Scoring and the Relative 100 point scale

It should not be surprising that I continue to write about the controversy of scoring. As a member of the industry, it is something that directly impacts me. Additionally, I meet twice a month with friends to score wines and frequently discuss scoring methods and what might be the best way to determine wine quality.

We are afraid of becoming like the overconfident wine writer whose response to wineries when a wine receives a poor score is, Hey what can I do, if I don’t like it I don’t like it. At the surface, I have no problem with this statement, but its implicit that this person believes they are rarely incorrect. One quality I appreciate about our group is that after discussion – sometimes loud and heated – everyone in the group is willing to reevaluate an outlier low or high score. I think this is imperative when tasting 4 – 8 wines blind.

There is certainly going to be carry-over effect from one wine to another. The order one sniffs and tastes will directly impact the perception of an individual wine. We know that fatigue can set in even after 4 wines depending on the type. Furthermore, who drinks wine this way? I certainly don’t line up 6 glasses each with different wine when I sit down to eat my Potato Leek soup. Some of the top wine writers will blow through many more wines than our group in the same amount of time. I guess I am asking for a little more candor and humility from individuals and entities that make their money because they confidently back their educated opinions. This is easy when the typical American drinker continues to be intimidated about their own knowledge of wine.

In addition to the problems of hubris, carry-over, order of tasting, and the fact that nobody drinks wine in sets of 6 -20 blind, there is the issue of what scale to use to rate wine. The 100 point scale is the most popularized and will be the subject of the rest of this entry. Wine Spectator is my target because I have access to all scores for all wines they have tasted in the last 20 years. One of the problems we have with the 100 point scale is that it is a relative scale. I don’t think it was intended to be a relative scale, but it has definitely become this.