Scores on labels: what’s the point?

torres wine label We all know that Spanish wineries looooove critics, so much so that they would pay extravagant fees for a “master class” by a point-wielding critic on “a freelance.”

The good folks at Torres have decided to wear their hearts on their sleeve by putting the score right on the front label! What, are they declaring war on shelf-talkers? If this practice becomes widespread, what will be left for uncreative retailers to use, a bunch of vapid descriptors running around in search of points?

Oh, and the scores are for previous vintages. It really answers any questions you might have when you dim the lights, sit down to dinner and wonder which scores the previous vintages of the wine received.

Message in a bottle to Spain: there is a score-free universe out there.

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25 Responses to “Scores on labels: what’s the point?”


  1. While many sophisticated wine lovers (such as u), retailers, Distributors, etc abhor ratings (for their “own” obvious “good” reason), the general public needs and will continue to rely on unbiased expert rating to help them select wine before they shell-out their dollars. Until the industry devises a way to allow people to taste their wine before purchasing, I don’t see a more effective way then ratings. And please don’t suggest asking the retailer for suggestions.


  2. Ratings are an entry level drug. They aren’t a replacement for someone discovering what they like to drink. People who continue to rely on them for all wine purchases are lemmings and probably have a couple pairs of crocs in their closet.

    Wine articles about ratings, a subject that is absolutely beat to death, are superfluous & there are thousands of subjects about wine to have meaningful reporting & positive results to the industry than beating on another droll commentary on wine ratings.


  3. You guys are really obsessed by points aren’t you? Kind of reminds me of the ‘War on Christmas’. Aussies have been doing the medallions on the bottles for years. I don’t think it’s changed the taste of the wine yet.
    Drink up!


  4. This is just wrong, especially because the scores are from previous vintages. However, I feel more sorry for the consumer who is more impressed with points than taste, quality or value.


  5. Michael: You need to find a new retail store. Whoever screwed you (obviously somebody must have) is not a good retailer.

    Quizicat: I was gonna say, I’ve seen lots of points on labels over the years, and not just Aussies: Couple Spanish producers, couple Chilean and Argentine producers have done it and still do it.


  6. “We all know that Spanish wineries looooove critics…” Mmmm… There’s a word missing from that sentence. Let’s rephrase it, Dr. Vino: “We all know that SOME Spanish wineries looooove critics”.


  7. lol, this is the worst idea in a very long time. mental midgets are running that marketing department. Estupido idea.


  8. Good point – I’d rate this post as 92/100!


  9. Ha, Victor, POINT taken!

    Michael – maybe try another, better shop?

    Thanks, Dermot!


  10. As to those who think this issue has been overplayed, I would agree that it comes up a lot and perhaps even too much.

    But this is the first time I had ever seen a winery place the points right on the label, so I thought it was worth flagging as a first. I think they crossed the line here, if you don’t, then feel free to disagree. Also, from what I have heard from some people in the trade, point inflation is so rampant that 90 points is having a diminished impact, especially on wines above $10.

    Yes, some (pace Victor) Australian wineries have been placing medals on wines for a while. But those show results seem to carry more weight in Australia, where medals appear to be a selling point. I’ve never seen an Australian winery place point scores on a label though.

    As to the Spanish case, many players in the industry there seem to be quite wedded to the points/critics model of sales. It’s too bad because there are other ways to sell wines but they probably require more work and may not be as scalable.

    Wine buying decisions are complex and I welcome insights and discussion you might have about what triggers a consumer to make a purchase. I just think that points appear to present a false sense of objectivity and a snapshot for what is subjective and a moving picture.


  11. “I just think that points appear to present a false sense of objectivity and a snapshot for what is subjective and a moving picture.”

    EXACTLY!!!!


  12. Scores are not that important to the average consumer. According to a 2008 survey conducted by Sonoma State University, the #1 reason Americans buy wine is because they have tasted it before. #2–recommendation. “Medal” (closest thing to “score” on the survey) was #6.
    http://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/?go=getArticle&dataId=56883


  13. Spain is destroying its wine industry and all cultural assets, there is no authenticity in its wines, most of them dominated by oak and powerful flavors, it’s a shame that a land with amazing gastronomy continues to deliver these poor wine efforts. The worst is that even top spanish chefs admire this wines, maybe it is nationalism.


