Wine Beyond Points
When something comes along that makes life more secure, the immediate reaction is to
embrace it. For much of the wine world, the 100-point system is viewed as just that, a life
preserver in an ocean of wine. It’s a visceral connection from grade school days. Scores of
90+ equal an A, 80 to 89 a B and so on. It’s simple to understand, an A is better than a B,
which is better than a C. And who doesn’t want an A?
Various point systems for wine have been around for a very long time, but the 100-point system caught the attention of a broad market with the widely renowned 1982 Bordeaux vintage. The premise was
simple, just follow the points provided by a highly respected critic who had access to a lot more wines than the average Joe and your wine drinking life would be good. At the tip of the spear was Robert Parker and his publication, The Wine Advocate.
For me, the 100-point system came on the scene during my early years in the business. Early on, I thought it was the greatest thing ever. If understanding wine could be reduced to a single number, the
wine business just became a whole lot easier. In this pre-internet world, I subscribed to their snail mail publication and bought the voluminous books that had a second purpose as a door stop.
Soon after, a wave of publications followed suit utilizing the same approach. Eventually, this served to inundate the market with the notion that scores meant everything. In some ways, they did. It drove significant parts of the market. Big points often meant brisk sales, along with higher prices. Low points meant your wines might as well be welded to the shelf or were maybe headed to the discount bin. It drove the decisions of the retailer, restauranteur, the auction market and everything else, including the consumer.
Today, the influence of scores is still a force to be reckoned with, but it’s been diluted by the sheer number of people that have jumped into the game. Who do you trust? What criteria is being used? Who rates the critics?
Also, the relevance of points has diminished simply because the average scores continue to go up, while the range continues to get more compact. For most publications, the vast majority of wine scores now land between 86 and 95. The caveat is sometimes low scores are not made known at all. Today, it really comes down to a five-point system, anything under 90 and no one cares or above 94 and you can’t find or afford it. Does this really tell you what you want to know?
Points attempt to provide a sense of security and a notion of precision for something that is inherently imprecise. Consider the following:
- Virtually no one drinks wine in the way that they are professionally assessed.
- It’s been shown time and time again that wine scores cannot be reliably replicated among a single taster or among a group.
- The time of day, concentration level, physical well-being, etc. all factor into perception level.
- Reviewing a wine today is like a snapshot in time. Wine has a life-cycle. It evolves, a wine assessed today can be quite different in just a few months down the road.
- How the wine is transported, stored, served and even the type of glassware will impact the sense of perception.
- Scores are often based on one person’s opinion, it’s largely subjective, it may or may not align with your preferences.
- Wine ratings are routinely referenced in the trade with no added storyline to provide a broader context. Any reputable wine publication will support that points, combined with a written word review is needed for a complete picture.
- If you’ve ever experienced what it takes to produce a wine from the vineyard to the glass, it could be years, along with a massive effort. A few second assessment hardly seems complete.
- There are a lot of wines that do not get reviewed.
- In a mass tasting, often wines with high extract, high alcohol, high levels of ripeness garner the top scores because they stand out. If that style is not your preference, points provide no value.
- Most of us drink wines with food, points rarely take this into account.
- When and where are the wines being consumed will impact how it is perceived.
At Stellar Bottles, our purpose is to provide wines that better fit into your lifestyle. We assess wines under a core belief that the best is a result of obsessive attention in the vineyard and typically a minimal manipulation within the winery. This allows for the most expressive, authentic and pure experience, along with the truest sense of place. This is the essence of true artisanal wines.
We’ll start by identifying the most consistent, iconic, quality driven family producers, along with the newest up-and-comers through our extensive network of contacts and travel. That forms the basis of our tastings. Yes, non-family owned wineries can and do make good wines, but we choose to go with the
small guys who do not build their brands through marketing dollars. The wines are then split into groups by price. Less than 2% of what is assessed is offered to our customers.
We’ll provide the story of what the wine tastes like in non-geek speak language, where and how it was made, along with the people behind them. We’re all about eco-friendly, everything we represent is made sustainably, organically or biodynamically. Everything is tasted with food. We’ll let you know what we think it will pair with. In addition, we’ll provide thoughts on how to serve the wines, how long they can be cellared and even how they fare on the second day. Sometimes, leftovers are the best!
Points have a place and they’re not going away anytime soon, but today people expect and deserve so much more. Our intent is to fully maximize your experience in the wine world by talking about them in ways in which you actually drink them. That’s what Stellar Bottles is all about.