Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Finally, the DEFINITIVE Scoring System

Okay, today’s entry sort of goes along with my previous silly post about FedWine, except it is more serious.

The subject today is point scores for wine.

Every day those of us on various e-mail and snail mail lists from wine vendors are bombarded by offerings touting the numerical scores of the wines, most often from Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator. But heck, they’ll use any source they can find if it’s 90 or above.

Granted, we live in busy times and taking a quick glance at a score can tell us up front if it is worth reading any further. But woe to the wines that don’t have scores, or that have scores below the magic 90 mark. And increasingly, the scale has been going up and up so pretty soon, wines are gonna have to do more than just 90 to be thought of as special. Why look at a 90-pointer if there’s a 94 or 95 pointer next to it?

Well, I think we need to get a bit more precise. Now the following part ties in to the stock market aspect of my previous post.

A few years ago, stocks used to be traded in increments of 1/8 of a dollar, or 12.5 cents. A stock would be quoted, let’s say, at a bid price of 29 1/8 and an asking price of 29 3/8 (numerically equivalent to 29.125 and 29.375, respectively). We’re talking about 12.5 cents per share, which, for a stock costing 29.125 is .0043 of the share price.

Yet, psychologically speaking, I would sit there and hold out for that last 1/8 of a point, or 12.5 cents, either waiting for the price to come down 1/8 if I was buying, or it to go up 1/8 if I was selling. In the overall scheme of things, did it really make a difference?

Then, a few years ago, the market switched to valuing stocks in increments of a penny. So instead of seeing a stock bid price of 35 1/8 and ask price of 35 3/8, now it could be bid of 35.06 and ask of 35.08. That’s two cents! And it still psyches me out; I’ll sit there and wait over differences of a penny or two for the stock price to either go up or down depending on if I am selling or buying.

Our mind adjusts to whatever scale is in effect.

So why don’t we do this with wines? I propose that we add decimals to the scoring. So instead of a 90-point wine, we can have a range of 90.00 to 90.99. A 91 point wine would have a range of 91.00 to 91.99.

I think that’s a good idea. Why? Because sometimes you just can’t make up your mind, and if you are on a limited budget (like I am), then it makes it easier to decide because you can point to the 91.45 score over the 91.32 score. And feel good about it, rather than wondering which 91-point wine is really better.

Of course there are drawbacks to the system. You’re going to have a lot of people howling, especially the wineries, when they get an 89.99 score. Psychologically speaking, it’s the same as when stores mark the price $9.99 instead of $10.00. The price just seems cheaper. Along those lines, the wine will just seem not as good as the 90.00 wine.

But them’s the breaks. With so many wines out there, we need something to defend us against information overload and going to the decimal scale is just what we need.

Oh, and one more thing. I notice that, just as with the Olympics, there seems to be an increase in 100-pointers these days. Is this grade inflation? Give a wine 100 points and there’s no room for improvement.

Well, just like teachers used to give out and A+ if something was really good, I think we should also incorporate a system that allows us to award over 100 points but only for a truly, truly remarkable, outstanding wine. It can be a score such as “100+” but I was thinking more along the lines of just extending the scale, like giving out a score of 100.50. Or for something even more spectacular, 101.73. You get the idea.

The beauty of this system is that it always leaves room for the “wine of the century” because you just add a little bit more to the score. And still there is room when encountering the “wine of the millennium” also.

Now you might think this is silly and unnecessary, but so did those people who scoffed at the change of stock valuations to increments of a penny instead of 12.5 pennies. Now everyone operates on the system.

When we go to the much more useful and precise scoring system I have just outlined above, believe me, you will adjust to it. And it’s going to take a lot of the guesswork out of buying wine.

I’m also thinking that we only need to do this with wines that score 90.00 or above. Or, maybe include the 89’ers also because they are so close to the 90’s. But let’s say for anything that is less than 89 points there is no need to use the decimal points because no one cares about those wines anyway. An 88-point wine might as well be an 84-point wine might as well be a 77 point wine because either way the merchant is going to have trouble moving it.

Let’s spend our efforts where the payback is greatest – on the 90+ wines. Or rather, the 90.00+ wines.

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