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Does anything matter besides the score?

53 comments

Sometimes I get weary. I work so hard on each and every review in Wine Enthusiast. I’ll use my Thesaurus to come up with just the right adjective. I’ll sweat the difference between black cherries and black raspberries because I want to nail that fruit. I’ll write a phrase, then decide it doesn’t work, get rid of it and start again. I’ll go into our database and see what I did with previous releases so I can make comparisons. I’ll try to work in a reference to the vintage. I’ll edit and re-edit the text of my reviews until they shine like a haiku, and I don’t hit that “send” button until I know it’s something I can be proud of. All for 35 or 40 words!

And then I go out on the road, and inevitably I’ll run into someone — a winemaker, P.R. person, winery executive or just plain consumer — who with brutal frankness says, “Steve, you know, all anybody cares about is the score. The actual review doesn’t matter.”

And that’s when I get weary and deflated. Has it come to this, where the only thing that matters is the number?

I understand the natural human tendency to want information instantly, to desire by some iconographic means to know what somebody thinks without having to go through the trouble of actually reading an opinion. I share that tendency myself. When Mick LaSalle, the S.F. Chronicle’s fine film critic, reviews a movie, the first thing I look for is what the famous Little Man is doing.

the_little_man

If the chair is empty I know Mick hated the movie. If the Little Man is leaping out of his seat, Mick loved it. Isn’t this the equivalent of a 5-point scoring system? It is.

But I also read Mick’s reviews. It’s not enough, for me at least, to just take in the image. I want to know exactly how and why Mick arrived at his conclusion. And I also want the pleasure of reading Mick’s reviews, because he’s an awfully good writer, and I infer that he edits and re-edits his copy as rigorously as I do mine. Probably more so.

On the other hand, I admit there’s a limit to how much “writerly-ness” a short wine review can contain. Yesterday, Tom Wark wrote a post over at Fermentation entitled “An Open Door To Real Wine Criticism.” If I read it right (and Tom’s dense, layered posts often lend themselves to various interpretations), Tom is calling for better written, more thoughtful wine writing that reflects, not only the writer’s opinion of the wine, but even “the current state of politics, culture or social interaction” in America. Tom alluded to my own post from last week (“Why wine criticism isn’t as important as film criticism”) to call for greater “intellectual heft” in wine writing. I could do that, I suppose (although it would be pretty hard to wax eloquently about politics and culture in a 35-word review and still get a word in edgewise about the wine itself!). But why bother, if nobody’s reading the text?

Why don’t people read the text? Is everybody so hurried and harried that we don’t have time to do anything anymore? Or is it that we, the wine writers, are failing to deliver prose that’s scintillating enough to turn readers on (which seems to be what Tom is saying)? I think some wine writers are tumbling to the truth that we do have to do a better writing job –  more elegant, more eloquent, more complex, just as we demand of the wines we review. Last December Asimov, at The Pour (and no slouch himself when it comes to writing), touched on this when he described wine writing that “reflexively resort[s] to…trite explanatory notions. Cobbled together, they can flesh out a standard-issue column or two” but, alas, they lack “more interesting and useful information.” Eric vowed to try harder.

But ultimately, maybe it doesn’t matter what Eric or I or any wine writer writes. In this age of Twitter Taste Mini Reviews, who’s got the time to worry about quality of writing? What counts is quantity, speed and the number of Followers you have.

  1. Very well put, Steve. Numbers are not everything

  2. Well, I certainly agree that numbers aren’t everything.

    But I wouldn’t dismiss the twitter reviews (full disclosure: I author some!) too casually – I spend more time writing those things than I do on entire paragraphs on my blog. The brevity makes them more difficult for me to write and convey something hopefully meaningful about the wine…

  3. Sherman says:

    The review matters only to a small percentage of the wine buying public (the enthusiast portion, probably 15-20% of the whole). To the 80+% of the occasional wine buyers, the review is important ONLY if the score is good enough to attract their attention while they glance over the intimidating “wall of wine” that presents itself in most retail establishments. If you can grab their attention with a great score, or a LARGE ENOUGH shelf talker, or a CUTE label — then you might make a sale.

