As a frequent reviewer of beers and spirits, I have often been asked why I don’t adopt the system, ever-so-popular in wine writing circles, of scoring brands on a one hundred points scale. Usually, I’ll explain that I don’t think taste is as cut-and-dried as one or two percentage point differences, or point out that most reviewers only use 40% or less of their full scale, opting to effectively confine their rankings to between 60 or 65 and 100. (And so why not just use a scale of 1 – 40 or 1 – 35? I have no idea.)
Every so often, however, something will come along that clearly illustrates the perils of a 100 points scoring system much more effectively than I ever could, like this pair of reviews:
Oliverhill Petite Sirah 2007 – McLaren Vale, Australia
93 Points — Wine Advocate
The opaque purple/black 2007 Petite Sirah, is aged for 17 months in 20% new American oak hogsheads. The nose gives up notes of earth, mineral, cedar, and assorted black fruits. Full-bodied on the palate, the wine is rich, layered, and contains a boatload of ripe tannin that will require 10-12 years of cellaring for the wine to blossom. When it does, it should be sublime in the manner of a well-aged Ridge Vineyards Petite Sirah.
Jay Miller, #181 (Feb 2009) Price: $46.95
Illuminati “Riparosso” Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2008 – Abruzzo, Italy
89 Points — Wine Advocate
The 2008 Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo Riparosso is a plump, juicy offering endowed with generous dark fruit and an inviting personality. There is a lovely richness and raciness to the fruit that flows effortlessly to the round finish. Readers in search of a delicious, entry-level Montepulciano will find much to admire. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2013.
Antonio Galloni, #189 (June 2010) Price: $12.95
So, on the basis of the numbers provided, I might deduce that for slightly more than one-quarter of the price of the high-rated bottle, I can enjoy a wine that is a mere 4% less worthy.
Is this an accurate interpretation of these two reviews? Likely not, but I can almost guarantee that won’t stop a lot of people from drawing the same conclusion, especially in these price sensitive times. Forget the differing characters of the wines, forget the growing conditions in the vineyards, forget supply and demand, forget every little element that goes into the production and pricing of a wine; 4% difference in quality is next to nothing , so why not buy the cheaper red?
And that’s why I don’t score by the numbers.