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Price: Another Wine Sense?


Ciao Ling
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I found this recent discussion of a recent Stanford Study interesting. Knowledge of price affected how the subjects felt pleasure from the wine. There is also a link to another discussion of how our preconceived notions of quality from particular origins of wine affect our opinions. True oenophiles may fault the studies for the test subjects lack of wine sophistication- but have they had an MRI with their wine lately? Clearly the true test of any wine is a blind test but short of organized wine tastings or competitions, this is not how we drink. Wine stores also heavily advertise the 100 point ratings systems. Will I savor a wine more because I know it is a RP 98 vs.an RP 91?

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I have used a 100 point system for rating wines for more years than most of the people reading this thread are old. For many years those scores were entirely for my own purpose but when my editors in the USA, Israel and France said that readers insisted on scores I started publishing them. I have always said and will continue to say that scores are nothing more than 2 digits (and on rare occasions, 3 digits) at the end of a wine review. Although the score may summarize the quality in which the reviewer holds that particular wine it says nothing whatsoever as to whether the reader will enjoy that wine or not! That is the purpose of the review itself.

Even that is not enough. Consumers should follow one, two, three or more critics until they find those few with whom they can calibrate their own palate - that is to say the critic/s that give directions similar to those of oneself. One does not have to agree with a critic but one has to know how that critic's palate and judgements meet with his/her own.

In short, those who buy entirely on the basis of schools are either snobbish fools or just plain fools.

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I have used a 100 point system for rating wines for more years than most of the people reading this thread are old.  For many years those scores were entirely for my own purpose but when my editors in the USA, Israel and France said that readers insisted on scores I started publishing them.  I have always said and will continue to say that scores are nothing more than 2 digits (and on rare occasions, 3 digits) at the end of a wine review.  Although the score may summarize the quality in which the reviewer holds that particular wine it says nothing whatsoever as to whether the reader will enjoy that wine or not!  That is the purpose of the review itself.

Even that is not enough.  Consumers should follow one, two, three or more critics until they find those few with whom they can calibrate their own palate - that is to say the critic/s that give directions similar to those of oneself.  One does not have to agree with a critic but one has to know how that critic's palate and judgements meet with his/her own.

In short, those who buy entirely on the basis of schools are either snobbish fools or just plain fools.

Daniel - being of similar age, you probably remember the days of the 20 point scale. I still find that more acceptable than the 100 point scale, which I believe attempts a level of precision not possible. Did you not like the 20 point scale?

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I found this recent discussion of a recent Stanford Study interesting. Knowledge of price affected how the subjects felt pleasure from the wine. There is also a link to another discussion of how our preconceived notions of quality from particular origins of wine affect our opinions. True oenophiles may fault the studies for the test subjects lack of wine sophistication- but have they had an MRI with their wine lately? Clearly the true test of any wine is a blind test but short of organized wine tastings or competitions, this is not how we drink.  Wine stores also heavily advertise the 100 point ratings systems. Will I savor a wine more because I know it is a RP 98 vs.an RP 91?

Ciao Ling, not knowing you, I can't say whether you will enjoy a wine more or not by virtue of its Parker score, but there can be no doubt that people like or at least say that they like things that they are "supposed to" like. The power of suggestion is indeed very strong. That is why blind tests are often so revealing as the results are frequently not what one would expect.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Daniel - being of similar age, you probably remember the days of the 20 point scale. I still find that more acceptable than the 100 point scale, which I believe attempts a level of precision not possible. Did you not like the 20 point scale?

Craig, Hi....

According to latest rumors about myself, I was born in 1895. I do rather like that for at that age, I look just fine.

I do of course recall the 20 point scale, always more popular in Europe and the UK than in North America because both the 100 point and 20 point scales are based on grades given in school and thus relatively easy references. I also recall of course the five point scale, the five star system, the three star system (Gambero-Rosso), all of which are still in use.

