Sunday, September 7, 2014

the point spread

Do you use some sort of rating system or scale to score the wines that you have tasted?  Like for example, a 100 point scale like Robert Parker and others use, or maybe a 10 point or 5 point scale, or letter grades or just something like Outstanding, Excellent, Very Good, etc. 

Much has been written about the utility of a 100 point scale - such as, how can you really define a difference between an 88 versus 87 point wine?  That's a good question. 

On the other hand, any sort of scoring system is going to be subjective and one person's "A" or 94 points might be a "B" or 87 pointer to someone else.  

I will often look at the tasting notes that are posted in Cellar Tracker to get an idea of what people thought of a certain wine or winery and I find it to be quite helpful.  It uses a 100 point scale for rating wines and, despite the issues about how fine a gradation can you really assign when scoring a wine, I find that scanning the scores tasters assign will give me a good rough, overall assessment as to what people think of a wine or winery.  A bunch of scores in the 90's seems more promising than ones in the 80's.

What I've noticed, however, is that the majority of scores in Cellar Tracker seem to fall in the range of the high 80's to low 90's.  Not even a 10-point spread, but less. 

So even though a 100 point scale is in use, most of the scores seem to be around 86 or 87 to 92 or 93.  What's the point of having such a wide scale if only less than 10% of the range is used?  

One might argue that the wines being tasted are all uniformly good and thus the narrow range of scores.  Could be, but to me there is often little correlation between the notes themselves and the scores, with some folks finding a wine to be just awful and thus meriting "only" an 87. Or a wonderful wine being scored a 93 or higher if it's a Cabernet but the same sort of positive remarks eliciting only an 89 if it is a Rose, because a Rose just can't be as complex or intellectually stimulating as a Cabernet. 

On other sites I see the use of word ratings, such as "outstanding," "excellent," etc., but then there is also the use of "+" or "-" appended to show that something is a little better or little less than the word rating.  

As for me, if anyone really cares which they probably don't since they don't read this blog anyway, I use a 100 point scale and have to laugh at myself because my ratings are usually as narrow as the ones I mention above.  I guess I am part of the group.  A decent wine rates somewhere between 86 and 89 and if I really like something then it gets elevated to the 90's. 

So then why do I use a 100 point scale?  Got me.  Maybe because giving a really good wine a score in the 90's seems the most impressive way to acknowledge it?  

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