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The 100-Point System Today

Rebel Rose

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I think you have made some very salient observations Max.

The "controversies over the 100 point system" are becoming tiring and --no pun intended--(well ok I don't come up with these that often so)--pointless.

Everyone can probably agree that there are flaws in every system. Some can argue that wines shouldn't be rated or evaluated at all. A more interesting debate IMOP-- If one wants to debate these things.

The motivations behind much of the current debate (not here, I am refering to the wine press and the industry) is driven IMOP, by petty jealousy and internecine carping. The truth is, the 100 point system, as applied by any number of critics has won the silly popularity contest. The popularity of Parker, Tanzer, Burghound, The Spectator and others speaks for itself.

There are still many others who review wines using different systems and perspectives so consumers can access many resources.

As for the industry. (I am part of it) IMOP we are often overwrought and insecure and often downright neurotic.

Anyone who even mentions a critic or a score is automatically deemed a point chaser The actual influence of critics is vastly over stated. Mary Baker posted a link to some research that showed the influence to be less than the conventional wisdom. The industry amplifies these issues far beyond any real context.

Ironically, it is the industry who plaster scores all over shelves --often with no tasting notes--and then bemoan the power of the critics.

Literally hundreds (thousands?) of wines are not reviewed at all, by anyone. They seem to sell just fine. There are plenty of wines that get mediocre reviews yet still sell for high prices. Somebody isn't being "influenced."

The average wne buyer is concerned with the flavor profile of a wine. How it tastes is more important than how a critic scores it. More people everyday ask for wines discussed and reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and the local papers. If one takes the combined subscriptions/circulations to every wine publication in existence, the number will fall far short of the total number of wine drinkers. (even ignoring that the overlap of subscribers to these "journals" is likely quite high.

I think it is somewhat ludicrous that the wine business is one where people constantly feel the need to remind others that they must trust their own palates. (I am guilty as much as anyone). What other product carries this caveat to the degree wine does? "Remember, buy only the car you really enjoy driving...don't just rely on Car and Driver or Consumer Reports!" Funny how all those cars the publications don't go ga ga over seem to sell ok.

What is it about wine that we feel the need to warn people to rely on their own taste? What is the fear that others will rely too heavily on someone else's advice or council? Why do we need to warn people about these critics?

More importantly, why with wine do we believe that there are thousands of people (no millions) who would follow a critic and buy wine they don't like because a critic told them to? Worse, why do we need to denigrate people who get good advice (from anyone) and go back to that source? We seem to expect that people are subscribing to a critic's publication because they have no mind of their own, that they are incapable of making thier own decisions.

Critics make suggestions--they are a source of information. Wines are rated to help summarize their tasting notes and to help consumers. They are comparative and should be taken in context with the tasting notes which should support the numerical or iconic assessment.


Yes they do come from the industry as you note. That's my point. I have never seen an industry more out of touch with consumers than the wine business. The rampant schizophrenia that fuels the need to slap rating points on shelf talkers and wail when their wines are not reviewed and then turn around and claim that a critic is too influential is incredible but real.

I read an article in a major media outlet web site that quoted an industry "expert" that Robert Parker really only rates very expensive wines highly. I happened to be holding an issue of the WA that featured "great wine values"--over a hundred inexpensive wines the critic believed people should try --from all over the world.

Yes, there are some academic discussions of rating systems but honestly, look at the post that begins this thread. Ninety eight per cent of them are really about Parker and his influence not the pros and cons of a specific system.

What is undeniable is that the 100 point system has been more widely accepted than any others. There are a number of reasons. I have touched upon a few. How broad or specific should wine evaluation be? There are merits to a simple one to four star method but the main shortcoming is one that is too broad IMOP offers little for consumers to work with--less information, if you will. The twenty point Davis scale? Maybe it is the best of both worlds, a middle ground between stars and 100 points.

However it has been around for a while and most people are not interested in mastering an understanding of it. I personally believe it is fine for professionals and not so good for consumers.

So what exactly is wrong with the 100 point scale? Seems to me it offers a lot of flexibility for the critic as well as the consumer. Why is there so much concern with it? Is this really just a matter of scales?

Is the concern that it is popular? If so, why? Anything that helps people and promotes interest in wine is good--isn't it?

What is this insane (IMOP) obsession with it?

Is there some fear that someone will see a score or a tasting note and decide they will try the wine? Is the 100 point scale causing harm to some sector of the wine making business?

Or has it helped?

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