As to which is more accurate and at which point one becomes pretentious and the other not... an open debate and much a choice of chacun a son gout. I'll stay with the 100 point scale because it gives me the feeling of being more expressive. That is to say, although the three point difference between 85-88 may not be dramatic, the one point difference between 89-90 is, placing the wine in a different category of quality.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I found this recent discussion of a recent Stanford Study interesting. Knowledge of price affected how the subjects felt pleasure from the wine. There is also a link to another discussion of how our preconceived notions of quality from particular origins of wine affect our opinions. True oenophiles may fault the studies for the test subjects lack of wine sophistication- but have they had an MRI with their wine lately? Clearly the true test of any wine is a blind test but short of organized wine tastings or competitions, this is not how we drink.  Wine stores also heavily advertise the 100 point ratings systems. Will I savor a wine more because I know it is a RP 98 vs.an RP 91?

Are you attempting an analogy between price and scores as to their impact upon our reactions to wine?

First the "test" can be "faulted" because it takes wine enjoyment/perceptions out of real life context and creates its own isolated context. Therefore as with all "focus" group findings marketers need to have the salt shaker at hand.

Someone may take a rating into consideration when buying a wine. There is nothing wrong with utilizing any third party recommendation in making a purchase decision. In fact it is quite wise.

My question is would you savor a wine more because anyone recommended it highly by any means. Just a verbal recommendation "this stuff tastes fabulous". Scores--18.5, 90, two stars, three wine glasses, four toques (sorry that's food) 2.5 out of three......

How about the source of the recommendation: Parker, Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, the wine shop owner, your uncle Fred the wine maven, a friend, the couple in the Wall Street Journal, Asimov and his panel of experts in the Times, the wine maker, the Royal Family.

Gee, why limit this to one particular critic?

Wouldn't a high score or rating of any sort from a trusted source set the bar for the wine pretty high? Would you really taste the wine and think:"gosh this isn't all that good I spent all that money--but hey! so and so likes it, I think I will buy some more!"

As for the particular rating system. Most consumers do not understand these things. They don't have time!

Hell, most wine geeks would be hard pressed to explain the specific discipline in scoring a wine let alone apply it themselves. usually it is : wow this is good, I think I'll give ity a ninety five or four stars or 19.0 or...

The davis scale for eg was not developed to communicate a wine's quality to consumers. It was, rather developed to communicate with and among scientists.

It has its pluses and minuses. The 100 point scale was developed as a means to communicate with consumers and thus is more consumer friendly. It is easier to understand what 85 out of one hundred means as opposed to 17.5 out of twenty.

As for precision. As Daniel Rogov notes it affords the user the opportunity to communicate hie/her words more accurately. How many times have you tasted two wines and found both to be of similar quality but you preferred one just slightly over the other. A less precise scale forces you to either score them equally (not the truth) or to score one .5 lower--also inaccurate because the impression will be the lower rated wine is more inferior than the other wine than it really is (say 18.0 vs 17.5).

Of course, there are those who will argue that communicating about wine is better done by less precision or worse vagueness. Fair enough, for these folks the Davis scale is fine or perhaps just a four star or five glass system. I would simply argue that the more information the better.

Which brings us to the tasting notes.

It should be noted that using a 100 point scale actually compels the critic to be more precise in his/her assessments in stead of

lumping" wines into broader statistical categories.

Unfortunately, a score says very little about the wine and how it tastes. A score doesn't even denote white or red. Thus the consumer is cheated out of a professional opinion and detailed assessment of how a wine tastes when only a score is posted on a shelf.

This forces the consumer to bring whatever knowledge and experience they have to bear as well as asking the sales person about the wine.

When someone decides to try a wine it isn't just scores or a particular wine writer it it usually information from a wide variety of sources including the consumers own experiences. No one is going to actually like a wine because someone tells them they should.

That is having too little faith in the human race and even less faith in wine.

Both do pretty well on their own!

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