  14. Tyler,

    I don’t disagree they went over the line. I just disagree with giving the whole thing any air. I’m so tired of the ratings debate, the watering down, the laziness of producers and the yahoos who think they can take their childrens trust fund and parlay it into billions if they just get a 90 point rating on a $250 bottle of 16% abv schlock. (trust me as a former head buyer for an importer, I saw plenty of those) and most importantly since the ratings are so skewed now, what used to be an 83 is now a 90, it’s nuts, it’s lying to the public and it makes a complete mockery out of the industry, the repeated scandals, the whole hot mess of it all. So here I stand on my soap box giving it air myself.

    Thus, I’m going to toddle off with something nice, low abv, unrated, I know the farmer and I’m going to take a xanax with it and have a nice evening drooling on myself.

    Don’t get me wrong, love your blog, I think today was just my limit on lemmings and points.


  15. Do I detect the fine hand of Pancho Campo once again lending his expert advise to the wineries of Spain? Just kidding. Torres is big enough to take responsibility for their own PR gimmicks.


  16. ha I think that I saw that exact bottle at the store tonight and thought that it was weird. I don’t pay much mind to the scores but wine shopping is really hard. I have a little bit of knowledge about wine but still feel completely lost when I walk into a store with rows upon rows full of bottles. Tastings or good, helpful descriptions on the shelf talkers would be most helpful.

    btw, I did get a recommendation tonight. We shall see how good the wines are but before even opening the bottles, I wasn’t really satisfied with the experience


  17. Okay, it’s on the neckband, not the label…this is a 2007 Santa Ema Merlot. As it happens, a very nice wine made by very nice people. I was surprised they did this. And now I’m going to enjoy a nice unrated Marcillac…


  18. Image is here:

    http://www.justagrape.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/3673_072410_1203.jpg


  19. Wine is like a stock portfolio: past performance is no guarantee of future results. Just because the 06 was good doesn’t mean the 09 will be. But I suppose the average consumer may not think that through when they’re at the market.


  20. David,

    You are correct on the average consumer not knowing a good vintage from the next. Someone had to buy the 2000 vintage from Napa.

    I love how all you anti point people express your anger against points. I educate a few thousand people a year on wine and I have less than 3 that can name a favorite wine with a vintage. The consumer needs all the help they can get and most wine shops do not offer good advice. You should see the bad wine people show me that a retailer recommended. If we can get people from drinking marketed cheap wine (the industry) and get them drinking better wine it is a plus.

    I am tired of people who drink wine and do some research on their own thinking only their palate matters. You are in the 1% so points at least get people from drinking Yellow Tail and Two Buck Chuck which will only allow better products on the market across the board.


  21. I totally agree with you David. It is incumbent on the industry to find a way that enables the average consumer and aspiring wine enthusiasts to taste the wine prior to purchasing it. Otherwise, relying on several recognized experts to sort things out for them is the ONLY sensible way to navigate through the thousands of wines available at every price point. I organize several wine groups in NYC where participants in our social tastings have little experience/knowledge and are looking to be exposed to wine. To help them do so, we typically offer 14-20 wines rated 90+ to expose them to wines that knowledgeable experts like.

    In fact, this was my post, which happens to have been the first one on this topic and the only one (other then yours, David) – favoring the rating system:

    “While many sophisticated wine lovers (such as u), retailers, Distributors, etc abhor ratings (for their “own” obvious “good” reason), the general public needs and will continue to rely on unbiased expert rating to help them select wine before they shell-out their dollars. Until the industry devises a way to allow people to taste their wine before purchasing, I don’t see a more effective way then ratings. And please don’t suggest asking the retailer for suggestions.”
    Cheers to everyone :)


  22. Someone had to buy the 2000 vintage from Napa, and as ever, it was Americans, haha.


  23. The only thing dumb is putting points from prior vintages, but RATING ARE USEFUL!


  24. This is great finally a good discussion about the positives of points. It is amazing when I teach people how to taste wine and then serve them a Columbia Crest Grand Estates vs. Menage a Trois. Guess which one they will never buy again. The Columbia Crest receives nice scores (high 80s) and they make great wine. This is my number one recommended winery for the beginner and they can now drink something affordable that isn’t Mondavi Private Selection, Two Buck Chuck, Barefoot, etc.


  25. These marketing strategies by spanish vineyards are very successful with the chinese consumer.


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