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Wine scores and the holidays

image from www.torontolife.comThe blog has seen a tremendous uptick in visitors over the past month, and many of them (based on what they're searching for when they get here) seem to be new or beginning wine drinkers looking for holiday wine. For which the Wine Curmudgeon is most grateful, since that's one of the blog's reasons for being.

One thing that may confuse new visitors here is that there aren't any scores. I don't grade wines on the 100-point system, like so many other wine writers, sites, magazines and blogs do. I just tell you what they taste like so you can draw your own conclusions.

That's because scores, at best, are sloppy journalism, an easy way to get around describing the wine. At worst, scores are dishonest. No one is ever going to give a $100 wine an 88, and no $10 wine will ever get a 95. Even the most horrible wines rarely score worse than 80, which is supposed to be the cutoff between good and average.

Bill St. John, a Chicago writer who knows his way around wine quite well, has encapsulated this contradiction very nicely. What he said and why it matters is after the jump:


Wrote St. John:

… [U]nlike scholastic achievement that receives grades, wine points don't bestow any inherent quality on the wine that they evaluate, nor do they actually reflect what quality is in the bottle.

They are one person's (or panel of judges' or website's) opinion or judgment about a beverage that certainly is open to many qualitative interpretations or evaluations. On school exams, for the most part, answers are either correct or incorrect. You cannot say the same thing about a wine.

The Number stands in for a plethora of predictions and findings, adjectives and (sometimes purple) prose. Like an automated teller machine, they take the place of a person. …

Couldn't have put it better myself, and I certainly have tried. Also, St. John reviews three wines that he liked but that didn't get great scores, a truly brilliant piece of journalism and one that may turn up as a regular feature here.

His other welcome piece of advice, which anyone starting out with wine should heed whenever possible: "The best thing for all of us to do when choosing wine is to form our own judgments about it, by tasting as many different wines as possible, learning about them and enjoying them in the company of others who both share the experience and talk about it."

Which, of course, is one of the reasons that wine is so much fun — something that too many experienced wine drinkers lose sight of.

  • AC

    I give this post 90+ points! Well said…

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