Tag Archives: wine scores

Winebits 212: Wine scores, grilled cheese wine, regional wine

? Score jiggling: Lots and lots of wine score news in the cyber-ether. Blake Gray has done some number crunching, and sees score inflation. Shocking news, no? My favorite was this article in the New York Times, in which the writer thinks he may have discovered how to buy really nice wine for less money — wait until Robert Parker lowers the wine's score, after Parisian retailers lower the price. It's the equivalent, he writes, of a Moody's downgrade. And any article on scoring that includes a reference to "Spinal Tap's" infamous 11-level sound system is well worth reading.

? Wine with grilled cheese: Food & Wine's Ray Isle, who knows his way around cheap wine, has some intriguing wine pairings for grilled cheese. And not just the classic white bread and American cheese version, but several more esoteric sandwiches, including one with Italian robiola cheese and mortadella sausage. Oddly, enough, the Wine Curmudgeon made croque monsieur, the French version, and tomato soup a couple of weeks ago, pairing them with the Chateau Bonnet red. Who knew I was on the cutting edge?

? Chefs love regional wine: Local wine, for the second year in a year, is one of the top 10 restaurant trends, says the National Restaurant Associaton. It's right up there with healthful meals for kids and ahead of culinary cocktails — pretty impressive, given how much ink the latter gets. I was skeptical when local wine made the list last year, but I'm beginning to see a trend, especially as we travel the country for DrinkLocalWine and see how enthusiastic so many chefs are. (Shameless plug for DLW 2012: Denver on April 28 — tickets on sale soon through the website.)

Wine scores and the holidays

image from www.torontolife.comThe blog has seen a tremendous uptick in visitors over the past month, and many of them (based on what they're searching for when they get here) seem to be new or beginning wine drinkers looking for holiday wine. For which the Wine Curmudgeon is most grateful, since that's one of the blog's reasons for being.

One thing that may confuse new visitors here is that there aren't any scores. I don't grade wines on the 100-point system, like so many other wine writers, sites, magazines and blogs do. I just tell you what they taste like so you can draw your own conclusions.

That's because scores, at best, are sloppy journalism, an easy way to get around describing the wine. At worst, scores are dishonest. No one is ever going to give a $100 wine an 88, and no $10 wine will ever get a 95. Even the most horrible wines rarely score worse than 80, which is supposed to be the cutoff between good and average.

Bill St. John, a Chicago writer who knows his way around wine quite well, has encapsulated this contradiction very nicely. What he said and why it matters is after the jump:

Continue reading

Wine business slow? Then boost the scores

There is a reason the Wine Curmudgeon is so cynical about the wine business. It’s news like this:

“The numbers are in, and they’re historically impressive. In Wine Spectator’s report on California Pinot Noir, a whopping 55% of the 350-plus wines from the 2009 vintage had scores of 90 points or higher, including 15 wines that scored a classic 95 or better. It’s the category’s best performance ever.”

More than half are 90-point wines? A record-setting four percent are “classic”? Why? What made the 2009 vintage so special? Robert Parker’s vintage rating called it barely “outstanding,” and one Sonoma winemaker didn’t even go that far; he called the 2009 crop good to very good.

Full disclosure, first, of course. Regular visitors here know that I have no use for scores, and so I view any report heralding scores with a sneer and a quizzical look. Also, I have not tasted all 350 wines in the Spectator report, and it’s always chancy to criticize something when you don’t have all the information.

Having said that, though, there are a couple of things to note about all of those classic wines. First, style matters. The 2009 pinots I have tasted were well made, but in that very ripe and busty style that the Winestream Media enjoys and that makes me reach for something else. Which is, of course, the biggest problem with scores. Second, that many of the high-scoring wines cost more than $30 a bottle. If a wine that costs more than $30 a bottle doesn’t score 90 or better, there isn’t any reason for the winery to be in business. Which is, of course, another problem with scores.

Finally, what would happen if the Spectator did a pinot noir issue that said that the vintage was ordinary and that the wines were ordinary? And what would happen if the magazine did that during a three-year sales slump, like we’re going through now?

Exactly. So don’t worry if you miss this classic vintage; I’m willing to bet there will be another one in 12 months.

Scores, wine and the latest backlash

Scores, wine and the latest backlashScores have once again become a big deal in the wine world. Over the last month or so, a well-known independent winery has started a drive to end scores, there has been an on-line debate about the efficacy of scores, and anti-score sentiment has popped up in the oddest places.

This is intriguing for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s usually only cranks like the Wine Curmudgeon who take on the scoring system, since it’s about as tilting at windmills as the wine business gets. For another, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for what has been happening. Why is this going on now?

A few thoughts about why scores are again under scrutiny after the jump:

Continue reading

Winebits 170: Wine competitions, alcohol ads, wine scores

? How wine is judged: My DrinkLocalWine.com cohort Dave McIntyre has a nicely done description of wine competitions and wine judging in a recent Washington Post column: "For consumers, competition medals can serve as recommendations from a group of wine professionals to try a particular wine, similar to an inside tip from a friend or trusted wine columnist." It's one of the best discussions I've seen about how judging is done, warts and all, and the bit about judges "blitzing through" wines instead of enjoying them is spot on.

? Regulating booze ads: The Federal Trade Commission will study the effectiveness of voluntary guidelines followed by companies that market alcohol, with an eye on advertising in social media — which mostly didn't exist the last time the FTC looked at the issue. The New York Times reports that a key to the current system of self-regulation is that wine, beer, and spirits ads should run only in media outlets which can certify that 70 percent of their viewers or readers are 21 or older. Which, for social media, is an almost irrelevant requirement. How do you certify that 70 percent of your Twitter feed is of drinking age?

? Canadian critic rips wine scores: And good for him. Bill Zacharkiw, in a piece in the Montreal Gazette about a wine promotion run by the provincial liquor monopoly, writes this: "I have long contended that these scores are meaningless, feigning precision for what is essentially a qualitative, emotionally based value judgment. … I will stop now because the subject drives me absolutely nuts." That's a feeling that the Wine Curmudgeon knows all to well when it comes to scores.