    So please DO polish that prose and use your Thesaurus, keeping us faithful enthusiasts in mind who DO care about the review. The mass consumer will do what they want regardless — although once in a while, we get a “light bulb” moment when they get it and you can see the beginnings of a new enthusiast.

    After years in the biz, both on the wholesale and retail sides of the playing field, I’ve seen it numerous times and it’s one of the reasons while I’m still in the game (aside from the fabulous wines, terrific pre-paid junkets and the HUGE paychecks, of course;).

  4. Maybe our store is an anomaly but it has been my experience in the past five years that scores are becoming less important. Now this could be in part because our shop has never posted scores, never thought they were relevant to the end consumer, what they were going to do with the wine, what they were serving it with….a Parker 98, (and you know what that means) with your poached fish? Ewe. Maybe we chased off all the score chasers by not buying wines based on any publications review. We taste wine and decide if we have a customer base for it…no magazine can tell us that. By our own doing or not I can tell you that only once in the past three years have I heard, “Where are the scores?” the funny thing was this customer also admitted to being new to wine, not trusting his young palate and believed the text provided on the back label over our shelf talkers….

  5. Samantha, that is undoubtedly the case in your store, as in others. But the broad mass of distributors still demands scores, or so I’m told.

  6. Sherman, yeah, those huge paychecks make it all worth it! LOL

  7. Dude, I knew you’d be weighing in on this. And to tell you the truth, I know that you work hard on making those little nuggets shine. And I respect that.

  8. Time and time again, wine makers make this assertion to me as well. And consumers and their purchasing patterns and habits prove them right.
    It sucks, but it’s the truth.
    That being said, I no longer waste energy on polishing verbiage or flipping though reference tomes. I focus on describing the stuff – as accurately as possible, in a way that will be understandable to as many people as possible. Ultimately, that is the foundation of my rating – not inventive wording or citing a vintage’s heat (when the year was a cool one….) or comparing the wine to a car/flower/music/woman’s anatomy.
    If I want that kind of stuff, I’ll open my copy of Leaves of Grass.
    When I am about to make a purchasing decision, I want clear and reliable information about the product. Consumers deserve a critic keeping that in mind.
    That is why I think Tom’s post (while interesting but way over the top) and Steve’s response (driven by a desire to exercise creative writing) completely miss the point of what wine reviews should be: a consumer product evaluation that serves the reader/consumer’s need and not the author’s needs for a creative outlet.

  9. Richard says:

    Steve, sadly, the score is all that matters to most people, I believe. Yes, as some have indicated, there are those of us who will actually read the comments, but for the general public, the score is what they see.

    In fact, I would speculate that if someone read a review of a wine that said “excellent example of Zinfandel with ripe black fruit and wonderful Zinfandel qualities, mid palate of cherry and peppery spice…” etc. and the score was say”89″ and another wine had a descriptor of “A pretty good Zin with overtones of some over ripe fruit with a real backbone punch. Mid palate is rather overdone and finish is all tobacco and overripeness…” etc., but the score was “92,” the consumer would, in 99% of the cases, take the 92 – if both were comparably priced.

    I say this, not to argue, but from personal experience – I make a few Zins which have had some wonderful write-ups, but not high scores (and by “not high,” I mean between 89-92) and the consumers at trade and wine shows, invariably, take the higher scored wine, regardless of write up…

    So, please do continue to work hard on your reviews – we all read them! but again, think we’re in the minority and generally people only look at your scores!

