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What Value is the Point System


Craig Camp
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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.

Agreed on Heidegger.

Your first move is fine.

Make your next move. :smile:

(But I don't think you have enough time to reinvent philosophical aesthetics. That's OK though. Keep movin'.)

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My .02

A rating system is essentially the documented experiences of those who have more (superior) knowledge in the area in which I have interest. One cannot give a credible opinion without building upon years and years of experience. To deny this basic principal in terms of wine is to state you may prefer wines of modest value or quality.

If you like cheap wine? Big deal. It doesn’t make you a bad guy. I happen to like a few Cheetos now and then with a beer. This does not send my gourmet status down the tubes. The misunderstanding comes into play when a person is viewed “inferior” by his peers. Tastes change, people change – The wines I drink today are very much different that the ones I drank 10, 5, even last year.

You have to ask yourself what bothers you more – that you don’t like great wine or you like bad wine?

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Scores can only be considered a reference point to the experience of an individual taster. If you do not understand the prejudices of that taster you cannot fully understand their score. While you may get a general idea of quality you can only understand the nuances that the taster wishes to communicate by knowing the preferences of that taster.

The usual example is Robert Parker vs. The Wine Spectator. You can learn what Parker means by a 95 as he is consistent in his scoring while the same score in The Wine Spectator does not communicate as well because their scores are those of various individuals or ever changing committees.

The point of scoring wines is to either communicate your impressions to others or to remind yourself of your impressions of the wine at a later date. Ultimately scores will always be much more effective in the latter case than they ever will be in the former.

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I happen to like a few Cheetos now and then with a beer.

Yeah but Cheetos are objectively awesome. Everybody knows that.

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)

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I happen to like a few Cheetos now and then with a beer.

Yeah but Cheetos are objectively awesome. Everybody knows that.

But if I score Cheetos and beer 89 points and Gordon scores them 92 points and FG scores them 95 points - what does that mean. It could mean exactly the same thing depending how each of us awards points. Some are more stingy and some more bighearted.

By they way they almost always serve the Italian version of Cheetos at the bars in Lombardia when you go for an aperitivo. Unfortunately they are not the crunchy version (94 pts.) but the puffed version (85 pts.)

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One of the major flaws of the 100 point scoring system is that it implies the wine will "perform" to some level of expectation each and every time. Clearly, wines age and change...

That said, one major flaw is that the critics who publish tasting notes (far more valuable than a numerical score, IMO), print their scores as absolutes.

What we as readers/consumers/wine drinkers are not told is : WHAT WINES WERE IN THE FLIGHT or TASTING?

If I were to read someone's tasting results of a particular flight of wines, I could judge (better) their rating were I to have some idea of the wines in that group. I have seen a wine "perform" differently based upon what wines precede it, for example.

While they're well-intentioned (for the most part), the numerical score is more a personal preference number than anything else. "92 Points...I like it!" But 92 points doesn't mean YOU WILL LIKE IT.

An elderly friend of mine always has different tasting results when we're evaluating a set of wines. She's in her 80s. She doesn't give a damn if wines have aging potential. She wants something to drink now that's smooth. On the other hand, point-scoring wine tasters give more credit to wines with cellaring potential.

You be the judge.

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Do I want to fight? Yes. No. Actually, I'm trying to get back to the roses (can't find the accents) I left at the bar.

I agree philosophically with Fat Guy but as hospitality people I think it is best in a mass market media event like the article to say "if you like it then it's good." People are so intimidated by wine that to have absolute edicts for the layman such as the Spectator rating then that is not doing the industry any good. I just want people to drink wine and not blue or red sweet cocktails.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

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

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If wines perform differently in different contexts, which I have no doubt is the case, that simply means the "equipment" we use to "measure" those wines is imprecise and inconsistent. That's different from saying that what they are doesn't matter, or that in matters of taste there's no dispute.

In addition, although I fully acknowledge the existence of preference, I assure you that viewed from the outside world the range of preference among wine experts is quite narrow. It's like a bunch of Trekkers, who have already embraced the entire Star Trek universe, arguing about Kirk v. Picard v. Archer. They think they're having a massive disagreement, but the rest of humankind regards Starfleet's choice of USS Enterprise captain as insignificant.

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)

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Yeah but they're all vegetarians except for Archer who eats steak like every day. The rest of them only eat replicated crap.

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)

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To answer Mr. Kolm's question about "performing"....

I find that sometimes a wine will show particular characteristics more readily when preceeding samples lack those features.

