Gary V. is right about the 100 point system
“Yes,” Gary Vaynerchuk replied to Tom Wark yesterday, when Tom asked him “Is the 100-point wine rating scale a good thing?” on the Fermentation blog.
Finally something GeeVee and I can agree on! Yes, the 100 point scale is a good thing, and here’s why. If you see that a wine got 100 points from a reputable critic, it will get your attention. I don’t care who you are or what your views are on the 100 point system. It’s going to make you think about that wine. You will remember that wine. I still remember the first wine I ever heard about that Parker gave 100 points to. It was Groth Reserve, from (I think) 1985. I never even tasted that wine. But it was memorable.
Now, another critic who doesn’t use the 100 point system might give a wine his highest rating: 4 puffs, or 20 points, or 5 stars, or whatever. But you will not remember that wine because these things are not iconic enough to penetrate the mass of information we take in each day. But 100 points is. I can’t quite explain why, but there’s something so strong about 100 points that it just goes into the eyeball, hits the brain and lights up the mind like a pinball machine.
Now, if 100 points can have that impact on consciousness, I would argue so does every other number below 100 points. If you see 99 points, you’ll think, “Wow, that was almost 100 points.” You’ll wonder what it was that made the critic deduct that final point of perfection. You might find yourself reading the review to learn why. You might even Google the wine to see what other critics said about it. Same with 98 points, or 88 points, or whatever. Every point score, from a critic who uses the 100 point system, is measured against the 100 points the wine theoretically could have scored. When the reader sees the score, he or she automatically begins an internal evaluation process. It may not be fully conscious, but it occurs on some level: the 100 point system allows any wine to click into place on the quality spectrum, which is very easy for readers to comprehend.
People often ask me how I can justify any particular point score. Why 88, they’ll say. Why not 87, or 89? I’ve replied before that an 88 could easily be an 87 one day or an 89 the next day, maybe a 90 the day after that. I admit it. Bottles vary in temperament, the human body varies in its receptivity to aromas and tastes on a daily basis, etc. etc. This is why it’s important to remind readers that a score is a photograph of the critic’s reaction at a particular moment in time. The more reliable the critic, the more trustworthy you may assume his reaction to be. But obviously a point score is not meant to be taken as a mathematical certainty. This is what the haters of the 100 point system always fail to appreciate. They’re the ones who insist it purports to be a mathematical certainty–not the actual critics who use it. This is a straw man argument: opponents of the 100 point system claim something for it that not even its proponents do, in order to attack the thing claimed. It’s like one of my karate teachers, George, used to do. He’d go to a bar, get drunk, then walk up to some perfect stranger and accuse him of flirting with his girlfriend. In reality, the stranger hadn’t done anything, but George just loved pushing it to the point where he could beat the living daylights out of the poor shlep. This was a nasty, mean and probably insane thing for George to do (the truth is, George was a little crazy), but it’s like what the 100 point bashers do. They impute something to somebody that’s not true, and then they beat the guy up for it.
Anyway, Gary V. is right on when he says the 100 point system is a good thing. It is. It’s the best, most precise and comprehensible wine rating system ever invented. I add only that people should also read the accompanying text, not look only at the number.