We quite often talk about the 100-point scale and its impact on wine, but is it correct to say that Robert Parker “invented” it? He certainly popularized the approach and it has come to be large part of his legacy as other magazines shifted to the numerical system.
In “The Emperor of Wine,” Elin McCoy writes that Parker and his friend Victor Morgenroth tried various systems of rating and evaluating wines in their (blind) tasting group in the mid-seventies. They tried letter grades from A to F as well as the UC Davis 20-point scale, which had already brought numerical ratings to wine with the gravitas of an institution. McCoy continues that “one of the men–Parker isn’t sure who–came up with the 100-point idea, which was really a 50-to-100 point scale…” (For international readers, the scale follows the system that we have in American schooling for most tests.) McCoy says that Parker and Morgenroth thought that the system was “much less likely to result in the inflated wine ratings they saw all around them.” Ironically, score inflation is the most likely threat to the 100-point system today.
Back on a thread in 2009, a commenter flagged Dan Murphy, an Australian, as pioneering a 100 point system. The retailer that bears his name today describes Murphy’s 100-point system as predating Parker’s use. Another commenter on the thread, Claude Kolm, relayed that in Maynard Amerine and Maynard Joslyn’s Table Wines (1970 edition) they discuss various scoring systems including a 50-point, 100-point and even a 200-point system.
Just for laffs, here are a few tasting notes and scores from one of first issues of the Wine Advocate: “a terrible wine…very thin and acidic with a dull, dumb bouquet and taste. A poorly made wine that should be avoided” (55 points). And another one: “atrocious wine devoid of any redeeming social value” (50 points). Care to guess which they were?