Monday, August 24, 2009

No More Points

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm doing away with point ratings in my blog posts. There are simply too many instances where scoring become paradoxical. If I try to base ratings on quasi-objective standards, instances where a wine has a pronounced weakness tend to place a ceiling on a score regardless of its other attributes. At times I'm compelled to give a fascinating wine a lower score than a sound, yet innocuous wine. If ratings are simply an expression of how much I like a wine, though, they become utterly subjective and have no meaning from one wine to the next.

So I have a new approach. I'll list empirical observations as either pros or cons instead of assigning a number score. This allows for a succinct description expressing my opinions that nonetheless can be interpreted by a reader in terms of his or her tastes. Although observations of body, texture, finish, acidity, tannins and aromas still have an element of subjectivity, noting these observations is much fairer than somehow synthesizing them into a numerical result. This is particularly important when it comes to the New World-Old World dichotomy. If I'm expecting a wine to show a sense of place, but it turns out to be very international in style, I'll probably end up disliking it based on context. At times, though, I'm up for some creamy oak and barrel-derived aromas. Many wine drinkers, though, abhor Brett or oak or bell pepper altogether. For them, there is no middle ground. If I tell an Aussie Shiraz fan about a 92 point Chinon without mentioning that it has minimal oak influence, fresh acidity and a whole barnyard of Brett on the nose, what good is that?

Additionally, I'll be including my perception of the QPR, or Quality-Price Ratio, and my thoughts on decanting the wine. QPR will be listed as Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair being an average wine for a given price point. A "Fair" QPR performs as I'd expect given the price. As much as possible in the context of QPR, I'll attempt to consider the quality of the wine in terms of its intended style. The question of decanting is probably more subjective, but it's worth noting if a wine develops for the better with exposure to air. Decanting doesn't fix problems like heat or excessively hard tannins in my experience, but for wines built to age, it can unlock secondary aromas and flavors that are suppressed by the reductive world of the wine bottle. If I find a wine develops for the better (or worse as occasionally happens), I'll be sure to note it.

Instead of this:

Score: X
Price: $Y

You'll now see:

Pros: A list of what I liked
Cons: A list of what I didn't like
Decant: Yes/No with a time period suggested
Price: $Y
QPR: Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point


Jeff said...

Nice. I hate points. I don't think that they accurately convey much. I think it's ridiculous that a not very great wine may register an 80, or something in the high 70's. That's not very informative. I've had some shit wines that I'm sure would have scored somewhere around 80--which is essentially saying that it's really not that bad. Let's not even talk about the conceit that all wines receive 50 points just as a starting point. Then there's also the whole "grade on a curve thing." Is it really an 85 if it's average? I think not. And lastly, who can honestly differentiate from a 89 or a 90? A 79 or an 80? It's ridiculous. That's why I grade wines (purely for my own benefit, for what it's worth) on a grade basis...It's more like a ranking system. As in A: I like this a lot. It's really good. B: This is good. C: Average D: Below Average F: This Sucks.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I completely agree. I tried to use ratings thinking I could make it work. But it's really about a 25 point scale, if not 15 or 20. Wine did not used to be as consistent in the past as it is now, and critics probably used to use more of the range from 50-100. But almost any professional wine you can find is soundly made. That makes it about an 80-85, which is a "Good" wine. Average these days is the 80 point "Good" wine from a large producer.

A funny thing to do is look at a Parker vintage chart, and see that a 75 is an "average" vintage according to the system. But then practically every vintage is rated 85 and above! WTF?

The funny thing about 1 point differentials is that they mean so much! 89 and 90 is a world of difference, and I suspect the pro critics (except Jay Miller) realize this is like the wine Mendoza line. If you give a 90, it must wow you since average consumers will want it over anything 89 or below.

Jeff said...

Funny about the vintage charts. I wonder what a 75 vintage is really like? Grading on a curve, I tell you...I didn't think about the one point differential in that way, but you're probably right. It's depressing to me that something as interesting and complex as wine can be reduced to such a souless enterprise for the masses...thus the allure of points. Is there any other food rated this way? It is really weird. You don't see people rating the best apples, or the best chicken, or the best steak...