  10. Steve, WineX tried desperately to infuse some creativity into wine reviews, but just ended up looking stupid most of the time and confusing anyone over 22 years old all of the time. I too work hard to keep the allotted 40 words interesting, but there are real limits on what you can do with a brief, wine-specific review. So I put the big effort into all the other wine-related writing that I do, and have given up trying to eliminate the importance of the number. The Number has driven wine sales for the past 20 years, and in most instances will probably continue to do so for awhile longer, whatever we say or do. C’est la vie de vino…

  11. There is one key element missing in wine reviews. As Karen McNeill put it, “wine requires two assessments: one subjective [appreciation], the other objective [content & taxonomy]. In this, it is like literature. One of the most insidious myths in American wine culture is that a wine is good if you like it”. Or as Kermit Lynch said: “ We Americans with our new world innocence and democratic sensibilities tend to think that all wines are created equal, and that differences in quality are simply a matter of individual taste. Just as France had its kings, noblemen and commoners, French wine has its grands crus, premiers crus… One understands the style of California wines better when one understands the pioneer spirit; and one cannot appreciate French wines with any depth without knowing how the French themselves look at their wines”.

  12. Let’s face it. Scores matter. To suggest otherwise is to deny the truth. For every Sam Duggan who hand sells every wine in her store, there are thousands of consumers who do not shop at diligent wine merchants. Either they cannot or they do not feel the need, or frankly, they are intimidated by the deep knowledge and opinions of people they do not know. My neighbors do not need a wine merchant. Safeway and shelf talkers are enough for them when they are not drinking my wine.

    For every geek who says scores don’t matter, there are thousands of subscribers to publications who do say that scores matter to them.

    Ratings matter. Like Steve, I live in the Bay Area and pay great attention to Mick Lasalle’s movie reviews. I don’t have to agree with them, and often choose a lower rated movie to one of Lasalle’s artsy picks because his reviews are such that I can find a movie I want to see by content and comment, not by rating.

    The same is true for wine reviews. The redoubtable Ms. Duggan (and if you are not reading her blog, Samantha Sans Dosage, for its wine-oriented literary content, you ought to be) may or may not be right about Parker 98 point wines. You have to read Parker to know if any of them fit your palate. No read. No know.

    It is true for all reviewers. This ratings topic comes up in blogs fairly regularly and my favorite comment about my rag came from a subscriber who wrote in “I don’t buy wine by Connoisseurs’ Guide ratings, I buy wine by the words that describe the wine. Often, the best wine is not the highest rated because it does not fit my palate or the dish I am serving. But, because the words are there, I can find wines that are right for me, and that is why words matter.”

    Frankly, I could not have said it better myself.

  13. Steve – I find a subtext in Tom’s posts and the discussions that follow, that the writing matters to a niche market of consumers. I doubt people would pay for a subscription to WE or to Charlie’s Guide or any other if it were not so. Perhaps you have nailed it when you note that it is distributors that demand scores. Those erudite upstanding supporters of free trade seem to rely on the numerical scores to power their sorting at the gate, but find little added value for their business in the verbiage.

  14. Steve:

    Unfortunately, your magazine and you are at cross-purposes as far as the prose meaning something (most other magazines are in the same boat).

    Looking at the typical Buying Guide is no different than looking at the typical wine store “Wine Wall.” There are too many reviews per issue. One becomes inured to the words, in part, because the physical page format doesn’t beckon one to come in, kick off the shoes, and stay a while. It says…”got too much ground to cover; scan the scores; stop, but only for a second, at a producer you know; then get through the rest, hurry, hurry.

    I would think your blog, until changes can be made in the big wine magazines, is the place to wax poetical, historical, viticultural. You’re doing that now, and I always stop to read.

  15. That’s BS. I HATE when “writers” give scores with no tasting notes!! It’s so freaking lazy, not to mention completely un-usable as point of sale. The score can only ever give an indication of quality- but it’s the STYLE that is going to make the sale- a 92 point cab that tastes like berries is absolutely going to draw a different buyer than a 92 point cab that tastes like leather and tobacco.
    Of course we’d prefer to taste and do staff reviews, but usually new stuff comes in groups, and we don’t always get a chance to taste everything right away- those nuggets of yours are incredibly helpful. I find the text especially useful when a new vintage is released- I’ve been burned before recommending something based on how much I liked a previous vintage.

