When I was asked to become a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast more than six years ago, I was a tiny bit reluctant. The job meant constantly reviewing hundreds of wines from across California’s Central Coast, writing up descriptions for each and assigning scores on the 100-point scale.
I’d never reviewed wines in such a regimented way before, nor did I have much trust in a system that assigns numbers to something so potentially subjective as one person’s opinion of a wine.
Nearly 15,000 wines later, my perspective has evolved radically. I now have greater understanding of the skill, experience and methodology behind the blind-reviewing practices that the magazine employs.
Now, when some sommeliers, winemakers and journalists bash the practice of scoring wines as an outdated, useless exercise, all I ultimately hear are arguments for less information. In an era where strategic misinformation and media-silencing campaigns infect the entire globe, I can’t see how anyone who values knowledge can argue that any form of legitimate information should be stopped. That includes investigative reports on government misdeeds as well as one critic’s thoughts about and score for a particular bottle of wine.
The ultimate question that such discussions can be boiled down to is just how much weight should be placed on the numeric score. For me, a score is just one metric people can take into account when selecting wine.
Should it be the only metric? Hopefully not. Should people learn about critics to know where they stand on certain styles? Hopefully so. Do critics who taste from specific regions year after year while regularly visiting vineyards and meeting with winemakers have valuable insight into a given wine? Of course.
The most salient argument against scores tends to center around blaming Robert Parker for preferring a ripe style of wine that became the norm in the later 1990s. That was a different era, when Parker’s voice was just one of a few.
Today, opinions around wine are endless, and there are so many niches for different styles that I don’t see any danger of falling back into a Parkerized predicament. Consciously or otherwise, the argument against scores degrades one source of useful information while trying to uplift another, usually from the person doing the complaining. Where’s the harm in having multiple trusted sources of information at our disposal, and then make up our own minds?