What’s the point?

One recent afternoon I tasted with a wine critic. I was impressed with his palate. At the end of the long tasting we were chatting about numerical ratings, which he is compelled to use. I was surprised when he told me that numerical ratings are “stupid” because they impart a “false sense of objectivity.” He wouldn’t use them if they weren’t required for his job (he has a rent to pay after all).

Do you use scores in your notes at home, where your job doesn’t depend on it?

Related: “Wine Ratings Might Not Pass the Sobriety Test” NY Times

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10 Responses to “What’s the point?”

  1. I use a number system on KensWineGuide.com because it was the only way I could average everyones opinion. (including mine) I previously used words like Unbelievable, Excellent, Very Good, & Good. Now they all have numbers assigned. The bottom line for me, is if 3+ qualified professionals rate a wine as Very Good or better, it is most likely Very Good or better. The next question then is what does it cost. If reasonable, then it is most likely a good investment and will be enjoyed more. Just my opinion.

  2. I don’t use scores to describe the wines I drink. I don’t find them very helpful for my own uses and if I can’t see the value, I’m not going to be able to explain it to anyone else either. I also don’t pay attention to the numerical scores given by the big magazines, I prefer a description of the wine’s flavors which I find to be a better indicator of whether or not I will like it rather than simply drinking it because of a number.

  3. In my wine journal, I keep things as simple as possible. Next to the name of the wine, I either have a checkmark, or an X. If there is a checkmark, I always include some kind of context: Why I liked it, what I ate with it, etc. For me, even the best of wines are still contextual. In one environment I’ve liked a particular wine, and in a different environment, felt completely different about it.

  4. Call me a big dork, but I like grades, like B+, A-, etc.

  5. What fascinates me is the objectivity remark. I think this is why people love to get points on a wine. Numbers give a (false) sense of objective criteria being used. The problem is, that you use five very subjective senses to determine how well or badly a wine fulfills those “objective criteria.” Talk about a mismatch! I’m with Sonadora: more good descriptions, less numbers.

  6. I haven’t used them for over ten years.
    They are effective in teaching people that wines do have different quality levels however.Some people think it’s all the same.
    What I really don’t like about number systems is how half the scale is redundant usually. Any form of liquid is a shoe in for some sort of score so long as it shoes up.

  7. In my opinion, scoring is both an art and a science. Like scoring a figure skater, there is the technical component and the artistic component. Find a taster with similar tastes, and use the score as a quality metric. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a score per se, but a score without context (a taster you like combined with a detailed tasting note) is pretty much useless. Cheers!

  8. numbers have their place in everything – hell you can even create a beautiful piece of art if you use ‘colour by numbers’!!

    But you dont describe art using numbers – and while wine’s creation is routed in science, it deserves the open interpretation words give it.

    I’m a fan of describing the wine and more importantly for me, understanding how it was made and the experience of drinking it.

    We admire the Sistine Chapel because we know it took Mickie boy four years on his back to paint it – add that knowledge to the true visual splendor and you have a masterpiece.

    Same with a great wine…

  9. Hey thanks for all these comments! Although I don’t use numerical ratings, I somehow figured that the comments would be dominated by people in favor of numbers. I guess there’s some selection bias here since you’re already reading this blog.

    Dr. Debs, I thought the comment was interesting too since it shows at least one unwilling participant in “the score.” A crack in the facade?

    And just a note to the (several) commenters here who have Blogger blogs: unless you want people going to your “about” page, try clicking “other” in the “choose an identity” prompt. Then you can put in your handle and a direct link back to your blog.



  10. I’m a quantitative, scientific person by nature, but when it comes to my wine reviews I prefer to take copious notes and not give each wine a score. So I guess I’m more qualitative when it comes to describing the wines I drink.


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