Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What Value is the Point System


Craig Camp
 Share

Recommended Posts

Jancis Robinson made these comments during an interview with The Restaurant Report. How do you rate the point systems? Is 20 points enough is 100 too much?

I quite see why people like them but my aim would always be to encourage people to ignore scores and to develop their own taste and not be terrorized by wine. Given that wine tasting is probably the most subjective activity most people ever encounter, why take somebody else's point of view? You might go and see a movie because (the late) Siskel or Ebert gave it a double thumbs up. But you wouldn't let them determine how you felt about it. You'd still walk out saying: "Well they liked it, but I thought it was complete rubbish!" I just wish people would trust their own judgment of wine a bit more because it is all about individual preference. No single person can have the same likes and dislikes as you. My saddest experience of the point system occurred not so long ago. I am a good friend of the English novelist, Julian Barnes, who has a very good wine cellar, and he's mad about wine and he's highly intelligent. He told me that he had a really good bottle of wine but then looked it up in Robert Parker's book, and Parker only gave it an "83" out of "100). So his conviction was that it couldn't have been any good even though it had given him an enormous amount of pleasure. Wine changes so much and different bottles from the same shipment can taste quite different. Wine evolves in the bottle and when a commentator tastes a wine it's usually in youth and it's often before the wine has reached its full potential. It's a great shame to reject it at that stage.
Copyright © 1996-2001 by Restaurant Report. All rights reserved.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't read much European wine publications (or none at all) and am curious as to their rating systems. It seems the US has a need for something to be better than something else, and people make a lot of money being the adjudicators. Luckily, I drink enough wine to not be swayed by these ratings, as I would guess does the majority of the posters here. But how many times do I have to hear "it got 93 points from the Spectator" and be underwhelmed.

Just like a restaurant critic, it's one (or a few) people's opinions, and take it for what it's worth.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Given that wine tasting is probably the most subjective activity most people ever encounter, why take somebody else's point of view?

Bullshit.

Wine tasting is not subjective. There are rules. The rules can be applied objectively by anybody who has a functioning nose and is willing to learn the rules. That there is some room for preference, batch variation, and disparate storage conditions to interfere with that objectivity does not make wine tasting subjective. It makes it objective but imperfect. Those who think some cheap shit jug Merlot is better than Petrus are wrong according to everything we know about wine, everything people like Ms. Robinson work to teach us when they're not parroting the, "Whatever you like is good," politically correct party line. Some wines are better than others and that's that.

The points help to rank-order wines, and to set their relative prices. Sure, some comparisons are apples-and-oranges. But Petrus is better than Trotanoy and the scores serve to tell us that. Whether the scale is 100 or 20 isn't particularly important. The variations between 94 and 95 or 19 and 18 are small enough to fall into the randomness-and-inconsistency category and don't matter as much.

Sure, it's possible to be overly reliant on the scores, and they do have some destructive potential as described in the example in the quote. In one of the Symposium posts, Jonathan Day graphed price versus Parker score for Bordeaux of a certain vintage. It was ridiculous -- clearly the prices were following the scores more than the scores could possibly be following quality. $700 for 1 point? Come on. But that doesn't mean wine tasting is subjective. It just means people think Parker is more objective than he is.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you missed Ms. Robinson's point. To me, the key words were "most people." Wine tasting is very subjective for most people (and I'll include myself) because we don't have the breadth of tasting experience to be objective. Subjectivity is our default setting.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I absolutely guarantee you that if I give you the crap jug wine and the Petrus, you will know the Petrus is better. Your default setting, provided you've been drinking wine at all, is objectivity. You just don't have a particularly refined wine palate, most likely, which is the case for most of us. So when it comes to Trotanoy and Petrus you may not have the ability to discern -- and, more importantly, to articulate -- the reasons for the superiority of Petrus. That's why Parker, Robinson, et al., are helpful -- they can focus us on the differences, with their words, their scores, etc., so as to help us identify the reasons why better wine is better.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sure, even my palate could discern the difference between Petrus and jug, however, Robinson's point is we get too dependent on the crutch of the point scoring systems and ignore our own subjective (or if you want to call it objective, bare bones objective) reactions. To our detriment.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe you've not made -- or tried to make -- the point that wine appreciation is not subjective. "I don't know anything about wine, but I know what I like." :biggrin: I won't argue against the idea that we can't all learn to better appreciate finer wines and I don't think Ms. Robinson will either, but I will argue that you might be better off buying what you like and not spending more for a bottle you don't enjoy because it rates higher on someone's chart. I will however, also offer the fact that I've frequently heard experts disagree on the subject of which of two wines is better.

