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Wine scores: Still more work to do

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At a wine function the other day, I met two intelligent, well-read wine drinkers. This was a big-deal tasting, and they wouldn’t have been invited unless they knew what they were doing. I introduced myself, and I told them what I did for a living. One of the duo asked me how I scored wine. I told her that I didn’t use scores. She was quite surprised. How do you evaluate wine if you don’t use scores? she asked.

It was another Wine Curmudgeon moment.

Regular visitors here know how I feel about scores. And if you’re here for the first time, you can probably guess. I don’t like them.

At best, wine scores are sloppy, an excuse for discussing what the wine tastes like and what it pairs with. At their 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.

And none of this takes into account individual taste, what mood the person doing the scoring was in that day, or any of a dozen other variables like experience and wine knowledge. My scoring (if I did it) is going to be different from yours which is going to be different from your next door neighbor. So why should my wine scores count more than yours? You’re going to be drinking the wine, after all.

I tried to explain this to the person at the tasting, and I think I made some headway. She nodded in agreement when I said my goal was to give the reader enough information to make up his or her own mind. I’m the conduit, I said, not the final arbiter. Her husband seemed to be even more favorably impressed, and I may even had made a convert.

One down, millions more to go.

A footnote: One of the wines served at this event was a 100-pointer (which I’ll write more about later). I glanced at my companions when we found out what it was, and they both shook their heads. Neither could believe it was perfect.

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