Thursday, July 16, 2009

A note about points...

Working in the wine industry, one of the first questions you get upon presenting a wine to someone is "what did it score?". To those of you new to the wine-world, let me explain. There are several publications out there that rank wines on a scale of 50-100, with 100 being a "perfect" example of that varietal. The big publications that some people pay attention to are The Wine Spectator, and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Of course, there are also scores from Wine Enthusiast, Wine and Spirits, Stephen Tanzer (whom I personally like), and several dozen websites.

Even though these scales are from 50-100, in reality it's a 20 point scale. Very rarely do wines get less than 80 points. I have never seen one scored less than 70, and published. Also, there is a huge jump in people's mind between 89 and 90 points, which is pretty dumb. If you want to find some of the best value wines out there, go find some at 88 or 89 points, because the wineries won't have bumped their prices once they got 90.

The way to honestly use this system, especially for beginners, is first to find a wine that you really like. Then, go find a critic that has scored that wine highly. You can then have some indication that the particular critic you found has similar likes to yours. Following that person's palate will likely lead you to other wines that you like.

Please, I beg you, do not rush out and get the newest issue of Spectator, pick out all the 90+ point wines, and go try to buy them. Remember, this is a subjective score. It just means that one person liked that wine on one particular day. Your best bet is to get to know the people at a wine shop. Let them know what you like, and what you don't like, and have them help you pick out wines.

Have confidence in what you like. If you drink a wine, and you think it's delicious, that's the point! If you then find out that some dumbass publication gave it 78 points, don't let it ruin your joy. Drink up, and enjoy. This is, of course, unless it's made by Yellow Tail or Charles Shaw. In that case, the wine sucks and you would be better off spending your money on beer.

Also- don't pick a wine simply because it has a cool, flashy shelf talker (the little piece of paper that hangs in front of the wine on the rack). These are tools that us sales-type people use to entice you to buy our product. Some of them are legit, especially if the wine shop staff writes them. Most of them are full of marketing lingo, points from who-knows-where, and very little useful information.

Today's recommendation-
Try the 2007 Sandrone Dolcetto d'alba. This is from the producer of some of the most highly regarded Barolos in the world. (Barolo is an area in Piedmont, Italy- they make incredibly wonderful, fragrant wines from the Nebbiolo grape. They are usually also really expensive.) This Dolcetto (made from the Dolcetto Grape, near the town of Alba), costs a lot less, and is a wonderful mix of bright red fruits and old world rusticity. This should cost you around $22.


1 comment:

  1. Great information about the points system.... I had no idea that the scale was so abbreviated. Maybe it's just because we're all so used to a full 100 point scale but I have to believe its done to mislead us wine amateurs.