For example, a wine of a certain level of oak may strike one as extremely woody when the wines you've sniffed/tasted previous to it are non-wooded bottlings. The same wine will appear less oaky if tasted amongst a group of similarly oaked samples.

A 15% alcohol Chardonnay may seem way out of balance if you've just tasted a 12% alcohol, non-oaked Sancerre or 10% alcohol German Riesling. But put that wine in a line-up of similarly-styled Chardonnays and it likely fits into the set of wines without showing up as hugely imbalanced.

And that same Chardonnay will taste positively light and lively if you have it after a set of young, 2000 vintage Porto wines!

As someone posted about the "measuring devices" we're using being "imprecise," I can't imagine that a wine changes so radically from one taste to the next...it's the context that helps determine or change one's sensory impressions.

That's why I don't put a lot of trust in numerical scores...I'd rather read what a critic says in describing the wine than in simply the mindless score.

By the way, do you prefer blind tasting to critique wines or do you taste them un-masked?

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I assure you that viewed from the outside world the range of preference among wine experts is quite narrow.

This is becoming less true. There are two very diverse schools developing. One group like wines defined by acidity and terroir the other group loves power and oak and never the twain shall meet.

Those who love power score more elegant and balanced wines (my prejudice is obvious) lower and the other group knocks off points right away for alcohol and obvious oak (that would be me).

So who is right? (me)

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Yeah but what kind of spread are we talking about? +/- 5 points out of 100 on a given wine? Is there any wine that Parker gives a 99 to that some other established expert says should get 85? And even if there is, is that normal or the exception?

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)

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Yeah but what kind of spread are we talking about? +/- 5 points out of 100 on a given wine? Is there any wine that Parker gives a 99 to that some other established expert says should get 85? And even if there is, is that normal or the exception?

+ or - 5 is a huge spread as far as consumer reaction. 93 points is collectable 88 points is forgettable - sad as that may be.

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Have any of the wine geeks out there graphed a standard-deviation type thing for the wine ratings (of same wines) by Parker, WS, Tanzer, et al.?

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)

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For what it's worth... I believe that both the Decanter style of "grading" wines and the WS/Parker style have their purposes.

For wine drinkers who are developing both their palates and their vintage and region knowledge, the combination of a point system grade when (and only when) combined with tasting notes allows them to fine tune their understanding of what is valued in wines, how wines are described and what flavours, styles and aspects of wine appeal to their personal tastes (and what do not). In addition, as the palate becomes stronger, these can then be used to help with buying decisions.

For wine drinkers who have developed a strong palate and have a solid and deep knowledge of vintage and region, the Decanter style allows them to explore that palate while at the same time making informed guesses in their buying decisions.

fanatic...

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Petrus is better than jug wine. There. I said it.

I'm not so sure. Why not ship me a magnum of Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape and a couple of bottles of Petrus and I'll do a blind taste test. Or, I'll drink myself blind, or something.

Edited by hollywood (log)

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Have any of the wine geeks out there graphed a standard-deviation type thing for the wine ratings (of same wines) by Parker, WS, Tanzer, et al.?

In the end, you don't drink numbers. You drink the wine.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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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.

Yes but it's a long way from objectivity to a points system.

The problem with a points system is that (if I can get slightly technical) is that it is a total order. This means that for any two wines A and B either

A is better than B or B is better than A or they are of equal score. Now clearly this is rubbish -- there are often pairs of wines which are not comparable in any meaningful sense. Parker gives Petrus 96 the score of 92 points, and he gives Yquem 1991 91 points. And Lafon Meursault Charmes 96 gets 93 points. So what? so ... the Lafon is better than the Petrus is better than the Yquem? Well we already used the word for this a few posts back. Any system that allows that sort of inference is deeply flawed and objectionable.

But I have no problem at all with partial orders -- saying Petrus is better than a jug wine., but not committing to comparing Yquem to Petrus.

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Right, it's like how Zagat rates French bistros and Mexican taquerias on the same scale of points. It makes little sense. I'm much more inclined towards rankings that put comparable things in order (this Montrachet is better than that one). You won't find me defending scores and stars per se, especially in areas where quantification is so elusive (as opposed to grading a math test in school), but too many people, in pointing out the ridiculousness of these one-size-fits-all sytems, go off the deep end and reject the concepts of rating, ranking, and merit altogether. From there, it's hardly a stretch to "Grades in school are bad!" and other bogus anti-excellence deconstructionist commie "leveling" crap.

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)

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