Of course, if you intend to devote some time to refining your palate and making a study of fine wine, I'd advise against laying down what you like now without considering the opinion of experts in the field. I mean there was that Chilean burgundy we all moved up to when one of us got a corkscrew in our sophomore year.

Wine prices reflect the laws of supply and demand more than they are a reflection of quality anyway.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wine prices reflect the laws of supply and demand more than they are a reflection of quality anyway.

Wine prices reflect the laws of supply and demand period.

Whether those prices reflect relative quality is a much tougher question, but if you control for all the variables they overwhelmingly do reflect relative quality. That is to say, if you take two wines that come from the same region, are sold in the same currency, are made from the same grape varieties, etc., they will rank order price and quality, lock-step, most every time. Look at any producer's reserve and non-reserve wine from the same vineyard. And really, once people get over the hump of understanding that dry wines are good and Manischewitz sucks, you can grab any 100 wine drinkers, give them the regular and the reserve, and reliably expect that the overwhelming majority will choose the reserve (assuming it's appreciably better.)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wine tasting is not subjective. There are rules.

Let me reply in the same way as you did: bullshit!

Since when are there rules to taste? This sounds very, very pretentious, don't you think so?

The best example is provided by the current rage within the wine trade and the wine profession about the so-called modern Bordeaux. Wines like Marojallia, Clos Badon, etc. get raving reviews by a certain press (incluidng PArker), but get a disastrous review by another part of the press.

Which one is right?

That's why I think Janics Robinson quite rightly criticises the scoring system.

If you want to analyse it further, there are different approaches to scoring:

- None (one just says in aboslute - I like it, or I didn't like it, or something in between)

- Relative to peers: this is the principle chosen by for instance la RVF or Decanter: Wines get stars / scores in relationship to what other similar winemakers have achieved in that region. In other word, even in 1984, some Bordeaux wines may have gotten maximal scores if they have made a good wine. This scale is really producer-centric: it sort of underlines the good performance of a winemaker.

- Absolute scoring (à la PArker / WS / etc.). The reason people like it is that it makes comparisons between vintages and offers customers absolute relationships: a 90 pts wine from the 1990 vintage is better than a 89 points from the 1988 vintage).

But it all remains in the eyes of the taster. To think (what I often hear) that a taster can take abstraction to his preferences and recognize the greatness of wines "intrinsically" is simply not happening. TO take an example: Parker gives low scores to wines which are not extracted, and Jancis Robinson gives low scores to wines which only live from the current extraction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is to say, if you take two wines that come from the same region, are sold in the same currency, are made from the same grape varieties, etc., they will rank order price and quality, lock-step, most every time. Look at any producer's reserve and non-reserve wine from the same vineyard. And really, once people get over the hump of understanding that dry wines are good and Manischewitz sucks, you can grab any 100 wine drinkers, give them the regular and the reserve, and reliably expect that the overwhelming majority will choose the reserve (assuming it's appreciably better.)

I want to stay out of the subjective/objective thing as much as possible because it is very complex and there are a lot of factors, such as the way people fall into three taste categories, that are very important and that have not been considered in the discussions above.

Let me make a few comments about the portion I quote above. It is not necessarily true that two wines from the same region will reflect the price in their quality. Frequently in France, the area I know best, there will be a going rate for particular types of wine from particular villages or vineyards that does not reflect the quality. For example, Christophe Roumier's sells his Chambolle-Musignys for not that much more (or perhaps not any more at all) than those of many of his less talented neighbors, and he almost certainly sells it for less than, for example, Dom. Laurent sells it for, the latter's wines usually falling into the "why would anyone want to drink this?" category in my estimation and that of many others.

