goin' for...) that the 89 Project is a collaborative effort involving several bloggers that pokes a bit of good-natured fun at the current state of wine ratings. When you rate wines using a 100 point scale (like the big boy wine reviews in the big boy wine mags), giving a wine a 90 or above is ticket to 30% plus price hikes. Conversely, an 89 or below might get you into the discount bin - and could get overlooked by the general wine buying public, since many retailers don't publicize those wines. A viscous cycle of non-showcasing, non-buying, non-showcasing, non-buying ensues.

Anyway, the 89 Project has wine bloggers from all over wine blog-o-land giving their take on 89-point wines. If you're interested in learning more of the goals and genesis behind the project, check out David's explanation via podcast from his guest appearance on WineBizRadio.com.

I'm pleased to report that the 89 Project is not only still alive, it's alive & kicking. Not only was it featured on WineBizRadio.com, it's also got its own discussion group over at the Open Wine Consortium (I love me some OWC!), and it's now up to 30 contributors....

Personally, I've been having me a good time with my 89 Project contributions (you can check out my 89 Project reviews here). First, it's an absolute hoot to go through a wine store looking for points, which I usually avoid like the plague (because, let's face it, nobody talks in points, unless they work for Wine Spectator...). It's even more fun to run through the wine store pushing a cart, taking pictures of the point ratings and getting positively giddy when you are finding wines clearly labeled as being given ratings less than 90 points.

The wine shop employees (especially in my local PLCB stores) think I'm totally insane now. It's great...

So - stayed tuned to the 89 Project. You might find some interesting recommendations that you might otherwise have missed. And if you go looking for some of these wines, you just might, if you're lucky, get yourself one hell of an "interesting" reputation among the wine shop employees in your neck of the woods...

(images: ggpht.com, wikimedia.org)


Anonymous said...

[NOTE: I put this comment on the OWC board as well....]

My goal is not to throw water on this project, but can we keep a little perspective on where 89 fits in the big scheme? That catchy little number was at one time symbolic of "step-child" status; but there is just too much saturation of ratingsin the marketplace for that meaning to resonate these days. In short, if a wine got an 89 somewhere, it probably got a 90 or 91 somewhere else...and an 87 or 88. By focusing on this number, you are really just reinforcing the whole 100-point scale rather than demonstrating its overall dysfunctionality.

If you want to make the point that a lot of good wines are missing the 90-point bus, why not...

1) Stress that IT'S ALL GOOD. Or at least almost all good. If you look at the verbiage in the info box in every Wine Spectator buying guide, you will see that a wine rated 80-84 is "Good: a solid, well-made wine." And a glance at any WS issue will show that a good three-quarters of the wines they review are essentially "good" or better, period. That message is getting lost in the glossy mags, and needs to be trumpeted.

2) Stop supporting the 90-POINT ENABLERS. Joe, your personal zest for this project is noble and palpable, but do you realize that your blog features ads from two companies that basically cook their own numbers? It is easy to criticize retailers who post ratings in their brick and mortar stores, but the mindset behind websites creating their own "ratings" -- which are ALWAYS 89 or higher is even more insidious.

3) Keep an eye on the prize (THE TABLE). At OWC perhaps more than any other place in cyberspace, there is a collection of people who understand that any numerical rating falls short of reality. Ratings falsely imply not only that the subjective (taste) can be quantified, but also they imply immutability. Wine changes based on context, especially with regard to FOOD.... The truth is not flashy and not as simple, but it's still the truth. Wine is a greased pig; drop the numbers and focus on the bacon end of that pig and we'll all be in a better place. Indeed, apply some nice vittles to any well-made wine and you instantly add ten points to its supposed score!

Joe Roberts said...

GREAT points, Tish!

I do feel compelled to point out that in my last 89 project post, I selected a wine that did get a 90 in 2 places and an 89 in another, so I think my take on the 89 project isn't quite as one-sided as it might first appear.

I'm not sure I'd call the 100 pt. system dysfunctional, either. I think it's "okay" at best - but like it or not, a really good alternative that could easily and widely be adopted has not yet materialized, so we're kind of stuck with it at the moment.

Doesn't mean we can't criticize it, of course, but my participation in the 89 project shouldn't be confused for en endorsement on my part to abolish the 100 pt. system. That system is useful, provided that people (both retailers, consumers, etc.) read the fine print and use it the way it's meant to be used (rather than abusing it, which as you rightly point out is happenin' all over the place).


Anonymous said...

We graze on the same side of the fence.

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