Wine Spectator Point System

The place for all things wine, focused on serious wine discussions.

Moderators: Jenise, David M. Bueker, Robin Garr

Wine Spectator Point System

Postby RonicaJM » Mon Sep 25, 2006 6:40 pm

Always looking for a good deal, I took advantage of the 2 free issues of Wine Spectator and Food and Wine. On a post a couple of weeks ago I asked for recommendations on good wine books and magazines, several of you didn't have good things to say about Wine Spectator.

So, my question is, what do you think about their point system? Do your tastes line up w/ theirs? Sometimes in the grocery store I'll see a wine rated, is it w/ this same system?
In vino veritas...
RonicaJM
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2006 8:43 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Sep 25, 2006 6:51 pm

Ronica, you ask great questions! Keep at 'em girl. I don't pay much attention to how many points a wine gets. I'm not sure any point system ahs any relation to the way I drink.

That being said, the Spek uses so many different tasters for their tastings, I'm not sure how to calibrate their consistency. I'm not a big fan and I get the mag.
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
James Roscoe
Chat Prince
 
Posts: 10455
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:43 pm
Location: D.C. Metro Area - Maryland

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Thomas » Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:24 pm

Ronica,

Essentially, a point system is telling you what someone else thinks of a wine--subjectively. There are wine consumers who say they like to "calibrate" their taste preferences with the points of one or more critics--makes no sense to me, unless one's wine experience is wide enough to make the calibration, and if one has so much experience, who needs a critic to point the direction? pun intended.

And the fact that a variety of critics don't give equal points to the same wines means you have to calibrate to a variety of critics. Subscribing to that kind of wine activity certainly is not worth this wine consumer's time or money.

Some say the critic's job is to find the wines, report on them and then let the consumer benefit from that activity. I say, I'd rather find the wine for myself, and when I do, my discovery is sure not to raise the price of the wine as critics' discoveries are wont to do.

Also, if a magazine takes advertising from wine producers, how can you ever really trust its content? No accusation there...just a thought that often enters my limited brain.
Thomas
Senior Flamethrower
 
Posts: 3574
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 5:23 pm

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Ian Sutton » Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:36 pm

I'll try to be objective... :oops:

Is it a good points system?
- In general it has been well accepted (it seems people like %'s rather than any other scale).
- It doesn't however use all the values (basically water in a bottle would score 50 points). In reality most wines reported on score 75-100 and there's a great concentration in the centre of that range. Thus it's not really a 100 point scale (but the same was true of the previous 20 point scale).
- In connection to the previous point, I see the elevated starting point and an average somewhere in the 80's as very misleading to people new to wine. Say they don't read the WS and they see 85 points out of 100 on the shelf. To someone who didn't know better that would sound like they loved the wine, whereas in fact they found it a bit mediocre. I see this as a cosy little arrangement between most wine critics and the producers/retailers - keep all the scores high and we'll keep the free samples, free trips and free flow of information - adopt a lower scale and some of these may dry up. (n.b. Parker himself is one of the few to try and pay his own way where possible AFAIK)

Do my tastes line up with their's?
- I don't know for sure, but from the trickle of scores I see, there are areas of agreement and areas of disagreement. I think sometimes we overplay the Robert Parker love of ripe/super-ripe wines, but it's in this area where most of my great differences seem to lie. However Parker writes descriptive tasting notes and sometimes it's possible to read between the lines that he loves the wine because it's supercharged and port-like, thus I will probably dislike it for the same reasons. WS is not just Parker though and it's an interesting time to get a subscription, as there's been a significant changeover of roles so it may be that some areas might match up better now.

- Do they line up with yours? Even if you've not tasted the wines, if you're able to pick up on key parts of the note, you can surmise that, yes that does sound good - not surprised they've scored it highly, or 95 points for something that tastes like sump oil, they must be mad!

- I thought about recording various critics scores for wines I had and referring back to them after tasting. As it happens I recorded a few, but never referred back - I hope this was because I had my own opinion now which was more useful, but I suspect I was just lazy :lol:

Scores in stores
I'm interested by this. Parker used to rant at people just using scores, rather than scores plus notes - however I assume he had no control, so it's scores alone and yes I'd expect them to match up (but it's been known over here for careless :? retailers to put up the score and rating for a different vintage to that on offer. A very dubious practice.

