The Consumers Mistake

We’ve come to rely on this system for our wine purchases. It’s only human nature that we look for approval and quality in the products that we buy, and for wine, the 100 point system meets those needs. Robert Parker devised the system that became the backbone of his highly recognized bimonthly publication, the Wine Advocate. Ratings start with 50 Points (So in effect it is just a 50 point system) and points are added based on color, aroma, flavor, finish, and age-ability. Others followed suit including Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast, etc. and have since immortalized this way to rate wine. Alongside the point rating, journals offer up extensive notes, which are proclaimed to be as important, if not more, than the score, but consumers don’t always see it that way.

However, the system has not gone without critique, and many wineries refuse to allow their wines to be dumbed down to a simple number rating. Critics argue it is impossible to decipher a 1 point variation in a wine, and that perhaps a broader system should be used. I have taken up the methodology of using the 100 point system, but only with even numbers from 50 on, thus creating a simpler 25 point system., i.e It’s either a 90 or a 92, I’ve got to decide. But regardless of how the system is tweaked, it remains flawed. How so?

Many have stated that you shouldn’t listen to critics because everyone’s tastes are different. That may be so, but there are so many wine critics nowadays, that surely you can find and align yourself with someone whose tastes are similar to yours. But that isn’t the problem. The problem lies with the consumer. Many consumers fail to explore, only purchasing wines highly rated. In turn, wine has become a material object to brag about owning, and instead of truly enjoying, a competitive outlet. If consumers didn’t cling to the 100 point system it wouldn’t be around today, but the fact of the matter is, they have, so it is.

Can wine truly be enjoyed without confirmation that it’s good? Can you be your own critic, and simply rate wine yourself? Is it possible to tell a friend about a wine you enjoyed without spouting off a critics score? The answer to all of these questions is of course, yes. But here I stand, caught in the middle, as both consumer and critic. The critic hopes that their comments are taken with a grain of salt, taken for what they are, merely an opinion. A critic hopes they can save you from buying a bad bottle, and point you toward the good. That has always been one of my goals. But do you really need saving?

As a consumer, I tire of having to keep up with ratings. I tire of having to pay higher prices every vintage, as my favorite winery raises prices 10% after receiving a great score the previous year. I tire of competing with my friends over who brought the better bottle to dinner, as determined by someone we both don’t know. So, I have decided to take ratings for what they are, an opinion. I will enjoy wine without wondering how many points it’s received, and I will continue to tell my friends about good wines I have enjoyed. I won’t obsess about the label I’m drinking or the one I am not. I will fully enjoy this amazing beverage, and I hope you will too.