Ok so I’ve kind of touched on this before in a previous post (We need to talk about value), but I think that this needs a bit more attention.
Wine is NOT a competition. Do you hear me? Listen closely.
Everywhere you look in wine advertising, you see points. Points everywhere, and all of them dizzyingly high. 96 Points! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! 19/20!
Pity that much of it means absolutely nothing, and is subsequently almost useless to you as a consumer. In fact I almost called this post ‘Pointing in the wrong direction’ as it would have been an equally apt title.
Let’s take a step back and provide some context.
Once upon a time, the wine-show medal sticker was the chosen method of providing a false measure of quality to average wines. Not all wine shows are created equal, you see, and so a ‘gold’ or ‘trophy’ at the Royal Melbourne meant a lot more than the same award at a wine show featuring the 15 wines that were made within 50km of the town hall in Karratha (and size of city does not equal quality of show, not even close). Not that this stopped the wineries and their marketing teams plastering the little stickers everywhere you could see. And don’t even get me started on the wines that had rows of ‘bronze’ on the label – a bronze being awarded to pretty much any wine that didn’t cause permanent blindness (not 3rd place).
But there was a problem with wine shows, that being that to earn one of those little stickers you needed to have someone with at least the impression of impartiality judge the wine, blindly, before giving a score.
Enter the rise of the ‘points system’. Several highly influential critics have made their reputations, and those of many a wine, on the scores that they have dished out. Rightly or wrongly it moves the market and helps sell wine as some of these people are true professionals. But just like any idiot can put some words on a page and call themselves a wine blogger (whoa. I just had a meta-moment there), anyone can taste a wine and award it a score (for someone else to plaster all over their marketing material).
Say you’ve got a heap of wine that you want to sell, especially when it’s a ‘home brand’ that you earn high margins on (*cough* Supermarket Liquor Chains *cough*) – Tell people that your ‘tasting panel’ awarded it 96 points and watch it fly out the door. Do we all see the problem here?
Furthermore, the scoring system is waaaaaay out of whack when everything is concentrated right at the top of the range. I was flicking through one of Australia’s most respected annual wine books and there are that many wines that have scores of 95+ points it’s almost comical. The scores infer that it’s a competition, but the groupings are more in line with ‘every player wins a prize’.
And what does 95 points mean to YOU anyway? The person who judged it thought it was pretty good but that score says nothing of your taste, nor whether the wine is appropriate for the dinner that you’re going to!
A perfect wine experience does not require a “perfect” wine; it just has to be the right wine for the mood – be it a $15 or $150 bottle. You’ll know when it happens, you couldn’t possibly imagine anything more enjoyable in your glass. So get some good service and create your own perfect experiences (LTLT can help!) – they’re worth a whole lot more than a point score.