One of the great advantages someone like Otto has, is that people DO buy wines just because Robert Parker or WS gave it a 92 rating, yet Otto's palate seems to diverge from their opinions quite dramatically. He benefits as the demand for "Parker Points" wines drives prices up, whilst lower pointed wines often end up cheaper. Thus Otto gets the wines he likes for cheaper than the wines he doesn't. (Otto please excuse me using your name in such a way, yet you seemed the obvious choice :wink: ). I'm oversimplifying here, especially as Otto has to buy his wine from a state monopoly who aren't noted for their range or competitiveness!

The message is: running against the tide can be very rewarding, but what's most rewarding is learning what styles you do & don't like (though this is a never ending quest).

regards

Ian
User avatar
Ian Sutton
Spanna in the works
 
Posts: 3652
Joined: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:10 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Remo Perriello » Mon Sep 25, 2006 7:38 pm

Ronica, being a startup Wine Store Owner, I have raked my brain over that question. That being said, I just received my copies of WS today, that I use as complimentary to my customers, and it says:

"Great Wine Values 100 Wines that score 88 to 94 pts and cost $25 or less"

I didn't know whether that was good or bad...

Your question raises a good point in my industry and I think James touched on it as well. WS uses lots of professional tasters for their scores. They are like so many other sites that use point systems. They usually have a discraimer that reads something like a purchase of a stock, to paraphrase, "ratings are in no way definitive to ones own palate"

On the Wine Advocate, on the very bottom of Parker's Rating System,
Parker
You will find the text ... "However, there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself."

So, to answer you question, I am beginning to lose interest in WS scores and a lot of my customers seem to care less. Actually, I tend to bring in wines that they recommend based on a personal experience at a dinner or party.

Almost all the wines I carry are from smaller producers and that I have tasted. Wines that I think would reflect the theme of my store and almost always hand sell them.
Remo Perriello
Wine geek
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Aug 18, 2006 11:53 pm
Location: Bronxville,NY

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby James Dietz » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:23 pm

Good advice to this point. I subscribe to both the Spectator and the Wine Advocate. Both use the 100 pt. system, but as has been pointed out, the WS uses a panel for tasting and comes up with an average, where as the WA does not.. you know who did the tasting. The WA notes are much, much more helpful than any WS notes have ever been.

I think both pubs. are good if you buy cutting edge (i.e., newer) type wines or are into Burgundy or Bordeaux or any of the big name wines. I don't think you need either of them if you are buying less expensive wines. For those, I would (and do) just get recos from merchants I trust (I live very near some huge retailers like Wine Exchange and Hi Times), and I read what is recommended in certain price ranges by K&L and Chambers St. and buy some of those. I also buy bargain stuff from North Berekely and Kermit Lynch (usually a case for $99) and have it shipped. These are wines I wouldn't have found elsewhere, and to this point, I haven't been sorry I have bought this way.

So, yes, points matter, esp. if you are buying the big boys. And reading those pubs is a good way to learn about the world of wine.
Cheers, Jim
User avatar
James Dietz
Wine guru
 
Posts: 1225
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Orange County, California

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby RonicaJM » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:27 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:The message is: running against the tide can be very rewarding, but what's most rewarding is learning what styles you do & don't like (though this is a never ending quest).

regards

Ian


Instead of relying on WS's recommendations I think my best bet is tastings at local stores. That way I can try several wines at one time b/f I buy and get the input of the "wine expert" hosting the tasting.
In vino veritas...
RonicaJM
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2006 8:43 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:29 pm

Ronica,
That tends to be the way I go. I rely on my tastes, and on the tastes of the prople who know my tastes.
Cheers!
James
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
James Roscoe
Chat Prince
 
Posts: 10455
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:43 pm
Location: D.C. Metro Area - Maryland

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Sep 25, 2006 8:40 pm

Ronica....as has been noted here, going to tastings and popping into the good local wine store is the way to go!!
I used to read the WS from front to back, but no longer. Their scores mean nothing to me and some writers are freguently out to lunch!! Decanter is not much better altho` I do like the articles in Wines and Spirits.
As a matter of interest, I stopped scoring wines I was tasting a while back, but that is another story!!

