Wine Advocate... My Ass!

Posted by The Wine Whore |

In case you still don't believe that wine scores are BS or need another reason to hate Parker, check out this article posted on WSJ.com.

Now, if you're like me, you may have trouble reading through the entire thing. So, here's the Randy Watson slightly abridged and much less verbose Cliff's Notes version:

"Robert Parker's wine ratings averages equates to a 7% increase in price"


"It is absurd for people to expect consistency in a taster's ratings. We're not robots."

That's why...

"As a consumer, accepting that one taster's tobacco and leather is another's blueberries and currants, that a 91 and a 96 rating are interchangeable, or that a wine winning a gold medal in one competition is likely thrown in the pooper in others presents a challenge."

Soooo... the moral of the story is:

Instead of using scores to choose your wine, you should just "drink wine every day, at lunch and dinner, and the rest will take care of itself."

Now that's a moral I can REALLY embrace!

Hey Parker, if you really wanna be a "Wine Advocate" why don't you advocate WINE instead of SCORES?!?


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Richard Auffrey said...

As I have said before, I don't blame Parker for the problem with scores. First, he has said repeatedly that the tasting notes are what are most important, not the scores. Two, it is the distributors/retailers that emphasize scores to the consumers, boosting prices when a wine gets a high score. Third, it is consumers who rely on scores like slaves when buying wines.

It is still clear that scores sells wines. Yet consumers can break that cycle themselves, by not relying on them. Then it wont matter what any wine critic scores a wine.

The Wine Whore said...

As always, you make excellent points!

My intent for this post is to get more people to help break the cycle... if people keep reading about how scores are worthless, maybe they'll think twice when choosing a bottle SOLELY on a number.

Is there any other way to help break this cycle?

mayorkl said...

I kind of like the scoring system, as it gives me at least something to look for in a sea of unknowns. I also like interesting labels though, so I'm a bit of a retail retard.

I do like that Cardinal Zin is one of my favorite labels. As is the Bogel Phantom.

My favorite cheap score related purchase is the Norton Malbec though (very boring label). It stood out from other Malbecs because of score, and for good reason.

Just saying, the scores do help. As does good labeling.

drinknectar said...

The scoring system isn't going anywhere. Consumers like to have things reviewed (electronic, cars, appliances - and even wine). Randy, I agree that more attention should be paid to the wine AND the tasting notes. For me something that is 95 and $100 won't end up in my cellar, it's just not feasible at this point in life. However, as I go back to my beginning days as a wine drinking, the scores gave me something to go by. 91 at $20 may be worth a try.

An alternative to getting rid of the scoring system is to embrace it and centralize it. In today's world of technology, reviews from Advocate, Spectator, Gary V, You, Me, should be consolidated. Consumers are armed with more information that ever and the internet, with its high volume discounters and 10000's of opinions is the great equalizer!

Josh @nectarwine

Anonymous said...

Drink wine every day at lunch and dinner? What the hell do you have against breakfast? That's the most important meal of the day!

The Wine Whore said...

You both bring up great points... ultimately, you should never pick a bottle based on any ONE factor. This is especially true when you are talking about bottles that are more expensive. That being said, everyone has their factors for choosing which bottles to bring home. Personally, I try to use a combo of info/reviews/region/labels/scores and then if all else is equal, I just close my eyes and point.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about a central repository/system for scoring but have come to the conclusion that it we will never see it happen in our lifetime. Although we've gotten closer with some sites that are out there today, it is still a mish mosh of reviews, scores, info, pics, etc.

What would it take to make it happen in our lifetime?

mayorkl said...

Fully accessible world-wide on-line sales of wine to and from anywhere. That way, online wine retailers would be more apt to collate official labels, links to vineyard info, and reviews from scoring sources/tasting notes. Because so much wine is "in-country" or even "in-state", and so many places have rules against direct wine shipping, this won't happen in the short term. But globalization is a juggernaut, and it will happen eventually.

The Wine Whore said...

You're absolutely correct! True globalization of wine would be awesome but may also fall into that "won't happen in my lifetime" category. Maybe I am wrong and just being cynical... I hope so!

Is there a way to centralize wine in the meantime?

Wine Harlots said...

Cruvee is initiating the "Own It" program.


The Wine Whore said...

LOL! I am surprised they haven't done it yet... after all, they've practically got a Google-everything out there today!

The Wine Whore said...

I was hoping someone would mention the "Own It" program!

Do you think it will get off the ground?

Jainomo said...

I only go with scores for wines that are less than $20. Because when I want to buy a bottle that's, let's say, $8 or $10, I sometimes do prefer going with the one that's score 93 or 95 points over one that doesn't have a score at all. And heaven forbid they mention if it got 89 or under ... because that's a B grade! Shame! I just want to know that, hopefully, I'm not going to be tasting rat poison.

The Wine Whore said...

There's a lot of truth in what you just said! Isn't it funny how a score below 90 is often a death sentence?! And, God forbid a bottle doesn't have a score! That MUST mean it sucks! :)


Chris said...

