Many who search out the pinnacle of wine perfection chase the myth in wines given a perfect score, 100 points! On the other end of the scale are the wines that never seem to be talked about, those that fall below the cutoff score that signifies a recommended wine, below 84-85 points for Robert Parker or 75 points for Wine Spectator. But the true bottom of the wine barrel is 50 points in the 100 points scoring system. A wine scores 50 points just for being liquid in a bottle.
Do 50 point wines exist? It is difficult to get any definitive numbers because non-recommended wines are rarely described in any detail by wine critics. Why? Well in the case of Robert Parker they make up some 65-75% of the wines he tastes. Recording the tasting notes, or even just the scores, for those wines would consume a significant amount of space in any publication, hardcopy or otherwise. This is a blessing for winemakers because the wine buying public never learns that certain wines have achieved non-recommended status. Of course it is possible that a wine does not receive a recommended score because it was not submitted for review, which leaves the wine buying public even further in the dark about the quality of a winery’s portfolio.
Enter the enthusiastic amateur wine critic or, as we are known these days, the wine blogger. Wine bloggers, it seems, will drink pretty much everything and then they will blog about it. Why? Well most of us are not occupied in the wine trade full-time. Wine is our passion, not our mistress; although there may be some to whom it is a passionate mistress. Wine bloggers are willing to experience the spectrum of wine and comment on the knowledge gleaned to the world of cyberspace. We are an information conduit to the masses yearning to gather bits and bytes of wine knowledge at the click of a Google enquiry.
And if you Google Graeme Miller Wines you will find a 50 point wine courtesy of a wine blogger. Cam Wheeler of Appellation Australia gave 50 points to the 2005 Graeme Miller Wines (Yarra Valley) Rosé. According to what is fast becoming legend Cam tasted the wine at the Victorian Winemaker Exhibition 2006. He commented at the tasting that he thought the wine had a problem but was told (by the winery owners) that the wine was sound; no additional bottles were opened to confirm the quality of the wine. Cam posted his, rather apologetic, tasting note on his blog; how else do you write a 50 point score? Several months later he received a short, terse email threatening legal action if the tasting note was not removed! Further emails have passed back and forth between Cam and the winery and their content can be found here. Needless to say Cam has not removed the tasting note.
What does all this say about wine bloggers and their critiques of wines? Should we be like the Parkers' and Wine Spectators' of this world and not describe those wines that fall below a certain score? Hardly. As Cam notes on his blog the wine in question was tasted by others and found wanting, severely wanting. The consensus seems to be that its not a wine that should be recommended. It will be interesting to see what the established critics make of this wine. If no recommended scores appear then Cam will have done us a service by putting a score out there for us to see. And that is one thing that wine bloggers should do, assume the role of the long abdicated consumer advocate, and talk about the wines that should not be recommended.
Still, I’m intrigued about this 50 pointer. I don’t know that I have ever had one. Well maybe some of the stuff from around the Great Lakes that is made from the native American grapes, or perhaps from Virginia. But no, some of those may be 60-70 pointers. Fifty points is in a class of its own. I have a feeling that sales of this wine might just increase with all the internet discussion. Will they export? 50 points, there is a real marketing gimmick there, especially if they can get Robert Parker to agree with Cam’s score.