One can learn a fair amount here so try to get involved with Wine Focus which has a different theme each month. Right now, cabs from Chile and California.
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9501
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Brian K Miller » Mon Sep 25, 2006 9:21 pm

I'm pretty new, too...so here's my take. I think the scores are one way (among many) of identifying wines you may want to try. But, the tasting notes are more important, although my palette is not developed enough to necessarily identify all the notes identified by the pros.

These scores are for me a starting point, but by no means definitive. I need to taste California Cabs before I buy them, because the tasting scores seem to diverge from what I like. The example I gave in another post is I liked the base level Balducci Cab (deliciously warm and smooth) better than their vaunted single vineyard one (that got 95 points in Wine Enthusiast). On the other hand, WE enthused all over one of my favorite very special occasion ultra-splurge wines (Rubicon 2002), so sometimes their tastes concur with mine.

So...I use the scpres as a starting point. Wine and Spirits seems to be closer to my tastes than the other two big ones (and they use one taster as final arbitrer, if I understand correctly).
...(Humans) are unique in our capacity to construct realities at utter odds with reality. Dogs dream and dolphins imagine, but only humans are deluded. –Jacob Bacharach
Brian K Miller
Passionate Arboisphile
 
Posts: 6933
Joined: Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Andrew Shults » Tue Sep 26, 2006 1:31 am

Personally, I don't pay much attention to points in Wine Spectator or any other publication. The tasting notes can be helpful, though, as an indication of the style of the wine (e.g. whether some French Vin de Pays Pinot Noir is trying to emulate Burgundy or California).

However, it seems most comsumers do just the opposite; they pay attention to the points and ignore the tasting note. I think that if Wine Spectator put up a big sign that said "98 points" on the edge of a cliff, a lot of wine lemmings would jump.
User avatar
Andrew Shults
Wine geek
 
Posts: 96
Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 7:32 am
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:42 am

James Dietz wrote:. . . as has been pointed out, the WS uses a panel for tasting and comes up with an average, where as the WA does not....


I could be wrong, but I don't think WS uses a panel approach in most cases. Maybe they did in the past, but now I'm pretty sure that most of the scores and notes in the back of each issue identify a single taster/note-writer. At least that makes calibration a bit easier.

I agree that scores on a 100-point scale imply a false precision, but if you break the point ranges down, and accept distinctions in your own tasting history between "All time greats" (say, 95-100), "truly first rate" (90-94), "really good," "pretty good, but missing something," etc. on down, it's not preposterous to catgorize. As others have said here, tasting notes and (to a far lesser degree) points offer one potentially useful perspective, even if it's far from the best.
FEAR THE TURTLE ! ! !
Clinton Macsherry
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 359
Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Baltimore MD

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby DebA » Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:02 am

Hi Ronica!

You go girl :) Everyone's perceptions and experiences matter, and while the point system may be helpful as a guide, IMHO, it is nothing more than that. Someone else's experience can never be yours though there may be some basic education to glean from them (i.e. terminology and/or informative vintage remarks). Like art, philosophy, literary interests and beauty, your wine palate is wholly subjective. Grab a bottle off the shelf and taste and assess life for yourself...always!

Sincerely,

Deborah
User avatar
DebA
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 246
Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2006 12:11 pm
Location: N. of the equator

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:07 am

Well, exactly!!! The only way to go IMO.
Whilst I`m here, one of my favourite studies is food and wine matchups. Tomorrow (Wed), I am preparing Choucroute Garni for an Alsace Albrecht tasting. That should be an interesting evening eh
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9501
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Dave Erickson » Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:45 am

Let me begin by saying I always pay attention to Spectator/Advocate scores. It never hurts to be able to tell a customer a wine got a high score from the wine press.

Having said that, the point system is a terrible way to judge wine. But don't take it from me. The following is excerpted from Adam Gopnik's wonderful "Through A Glass Darkly: What We Talk About When We Talk About Wine," which appeared in The New Yorker magazine. You'll find a link to the whole article on the "Welcome" page of my website, which is listed in my signature below:

"The debate is not about whether the numbers are right but whether it is right to have numbers. Everyone agrees that Parker is, on his own terms, a completely honest scorer; but by scoring he intends to serve the consumer, and makes the wine drinker into one.

