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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wine Scores

The wine writer Robert Parker turned the industry on its ear when he established a 100 point rating system. His scores were taken seriously by retailer, wholesaler, and consumer alike. People would cite his score for a wine as an intrinsic fact of the wine.

Parker’s assessments are reasonable enough—knowledgeable if hyperbolically voiced—but, look, the scores take words away. The numbers hardly anchor to anything except a vaguely wrought system. They represent a shorthand for the lazy consumer.

As a writer in that environment, I had to maintain pressure on the fallacy that a 90 point wine is somehow 1 better than an 89, like the 11 on Spinal Tap’s amp. Taste and perceived value cannot be so rigidly quantified. Metrics must be brought into the human encounter, which is to say a wild card is constantly at play. Keep an eye on that wild card.

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