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Scoring wine: What’s the point?

on 02/12/11 at 9:21 am


Quest for the ‘right wine’ is subjective and not easily reduced to two digits.

In our country, both wine and wine information are more abundant than in any other nation. The average American liquor store — particularly in a vibrant market such as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles — sports on its shelves more types of wine from more places on the planet than any store in Barcelona, Buenos Aires or Bangkok. Believe me, I’ve looked.

That abundance is readily evident in magazines, books, self-published newsletters, websites and blogs, seminars and public tastings — all devoted solely to wine.

Ah, the rub. All that profusion actually makes the task of choosing “the right wine” very difficult or, for some, even frightening. Thus, the key information about wine that many Americans seek is in those liquor stores, suspended on little tags just below many of those bottles of wine. The tags proclaim “The Number,” a grade or score given to a wine by an influential publication or critic.

You also see points awarded to wine on a plethora of Internet wine sites, such as cellartracker.com, on wine blogs, in restaurant wine lists and even on billboards and in magazine advertisements. In short, they’re everywhere.

Points are meant to give a snapshot evaluation of a wine in two easy digits. Sometimes, to the chagrin of those who award the points, the wine’s original accompanying description is either not included or barely noticed.

The point system most Americans know best is the 100-point scale. It’s part of our informational DNA. If Sister Mary Frances gave you a 72 on your midterm exam, you weren’t going to brag to your mom.

However, unlike scholastic achievement that receives grades, wine points don’t bestow any inherent quality on the wine that they evaluate, nor do they actually reflect what quality is in the bottle.

FULL STORY via Chicago Tribune

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