Tag Archives: wine scores

Winebits 216: Entwine, wine scores, wine snobs

? A first-year hit: How do you sell a wine with a minimum of reviews, little retail placement outside of grocery stores, and a lousy name? Make it the house wine for The Food Newtwork. That's the story of Entwine, which sold more than 150,000 cases in its first five months and which is expected to sell one-half million cases annually within two years. Which is a lot of wine. In this, Entwine's success speaks volumes about how Americans buy wine, which we've discussed on the blog more than once. We buy on price — Entwine is $13 — and we buy on label. In this case, the Entwine label is enhanced by the partnership with The Food Network, where it is used on the channel's cooking shows. This, as usual, more than makes up for the lack of information about what the wine tastes like.

? More bad news for scores: Winematch.com takes on scores and why they don't work, especially in the way retailers use scores to sell wine. "Wine is not unique to marketing spin but it's spin of the worst kind and the end result is you lose the consumer." Those are harsh words, but the post makes the accusation stick and it's something retailers should take into account.

? Being a wine snob is a good thing: Or, why there will be always be a Wine Spectator. This is an impassioned defense of wine elitism by the Specator's Matt Kramer, and one has to admire his enthusiasm for the task. It's wrong to say that if you like a wine, it's a good wine, exclaims Kramer: "This is, without question, the biggest lie of them all. … They think it will make wine more accessible to more people. They think they're doing everyone a favor by 'democratizing' wine. Wine is too elitist, you see. It's important – ? nay, essential – ? that wine be taken down a peg or two in order to make it accessible to all." And we certainly don't want that, do we?

The Cajun wine scoring system

Cajun wine scoring

What wine goes with boiled crawfish? Whatever wine you want.

The Wine Curmudgeon has made a breakthrough in wine scoring systems.

Forget points and stars and thumbs up. Forget controversy. Forget Parker. Never again will we have to argue about whether a 90-point wine is any good.

Welcome to the Cajun wine scoring system, based on years of extensive research eating and drinking in south Louisiana; my tenure
as the sports editor at the Houma, La., Daily Courier; and the wit and wisdom of the inestimable L. Kleinpeter, a native of Thiboduax, La., and a descendant of Rousseaus and Boudreauxs.

Why Cajun? Because few cultures understand food and drink as well. It’s not about pretension or celebrity chefs, but about the freshest possible ingredients and what tastes good. I’ve had dinners at someone’s home in Acadiana that would put pricey restaurant meals to shame. In addition, it’s a culture that has little patience for foolishness, and what’s more foolish than the 100-point scoring system?

Plus, Cajuns understand that you don’t put tomatoes in gumbo.

After the jump, the Cajun scoring system:

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Winebits 213: Wine prices, wine scores, bootlegging

? Cheaper wine and traffic accidents: States with higher wine consumption have fewer traffic deaths, so why not make wine more easily available? A new study suggests that wine is more socially responsible than beer or spirits, so why not push consumption toward it and away from the others through legal supermarket sales? Said one researcher: "Wine is more likely to be consumed with food. That has an impact. We also suspect that there are different demographic groups that consume this alcohol. Maybe the audience that consumes wine is less likely to drink and drive and be in a traffic accident." A fascinating thought, though the Wine Curmudgeon notes that the study was conducted by researchers in New York state, where there is a huge fight going on over wine sales in grocery stores.

? Because we can never get enough about wine scores: David Duman in the Huffington Post takes on wine scores, calling out two leading members of the Winestream Media, Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle and Steve Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast: "… it was discouraging to see their defenses of the system utilizing those same tired arguments used by lesser critics." That's about as harsh as it gets in this business, but Duman didn't stop there. He sounds almost Wine Curmudgeonly: "If you want to be a wine critic who remains relevant for the next thirty years you might want to ditch the rating system now, lest you be stuck wearing the wine writing equivalent of acid-washed jeans and feathered hair a decade too late."

? Consumers and state stores: Here's a shocker: Wine drinkers will break the law to buy cheaper wine if all that means is shopping out of state. Regular visitors here will remember that the Pennsylvania state store system, in which the state runs the liquor stores, has been under attack for being inefficient, bloated and poorly run. This on-line survey says that 81 percent of respondents would rather break the law and bootleg their wine and liquor across the borders than suffer state-mandated price hikes. Bootlegging? Does this mean shoppers will start wearing Wine Curmudgeon-like fedoras?

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:

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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:

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