Another example. Although a lot of crap is still being made in Languedoc-Roussillon, if you know what you are doing, you can get some really wonderful wines, and almost always for less than $20/bottle. In fact, as soon as a wine from the region is labelled reserve and is more than $25/bottle, you can almost count on its being boring, undrinkable crap IMO -- it is made in an oaky, overextracted style that usually the producer doesn't even like, but is clever enough to know that it will satisfy the demands of a few palates that drive the market, and therefore generate a high price. You want an example -- one among many, many? Go out and get a bottle of Domaine d'Aupilhac's Le Plos de Baumes, which will set you back about $36. Comapre it with his vin de pays de Mont Baudile, which will cost you about $13-14. One is a great wine and one is crap, and the those who go for the higher-priced wine are fools.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The point system has its place; but what I think JR is saying is not to base you opinions soley on that. As a wine gets 90+, it should be giving you an indication that it is above average. Buy a bottle, taste it and then form your own opinions if it is a good value. A lot of people in the trade hate the WS because revenues/ads can sway reviews....but it can give us some ideas. There is definately some subjectivity in the reviews, not all palates are the same, some people like old world wines and some like new world style...neither is wrong, but both are different.

Ed McAniff

A Taster's Journey

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since when are there rules to taste?  This sounds very, very pretentious, don't you think so?

It sounds right.

If there are no rules to taste, why the heck would anybody bother to try to make good wine? What is the point of all the winemaking knowledge that is so painstakingly passed down from winemaker to winemaker? Why bother with vineyard management, hybridization, and aging in oak? All to satisfy some sort of subjective fantasy? I don't think so.

As for all the other nitpicking, it simply proves the point that there are rules and exceptions to those rules. Big deal. You still can't fight your way out of the paper bag of reality: some wines are better than others. If the market fails to recognize it sometimes, fine. If experts disagree, fine. Wines are being evaluated on many criteria. They aren't monolithic entities. A score is a composite, and there can be variations in how the components are weighted. This is the same as measuring any other volatile, hard-to-pin-down substance with imperfect tools: there will be variation. But it's pure reductionism and sophistry to jump from that to the nihilistic conclusion that whatever wine you like is good. It's not.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fuck Me. I just want to drink my $8 German Reislings and $40 Barolos.

Given the current language use (i.e., "f***" & "bullsh*t"), would you please move this discussion over to the "Fight Club" or clean it up a bit?

Thank you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there are some areas of legitimate disagreement.

To be concrete, some people don't like wines with a lot of acidity. I have a good friend who likes German sweet wines, but thought an Yquem he drank was 'too acid'. He doesn't much like Burgundy either. One the other hand I went to a Clive Coates tasting of Grand Puy Lacoste a few weeks ago, and among other things he said that ' Petrus will never be a great wine' largely because it doesn't have enough backbone/acidity.

Some people like really concentrated, inky black wines, and some people like more balanced wines that are better with food. You can multiply htese examples as far as you like.

We went through this fairly carefully in one of the subjectivity threads before the Purge.

Given a set of criteria though, you can make stable(ish) value judgments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We went through this fairly carefully in one of the subjectivity threads before the Purge.

Oh my god all the people who agree with me are gone!

Given a set of criteria though, you can make stable(ish) value judgments.

That, my friend, be objectivity.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On a more serious note . . .

I would submit that this current round--like previous rounds on different matters--of the subjectvity versus objectivity of taste is doomed to failure since it assumes the subject-object dichotomy.

Dewey, Dooyeweerd, & Heidegger did a demolition job on that dichotomy in the early 20th century.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Screw subjectivity and objectivity. The semantics are irrelevant. The issue is that you can't have a meaningful discussion about wine if people persist in the contention that whatever anybody likes is good and that it's all about personal taste and that in matters of taste there's no dispute. Nobody actually believes that. It's just something people say to reporters and defend ad nauseam on message boards.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FG,

I'd agree with screw the subject-object dichtomy.

But as far as semantics, the issue of taste has a 300 year history within philosophical aesthetics. Screw semantics & you ignore that tradition. Obviously, you may choose to ignore that tradition. However, it'd be akin to the successes of a plaintiff representing themselves without knowing how to lay a foundation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can lay a foundation, you can lay Fort Knox for all I care, and if it leads you to the conclusion that whatever wine you like is good I'm still going to tell you you're nuts.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can lay a foundation, you can lay Fort Knox for all I care, and if it leads you to the conclusion that whatever wine you like is good I'm still going to tell you you're nuts.

I'm *not* saying that the issue of taste is down to whatever I or anyone else "likes."

What I *am* saying is that this issue has a long history that our discussions here ignore.

FG, I've enough respect for you to believe that you wouldn't try to reinvent the wheel. So, why reinvent philosophical aesthetics?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, why reinvent philosophical aesthetics?

Why not? I've got time. Start with Petrus is better than jug wine and work from there. It'll make a lot more sense than Heidegger.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...