  16. Steve – I’ll echo your comments about distributors and scores…to a point. I do have distributors that claim “None of my customers want to see a wine unless it’s 90+”, even for sub-$20 wines that are written up in W/S as a top value selection. This still seems strange to me, but I think many people don’t read the prose below their point threshold. You could likely write finely honed Shakespearean, and some people will still not give it a glance.

    That said, I think that there is a lot more that retailers can do to get people past the scores. Many do a fantastic job of pulling the golden nuggets from reviewsand posting with (OK) or without (Better) the scores themselves. Over time, their customers learn what each reviewer means when he/she talks of “silky tannins” or “bright fruit”. By the way, these are the retailers to which some of the best customers in the world stay loyal.

  17. It all matters, that’s the best part… It’s just expanding very quickly in the past couple of years, and we’re all still adjusting to Web 2.0 leveling the playing field a bit. The strong players aren’t off the field, they’ve just now got an opposing team…

    I once had someone – years ago – tell that any effort to level the playing field a bit was… Well, he said, “Do you know how dangerous that would be?” I was suggesting writing awards for communications excellence for staff writers in the industry.

    Back in the 1990′s it was perceived as “dangerous.” We’re at least getting over the Great Wall, and finding a new playing field, where everyone is still judged on excellent writing skills.

    Here’s a wild thought… Giving writers scores, too! Yikes… Sorry, I just had to add a bit of levity… I’m enjoying the chairs above, and taking off on the humor.

  18. Stephen Hare says:

    Good article, Steve…I give it 89 points.

  19. Steve, please keep polishing, reviews matter. Even when I look at reviews on a site like Amazon, I want to see why they like it or don’t like it. And lots of distributors still do want scores, but many don’t, and in my experience very few of their customers seem to care.

  20. Steve, do you want an honest answer from someone who has been in the business for less then a year?

    They all sound the same. Many reviews miss the point, they mention flavors that the average consumer either doesn’t believe are there, or doesn’t care because they can’t experience themself.

    What is cassis? Nobody in a tasting room outside of the staff can tell you, even if they have been drinking wine their whole life and can afford $125 Cab.

    I think reviewers (all due respect) need to focus more on what people can experience and less on the more intimate flavors. Tell us about mouthfeel etc more and I think it will help.

    That being said, I do read the entire thing and enjoy when people take the time for the short paragraphs to read fluidly and easily.

  21. Everybody: I want to apologize for being so slow in getting today’s comments up. I have been all day in the wilds of the Sonoma coastal mountains, where as many of you know there is no internet or anything like that. I finally found a place where I could plug into somebody’s satellite connection. I know people want their comments posted fast but I can’t always do it. Thanks.

  22. Steve, I agree with a previous commenter who said that for a larger percentage of wine buyers, the number is all that is important. Ah but for the other percentage! These words may be as close as we ever come to a bottle of that wine. When they are well written and descriptive, it can almost (almost) be like having a glass before you. Nothing is more discouraging than reading a tasting note and getting no real sense of the wine. It seems so joyless regardless of what the score is. So know that while there are many out there that don’t care about anything but the score, there are also many – albeit a small number out there – that delight in them.

  23. Steve,
    I think you do a great job so keep it up. I do think that Wine & Spirits does some interesting things with their reviews. They sometime mention winemaking techniques(sur lies, oak %, clones) and even mention the winemaker or the winemakers approach. Also they will give a pairing suggestion. This adds some interest to the reviews.

    Let’s face it, most wines of the same varietal have very similar descriptors, so reviews that only talk about the taste of the wine are very repetitive. Dark fruit in a Syrah? Really? A Petite Sirah with Blueberry and graphite? You don’t say? Of course there is variation and that is important, but I have often thought that the 35 word blurbs that all sound alike really turn the average wine consumer off and even some of the enthusiasts.

    You clearly are talented and can write anything. Doesn’t writing 100 Buttery Chards, Mineral Reisling, Silky Pinot reviews drive you nuts?

