One of the most surprising things any wine expert has told me in the past six months -- in the past six years, for that matter -- came when Christian Miller of Full Glass Research told me he didn't think wine scores were as important as everyone else thought they were. His point: That scores matter to so few people who drink wine that the industry's obsession with them is kind of silly. After all, how many people who drink $8 Australian shiraz care -- or even know -- what the wine's score is?
Then, in November, a lengthy article in the Wall Street Journal (can't link to it -- subscription only) took scores to task. The author, a California professor named Leonard Mlodinow, sounded like the Wine Curmudgeon: "As for me, I have always believed in the advice given by famed food critic Waverly Root, who recommended that one simply 'Drink wine every day, at lunch and dinner, and the rest will take care of itself.' "
Combine this with newly-released research on the efficacy of wine competitions and medals (which Mlodinow also discussed), and I'm wondering: Are we looking at a wine world where scores are losing influence?
It's a welcome and most pleasant thought, and something I've pondered in the wake of the recession. My theory is that, as consumers trade down from more expensive wine to less expensive wine, scores will matter less and less. It's one thing to care how a $50 wine scored. Who wants to waste $50 on a crappy wine? Even something as silly as a score is one guide. But given that most wine that costs less than $15 rarely scores better than high 80s, who needs a score?
I don't think we're there yet. There are still too many signs in wine shops and liquor stores touting scores. But we may be on the road to that place, and I never thought I'd be able to write that.