Wine is about the experience you have when discovering it. In the sterilized world of wine tasting for profit, there are so many grey areas it is not funny! Let's get behind the small producers for their dedication. If it were not for them we could all be drinking the same wine every day.

The Wine Whore said...

Chris, you are a TRUE wine advocate!

I drink to you! :)


Dean Davis said...

Couldn't agree more mate! Wine guides should be just...well...GUIDES! Wine ratings and scores mean nothing. One man's wine is another man's poison. Which leads me onto another controversial topic - wine competitions!! Aaargh!*fumes before counting to ten while dreaming of a inky black seductive Malbec*

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! That always works for me... the counting to ten thing, that is :)

Yeah, I found it funny in this article how it mentioned how the SAME bottle of wine could win and simultaneously lose the same competition. That's just crazy!

It's exactly like you said: GUIDES.

What was the worst experience you've ever buying a bottle of wine based off of a wine score?

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue is that a lot (likely the majority) of consumers do not read wine blogs or other wine media and rely on these ratings as if they are gospel. As an example, last night I referred a very good Zin (Biker from Four Vines) to a customer that I have personally tasted in two vintages and has a 92 rating. It took me over 20 minutes to get him to believe me that it was a good buy because we had no press on it with a rating. (Wish I could have qouted the rating last night! :( it would have saved me some time)

The Wine Whore said...

That's crazy! I mean seriously! What about a bottle of wine that isn't rated... does that mean it's no good?

I think the big reason why this happens is because scores are often pushed and posted next to pricetags... The average consumer does what anyone else would do in this situation and uses scores as a decision tool: a crutch.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree. But for so many the mass marketing and rating based mentality is so bad.

It is the same way with beer. I have had people go right past several good wheat beers, because they just "heard" of wheat beer when Budweiser started making it.

Absolutely Unreal!

The Wine Whore said...

LOL! Are other countries the same way?

Rachel said...

Brilliance as usual, WW! And I'm with Anon. What about breakfast? Can you suggest something to go with scrapple?

The Wine Whore said...

(bows) Thank you very much!

Hmm, I usually like Mimosas with breakfast, but I have to ask: what's scrapple? :)

Rachel said...

It's a mush made of cornmeal and leftover pork parts served fried up at breakfast. Absolutely delicious especially with ketchup. Mimosas, although delightful, might be too refined. Here's a scrapple primer: http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/sleuth/0998/scrapple.html

The Wine Whore said...

So that's a PA thing? I could have sworn I heard something about it before...

Let's summon the winos out there to help us find a perfect pairing for this hog wild breakfast mush!

Any ideas on what wine would do the trick?

sam klingberg said...

I think wine scores work in the bigger picture because they make purchasing decisions easier, they're kind of like stamps of approval so you don't really have to think about what it is.

When you really get down in the the appreciation of wine, that's when they become more apparent for what they are, pretty much just a marketing farce.

The Wine Whore said...

Brainstorming... what are some other marketing farces in the world of wine?

Anonymous said...

A Wine Spectator review (tasting note plus score) is an attempt by an experienced critic to convey a judgment of style, character and quality to a wine consumer faced with a plethora of choices. That's all. Just like a book reviewer or an art critic tries to express their opinions and help guide buying decisions for their readers. If you trust the critic, use the review. If not, find another critic, or strike out on your own. Ultimately, the goal is to know your own tastes, of course. But we can all use some help from an experienced guide. That's why we go to school, read, and talk to other people who share our passions.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

The Wine Whore said...

First of all, thank you for stopping by and commenting... it's nice to see that the "big guys" will still socialize with wine bloggers and whores like myself! :)

B) I agree, people should use their best judgment and tastes when choosing whether or not to trust reviews, scores, astrological signs, etc.

I just wish MORE people would realize that scores don't ALWAYS equal quality or a wine that they may particularly enjoy. In my opinion, a real "wine advocate" should be more vocal about explaining that to people looking for a good bottle of wine.


mayorkl said...

Wow, The Spectator droppin in for a chat. Nice job Randy!

You asked about wine "farces". I'm curious as to whether the question can be looked at from both directions. Wines like Red Truck (produced by Cline), Big House Red, and other seemingly "dumbed down" wines are typically some of my favorites. Is this like reverse psychology?

This brings me to "Oriel" wines. The bottles are douchey enough (as is the website - http://www.orielwines.com/about/), but the wines themselves are overpriced garbage!

When are wines produced "off-label"/"off-maker" to be trusted? Red Truck is Cline, and is great! Oriel is Penfolds and is awful! Trinitas is a Cline kid and is one of my favorite domestic producers. Shouldn't the off-labels be forced in some sense to disclose their origins? Not to harp, but Red Truck's label tells you who the producer is. Many don't...

Just a thought.

The Wine Whore said...

First of all, thank you! :)

Secondly, I think you are right.. producers should disclose theri off-label's origins. Even then, like you've mentioned, you never know what you're gonna get.

I guess this surprise makes wine more interesting and fun... but boy, I'd much rather spend time drinking than figuring out which bottles are actually WORTH their pricetags.


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