  24. hmmm. How does one really approach this Q… the answer might involve winemakers and growers harvesting grapes on time instead of ridicules sugar levels for guys like RP and WS… (critics who live on the east coast) The answer might be found in the wine shops where the wine shop owners lazily regurgitate silly #’s… They used to engage their clients and establish relationships finding out their style and only then make recommendations. It might involve winemakers placing their precious juice in less than 50% new oak relying more on natural vineyard flavors… Ya know on second thought, no nothing else matters other than that golden egg, I mean #. What a joke this industry found itself in. It would be even funnier if folks making good balanced wine aren’t losing their financial asses and the guys who are completely disrespecting the grapes, making liquid oaky glycerin prune juice getting’ all the cookies.

    Thank you Corporate Wine People.

  25. The great majority of buyers, who after all are the real audience for wine mags and blogs, want to know how much quality they can buy for the least amount of money. The scores plus retail prices are the only data they need. (Connoisseurs and other elites want more but they are less than 5% of the market).

    Therefore, journalists like Steve should give less time to reviews–and he himself made the case for this–and more time doing what he does well, write. Move closer to the Rod Smith school of wine writing. As was reported in a Dec. blog I think, Rod asserted he is a wine writer not a critic. This may be too narrow, but he does a superb job of providing the back story, injecting the human and societal dimensions that make our beverage so much more interesting and signficant than Diet Coke (though this has its own anthropological importance, I suppose).

    It’s the articles that really count, not the Twitter size descriptions of wines filled with fruits etc. This is where Tom W. can have his objective met. Concentrate on those profiles of winemakers like Richard Sanford or of regions or I suppose of vintages, if you must. Much of wine writing should be a variation on travel writing. And it can contain both reportage and criticism.

  26. Tom, fortunately I can walk and chew gum at the same time. If you want to read my inner Rod Smith, you can buy my books, read this blog and my longer articles in Wine Enthusiast. Of course, you don’t have to read my wine reviews if they bore you!

  27. David, I’ll sometimes mention winemaking techniques also, but keep in mind that usually, when a critic includes some of that information, it’s straight off a press release or technical info sheet. As for food pairing reccos, I’d like to do more of them.

  28. Steve,

    The three line wine reviews don’t bore me (you seem to be confusing my comment with David’s), but like god they are just irrelevant, in this case for picking wines. We have a philosophical difference (like you I majored in philosophy, so the common use of this term doesn’t sit well with me). You know by now that I’m not interested in what a single wine guru thinks of different wines. I want to know what emerges from a large panel of wine drinkers.

    I won’t buy your books because I don’t buy books any more, but the articles about the topics I mentioned are worth perusing because you can flesh out your perspective.

  29. Steve,

    Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I greatly appreciate the hard work that you put into developing your tasting notes. When seeking out a new wine to try, the descriptors in a well written tasting note go a long way in helping me match my own individual palate to a prospective bottle. I could care less about the score. You efforts to communicate with such detailed accuracy are greatly appreciated.

  30. Let me see if I have this straight.

    –God irrelevant.
    –Three line wine reviews are as irrelevant as god.
    –Steve Heimoff’s books are irrelevant.

    –The opinions of amateurs tasting wines to which they have already shown a preference by purchasing those wines and then tasting them in the best possible setting and with the labels showing is relevant.

    Now, I was no philosophy major, but if I get this right, the opinions of the amateurs collectively has become your new god.

    I get it. And here is how it works. If several hundred thousand drinkers prefer Two Buck Chuck to Williams Selyem, then Two Buck Chuck is god and Freddy Franzia is king.

    Mr. Merle, you are late to the parade. King Freddy rose to the throne ages ago. You must not have been paying attention.

  31. Charlie, lol. I agree. Group wine rankings are so American Idol.

  32. Walt, you are a rarity, somebody who doesn’t care about the score!

  33. Scores, puffs and stars and other rating scales that don’t involve text are for lazy wine writers who write for lazy distributors who sell to lazy-ass clients. Common denominator?

    L A Z Y!