What consumers want is reliable beverage products, and, once wine is a reliable beverage product, it isn’t quite wine.

Demanding absolute excellence on an unchanging universal numerical scale is not, after all, our usual measure of sensual engagement. A man who makes love to fifty-some women and then publishes a list in which each one gets a numerical grade would not be called a lady’s man. He would be called a cad. And that, more or less, is how a good many Frenchmen think of Parker: they don’t doubt his credentials; they question his character. A real man likes moles and frailties; a real man marries his wine, as he marries his wife, and sees her through the thin spots. Being impatient with the tannins in a Margaux is like being impatient with the lines on your wife’s face. They are what makes it a marriage rather than a paid assignation."


The point that impresses me most is that wine that is regular enough in character, vintage after vintage, to be a consumer product is, by definition, not exactly wine. Great wines--good wines--are not consumer products. They don't come with a warranty. They are the product of nature and the winemaker's skills, and these can and will vary greatly from vintage to vintage. That is why, for example, I never have anything to say--good or bad--about something like Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Not to pick on them in particular, but the stuff is the same all the time, and the good folks at Hess go to great lengths to make sure that is so. So there is no more point in me expending energy to review the wine than there is in me reviewing a jug of Sealtest milk: It's a commodity, and by definition always the same, so why should I bother?

Pardon the rant-like characteristics. I have to do business with people who want the same bottle every time. They make me nuts, as you can tell.
User avatar
Dave Erickson
Wine guru
 
Posts: 832
Joined: Tue Jun 20, 2006 5:31 pm
Location: Asheville, NC

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby James Dietz » Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:57 am

One wonders about the aptness of Gopnik's analogy of wine and wife. After all, I drink the wine up and throw the bottle away and move on to the next. I don't do that with my wife (well... not as often anyway.. :lol: ).
Cheers, Jim
User avatar
James Dietz
Wine guru
 
Posts: 1225
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Orange County, California

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Dave Erickson » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:08 pm

James Dietz wrote:One wonders about the aptness of Gopnik's analogy of wine and wife. After all, I drink the wine up and throw the bottle away and move on to the next. I don't do that with my wife (well... not as often anyway.. :lol: ).


I think that puts you in the "cad" category, James. :D

Seriously, wine point systems certainly have commercial advantages, but to put the totality of the experience of a wine into a number...it's not right. It's never going to be right.
Last edited by Dave Erickson on Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Dave Erickson
Wine guru
 
Posts: 832
Joined: Tue Jun 20, 2006 5:31 pm
Location: Asheville, NC

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby OW Holmes » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:09 pm

I keep track of my wines on a spreadsheet. It once had a column on that spreadsheet for points, so I could calculate the average points of the wine in my cellar. That column is long since gone, for the same reason many have mentioned here. Points vary among experts (I remember a Falesco Vitiano that got 79 points in WS and 90 pts or more in WA, or maybe that was visa versa), my tastes don't mirror either WS or WA, etc.... What you may not realize is that points don't really relate much to taste. Points are given for color, clarity, balance, length of finish, typicity, complexity, etc... but points don't tell you whether you are going to like the taste of the wine.
That said, I think points are valuable, particularly when coupled with the notes which give a better indication of the style. There are thousands of wines out there, and so little time to drink them. The fact that experts think a wine is well made, typical of the variety, etc... is helpful in making an initial selection, and in deciding what kind of wine you like. And while there are variations between the experts, it's nice to buy a wine that someone with expertise thinks is good, rather than just grabbing a bottle of the shelf based on a pretty label or catchy name.
Here's an article by Wilfred Wong, a wine critic, and as you might guess, he thinks there is some value to the point system, and thinks it is perhaps a bit more scientific than it probably actually is, but it is an interesting take on what one wine critic think of the point system.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... _114010320
-OW
User avatar
OW Holmes
Wine guru
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:57 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby RonicaJM » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:29 pm

OK, what does IMHO stand for?

One thing I didn't realize is that each of these publications have their own systems for rating wine. For whatever reason, I thought WS had such a position of prominence that they set the standard.

Anyway, I agree w/ a lot of you that the TNs are probably the most valuable tool, especially for a newbie like me. When I taste a wine I really like to get a second opinion (even if I don't agree w/ it) so I can see if I can taste what they say the wine is suppose to taste like. Usually, the description on the back of the bottle is enough.

