Wine scores – what to make of them

Several months ago I wrote a post that touched on the issue of wine critics, the scores they give wines, and some other related issues (that can be found here) .  I’m not sure that I came to any concrete conclusions, but the subject briefly came up again yesterday so I thought I’d revisit.

A good friend called me & suggested I turn on my radio to listen to an interview with Neal I. Rosenthal, wine importer & now published author (“Reflections of a Wine Merchant”).  While Rosenthal had many interesting things to say during the interview, the interviewer mentioned the concept of score cards on retail shelves for wines, to which Rosenthal responded something not too subtle along the lines of loathing/abhorring/despising such score cards.


Given my strong stated opinions about consumers trying wine and buying wine that THEY LIKE, as opposed to wines they are told to buy/like/drink, one might think that I applaud Rosenthal’s objections.  But there are always multiple sides to every argument.  And here I want to side with those who appreciate and seek out said score cards.  NO, I’m not encouraging “score-whore” behavior, but I am saying that these score cards DO serve some productive purpose.  Yeah, I can hear many of you sneering “sure they serve a purpose – I roll my smokes with them”, or some other sarcastic comment.  But seriously, with the THOUSANDS (is it tens of thousands?) of options on the market today, how is one to decide what bottle of wine to buy?  These cards provide some reference.  I’m reluctant to admit it, but I often seek out these cards.  If I am looking for a new wine (and can’t try some before buying) I may buy a wine with a complimentary score card simply because I will feel a little more confident that the wine won’t be terrible.  Ultimately deciding whether you agree or disagree with the critic should be part of the fun.  The score should not be used as an end all be all, but it is OK if one wants to use it as an indicator of a quality offering.

Lastly, I think I have mentioned this before, but another useful theory regarding critics that makes sense to me is to follow critics and try to find one whose selections you generally (if not always) like.  For the discerning consumer this may be challenging, but assuming you are not a wine professional with abundant opportunities to try wine, it is nice to have an expert to whom you can refer for suggestions, feeling confident you will end up with a wine you will like.

This discussion can go on & on, but I’ll save any additional thoughts for another time (or responses to your personal thoughts on the matter).  Having not delved too deeply into this issue you may want to check out fellow blogger Tom Wark’s take on the issue of “The Role of the Wine Critic“.

Happy score card wine shopping!


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