  34. mikael gulyash says:

    Steve,

    I didn’t read every reply, but it seems you’re missing one point, the owners.

    I just recently had the pleasure of receiving a ” high score ” ( from you on a zin ) and for the first time since working with the winery owner, was given the ” pat on the back ” for a job well done.

    It seems it has mattered less to him that we have had the good fortune to sell out most of his wine. We continue to grow approx 40% each year over previous years, and we have been selling in a ” higher ” priced market segment.

    The market reception has been phenomenal since the first day, but there was always something lacking…….. oh yeah, a score.

    I have yet to work with an owner that doesn’t use that as the benchmark.

  35. Charlie, for being so learned you have a way of scrambling what someone else who takes a different POV has written.

    -The first line is correct inserted by way of allusion
    -three line reviews from the members of the Mandarin class written solo in sterile laboratory conditions are irrelevant to me, though not to each other nor to a small band of brothers and to those producers eager to clear the 90pt bar
    -the lone professional does evaluate oftentimes with the labels showing, eg, SH, RP, AY etc.
    -three line reviews found on CellarTracer/GrapeStories/Snooth and other consumer channels such as TasteLive and wine Tweetups are relevant.
    Some such gatherings of lowly amateurs involve blind assessments, some not.
    -Steve’s last book consisted of interviews. Not a real book, but even so, no time to read. In terms of age, I’m moving toward the exit from life, so have to carefully choose priorities.

    No gods involved–though Fred Franzia and bros come close–just fellow wine lovers offering opinions. Only the Experts think in terms of god.

    Here’s how it works: you seek out consumers like yourself, i.e. discriminating drinkers who enjoy wine with Tuesday’s night dinner, to record their findings. The collective result carries more weight than all those critics (unless we could glean a median score from their reviews, but no one is trying to do this).

    So this past weekend 20 members of our wine club, some novices, some geeks, tasted blind a dozen top notch Pinots chosen by Barbara Drady’s Pinot Noir Wine Summit judges. One clear winner emerged from the people: the 2007 Sonoma Coast Freestone Vineyard, scoring a 4.31=92+. None of the other wines made it out of the high 3s. We’ll post the results on our blog (http:blog.bayareawinesociety.org); no subscription necessary.

    Onwards and upwards

  36. Mikael, sorry to hear that! Winery owners and bosses: Give your employees an occasional pat on the back and a “thank you.” I won’t kill you, and it will make them better employees. Really.

  37. mikael gulyash says:

    Steve,

    Thanks but the point is the way the attitude drives the winemaking.

    The singular obsession drives an irrational attitude. If the vineyard simply doesn’t have the capacity to give a ” Parker 95 “, then every day in the cellar can become a ” what have you done for me lately ” scenario.

  38. mikael gulyash says:

    Steve,

    Oh by the way, sorry to read about your recent demise, what’m I gonna do now for scores now ?

  39. I’ll still be reviewing wines. Just send them to me in Heaven. Don’t forget to include suggested retail prices.

  40. mikael gulyash says:

    Steve

    This isn’t heaven, it’s Dry Creek !

    I have the best situation in the world there, we get pretty much total creative license, support from the owner and a great vineyard so don’t get me wrong, nothing could be better.

  41. Randy says–

    <>

    I respond–

    Dear Randy,
    I can’t tell from this text whether you are head over heels in love with Connoisseur’ Guide (my rag in case you are not familiar with it) or you are truly not familiar enough to Connoisseurs’ Guide to think that we publish only ratings with no text.

    So, I am going to believe that you actually do know that the only “puffs” in all the wine world appear in Connoisseurs’ Guide and that we (the folks at the Guide) call them STARS because they are modelled after the “etoiles” (French for stars) that appear in the Guide Michelin ratings for restaurants.