I was so glad when I finally found TNs for the Beaujolais I tried that was so tart. The notes said it was fruity, like sour cherry pie. I definitely agreed w/ that! :roll:
In vino veritas...
RonicaJM
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 126
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2006 8:43 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:31 pm

RonicaJM wrote:OK, what does IMHO stand for?

In My Humble Opinion
User avatar
Howie Hart
The Hart of Buffalo
 
Posts: 5918
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 5:13 pm
Location: Niagara Falls, NY

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:50 pm

Ronica....the description on the back of a bottle? I am not always so sure about that, in my honest opinion (IMHO). There have been cases where each vintage has the same blurb on the back label!!
I think that as one becomes more experienced and starts cellaring certain wines, the back label words mean very little. It can be a general outline but, to me, that is as far as it goes.
User avatar
Bob Parsons Alberta
aka Doris
 
Posts: 9501
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:09 pm

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Sep 26, 2006 1:04 pm

RonicaJM wrote:OK, what does IMHO stand for?

Ronica - I just started a new thread in "Fun & Friends" to list frequently used acronymns and phrases. I hope it helps.
User avatar
Howie Hart
The Hart of Buffalo
 
Posts: 5918
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 5:13 pm
Location: Niagara Falls, NY

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Alejandro Audisio » Tue Sep 26, 2006 1:45 pm

Before I became ITB, as a collector I tried to follow a wine critic and evaluate over a period of time how he/she rates. If I could "calibrate" the ratings to my palate, then I started to follow the "expert" with more attention.

This was easier for some regions than for others, as some magazines have only one person tasting a specific region... this is mostly true for South America - so the issue of averages cancels itself out.
User avatar
Alejandro Audisio
Ultra geek
 
Posts: 419
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2006 12:03 pm
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Re: Wine Spectator Point System

Postby Paul Winalski » Tue Sep 26, 2006 1:50 pm

RonicaJM wrote:So, my question is, what do you think about their point system? Do your tastes line up w/ theirs? Sometimes in the grocery store I'll see a wine rated, is it w/ this same system?


There is a wide variety of wine scoring systems.

The Wine Spectator and The Wine Advocate both use a 50-point (or 51-point, if you count the score of 100) system. A wine gets 50 points to start with, and the scores go up to 100 for a perfect wine. The Wine Advocate publishes details of their scoring system periodically--wines get a certain number of points each for appearance, aroma, flavor, and aging potential. I don't know if the Wine Spectator releases such details.

The advantage of the 51-point system is that it pretty well matches the percentage grading system that Americans are familiar with from schooldays: 50-59 points is a poor wine, 60-69 points below average, 70-79 points average, 80-89 points above average, 90-99 points outstanding, 100 points perfect. Due to space constraints, neither publication tends to publish results for wines that have low scores. They rightly assume that their readership is more interested in hearing about what's really good. Back when he started, Robert Parker used to go to local shops and buy whatever they had and that he could afford, then he'd review that. He published all his reviews, good and bad. The worst score I've ever seen in The Wine Advocate was a 52, for a wine Parker described as "the vinous equivalent of Liquid Plumber". I tried that wine, and I agree with his assessment. I still wonder what he awarded the two points for. Probably because it wasn't actually poisonous.

The disadvantage, in my opinion, is that the 51-point scale gives a false sense of precision. What does it really mean for a wine to be 88 points vs. 89? I question whether even the most experienced wine expert can consistently deliver this much precision in numerical ratings.

Another popular system is a 20-point scale developed by UC Davis. A wine receives 0-5 points or so (or decimal fractions) on various characteristics such as appearance, aroma, flavor, etc., and these are added up to give the final score. The main problem with this system is that a lot of wines end up with the same score. That problem is in fact what led to development of the 51-point system.

Michael Broadbent and some other wine critics work on a system of 0-5 stars. I prefer this to the 20- and 51-point systems because I think it expresses the true degree of precision that exists in wine reviewing.

My personal favorite is the Three Stooges rating system developed by Stuart Yaniger.

-Paul W.
User avatar
Paul Winalski
Wok Wielder
 
Posts: 4086
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 10:16 pm
Location: Merrimack, New Hampshire

Next

Return to The Wine Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 8 guests