Wednesday, February 16, 2005

“its really a 50 to 100 point system”
The title of the post for today is a quote from Robert Parker, Jr. during his interview on the Charlie Rose Show on Monday February 14, 2005. I saw a repeat last night and jotted the quote down, replayed it to confirm, and then re-confirmed it from the transcript that has been put up on the Mark Squires forum associated with Don’t want to do a Jamie Goode!

Why is this quote of interest? Well its important because it does put more meat on the bones of the Parker scoring system which gives every wine 50 points for just being wine. Thus the given scores can never be less than 50. In practical terms, that is for readers of the The Wine Advocate, or subscribers to, its really not even a 20 point system because a wine has to score around 84-85 to be recommended (i.e. written-up) in The Wine Advocate. This has not always been the case . If you look back through the Vintage Guide in the online site you can find wines scored down into the 60’s. However this seems not to be the case in recent times even when the whole vintage, like 2002 in Italy which was rated at a 75, has scored poorly. For Piedmont only six wines were recommended from the 2002 vintage, while for Tuscany thirty wines received scores of 85 or better.

Most scoring systems, whether they are 20 point, A through D, stars, puffs, etc. are similar. They rarely, if ever, use their full range. Or, more correctly, the consumers reading the reviews put out by the wine critics using these scoring systems rarely, if ever, see the list of all the wines reviewed and the scores given. To some extent this is again a practical point. Parker, for example, tastes thousands of wines each year. If he were to publish all of them in The Wine Advocate then it would certainly cost significantly more to publish. However he must write notes on all the wines he tastes, even if its just the description of the wine and a score, and this could be easily put on-line. This would provide a full listing of all wines tasted and their scores.

If the consumer is to be truthfully served by wine critics then full disclosure of what wines have been tasted and how they rated should be the goal of the critics. Not whether a wine scored above 85 points. By limiting their published critiques to descriptions of wines that score high points wine critics do not function as consumer advocates. Instead they provide winemakers with great advertising material. That's the tail wagging the dawg!

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