It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of wine exploration and discovery, but I’m not a fan of the 100 point wine scale. I use it in limited situations when making the best comparisons I can across a similar methodology, but on whole I find the scale to be more detrimental to the industry than helpful because it give little to no guidance to the majority if wine buyers.
CellarTracker is a crowdsourced ratings system of real people rating wines that they have opened in real social and dining situations, so, of the rating sources, it tends to most reflect how wine is truly consumed. No matter which rating source is touted, even CellarTracker, needs to be taken with a grain of salt and read carefully with an open mind.
Yesterday I was looking at a wine on CellarTracker and there were two very distinct reviews of the wine:
1. Served at Christmas party. Not Good. Heavy notes of detergent and a bit acidic.
2. Nice wine. Not a strong finish.
I would hazard a guess that if you read the first, but not the second review, you would probably move along and select a different wine. Unless, of course, detergent is the flavor you dig.
If you read the second and not the first rating, you might actually consider the wine, if the price were right and the varietal was one you knew you liked.
The interesting part of the reviews: Both authors gave the wine 88 points.
So, what does an 88 point wine taste like? To one reviewer, an 88 point wine is not good and has hints of detergent. To the other, it is a nice wine.
Granted, these are from users of the app and one would hope that when you see reviews on the 100-point scales from professionals, they wouldn’t be quite this extreme. But any individual review is from one taste from one person at one moment in time and each of those individuals has brought with him or her to the review a different standard for justifying points. So when you see that ad or shelf display touting a huge score from Wine Enthusiast or Beverage Dynamic or even Employee Bob from the stock room, don’t be swayed by that number alone. Ask questions, or pull out that magical phone-shaped device and do a little quick research to see if others also believe it is really a wine worth a try.