    And, Randy, since you know that our “puffs” are “stars” and are unique to Connoisseurs’ Guide, then I am also going to assume that you know, as does Mr. Merle if he has been paying attention, that the Guide has forever written reviews that run from 50 words to 150 words and that we taste everything blind, retaste the wines with food for all our evening tastings and that we have, from the first day of publication, included the following comment in every single issue of Connoisseurs’ Guide:

    “Even wines not marked with stars can be delightful wines. Each has unique virtues and any of these wines may be the best wine to serve your needs based on value, availability or your dining or taste preferences. ”

    And while writers like Steve, Paul Gregutt and other pros who do a conscientious job of writing tasting notes, may not write as many words as I do, they all understand that each wine is described through the words they write and that the score is just a shorthand notation that summarizes each of our preferences.

    So, thank you for your praise of Connoisseurs’ Guide. It is well-deserved because of the hard work that we put into the lengthy blind tastings of no more than sixteen reds or twenty whites in a single three-hour tasting and the time we then take to craft descriptions that will lead our readers, through our words, to the wines that are best for them.

  42. Note to Tom Merle–

    We have been around this race track enough times for me to not repeat myself (again) so I will just make this one note.

    I could care less whether you prefer the three line reviews on CT to the reviews from Steve Heimoff or the reviews from me. Your preference is your preference, and you certainly have been around the biz long enough to know what feels right to you and to have a basis for that judgment.

    But, when you denigrate the millions of readers who pay for professional wine reviews by calling them a “small band” as if they were the outliers, you are simply off base, you are confusing your narrow preference with the world.

  43. I’m just so slow. I had no idea that there are “millions of readers who pay for professional wine reviews.” I thought, apparently wrongly, that most of those who buy the wine mags around the world bought them not for the reviews, but for the articles. No doubt they are curious which wines scored the 95s, but little did I know that subscribers and others read through the thumbnail descriptions of the Tuscan or Washington reds or even the Napa Cabs when, to continue the theme here, I figured they were looking to see where some wines they knew fell on numbers spectrum.

  44. I received a 2008 offering from a garagiste winery in Sonoma County last week. One-line descriptions of each wine from the owner, followed by Robert Parker scores. No tasting notes. I shook my head and threw the letter in the recycling bin.

  45. Tone Kelly says:

    I believe that paying attention to the actual words requires some level of confidence and experience with wine over many years. Early on in one’s drinking lifetime (e.g. start at 21 – end??) we lack the experience to know what wines we really like and value. Scores serve as a way to easily decide if one should try a wine. After developing experience, I began to realize that even if a wine received a 100 point score, if it wasn’t my style, I wouldn’t buy it.

  46. Lisa, as Ricky Ricardo would say, Ai yi yi.

  47. Sorry Charlie, my comments are short but to the point. Unlike you cats, I gotta get up early and actually go to work in this industry… You know in the vineyards, cellar and TR in the PM. Real wine industry work. I don’t have the luxury in offering daily dissertations of opinion (don’t confuse what you offer as anything other than slightly oxygenated, overly-aged OPINION). It’s a rainy Sunday and my daughter is fed, so I’ll expand on my thoughts. I’ve made it my professional and career goal in life to pay my mortgage and bills with out huffin’ puffs, or smokes or stars or what ever else “professional” wine jockies release from their daily keyboards. I promise you this though sir, in many ways, doing the wine gig with out “professional” reviews will substantiate my success ever more that those who rely on the crutch of scores. I already see the tide turning on folks who taut their poser-ass scores on their websites and retail windows. It’s called the younger gen and they get it. THEY’RE the ones I hear clowning wineries who push their scores on them in the TR or wine shops.

  48. …a score can easily be remembered..94, as compared to 50-60 words are probably not written in haiku or simple Dr. Seuss rhetoric that is easily remembered. None the less, I do enjoy reading the comments, but usually just remember the score

  49. Scores should be a broad brush, not a cut-off point on whether the wine will get into Harvard or Cambridge.
    Problem is phone apps are made for scores.

  50. Mick LaSalle says:

    Hi Steve: Thanks — and for the record, I ALWAYS read the wine review — I don’t just go by the score. The score is just there to catch my eye. The review is the substance.

    MICK

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