The Wine Palate
January 6, 2007
In October I wrote a column called "The Problem With Points."
In this, I discussed why the 100-point system developed by acclaimed wine critic and writer Robert Parker Jr. was flawed.
I feel that it has two major issues. The scores are based on the preferences of writers that have developed their palates from a certain viewpoint. For example, many traditional Italian wines have a tendency to lean toward the bitter and oxidized side.
While this style may be perfectly acceptable to the Italian palate, most American writers find it offensive. As a result, these wines will be scored poorly and their market value will decrease significantly.
Winemakers may then respond by creating wines that are more marketable to the American palate, thus detracting from the unique styles a region might be based on and therefore homogenizing the industry.
Second, a 100-point system insinuates that there is a significant scientific process by which scores are derived. Granted, the scale only starts at 50 and goes to 100, but I still believe that this is far too specific to be truly accurate.
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Despite its flaws, a system is necessary for consumers and professionals alike as the sheer number of wines produced is baffling. I humbly offer a suggestion that could clear things up a bit.
I offer a two-part point system. The first part would reference the wine in question against its peers. A Bordeaux wine would be judged in this category only against other Bordeaux. This is of course a difficult category to be in.
The top wines would be First Growths and Super Seconds that show not only great complexity and balance, but the ability to age for extremely long periods of time. These wines would be the icons of the region that define it on the highest end. The bottom wines would be short-lived, out of balance, and wouldn’t exemplify the reputation that the region has developed.
These distinctions would be easy to asses as there would only be five points, one being the worst and five being the best. In the case of a less established industry such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, certain houses like Cloudy Bay, that stand out, would develop the distinction they deserve and would set the bar for their peers.
The second part would rate the wine on a more global perspective. In the category of sparkling wines, for example, Schramsberg might be accepted to be the finest bubbly made in the U.S. and thus deserving of five points in the first category.
It does not, however, compare in quality to a top Champagne and thus their best cuvee would only receive 4 points on a global scale. This would provide the consumer with a system by which to judge if they will like a wine despite its regional style.
This rating would be divided into distinct and broad categories: sweet sparkling wines, dry sparkling wines, sweet whites, semi-sweet whites, dry whites, sweet rose, dry rose, light-bodied reds, medium-bodied reds, heavy-bodied reds, fortified wines, and late harvest and botrytis effected wines.
This system is certainly up for refinement and scrutiny, but it does solve the problems that the 100-point system presents. It gives regions the ability to retain their own identity with the first number and gives consumers a broader, simplified understanding with the second.
I would love your feedback on this concept. Please e-mail me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org . I will try a few reviews each week and see how it goes.
Dry sparkling wine:
Roederer Estate Non-Vintage Brut; 3/2
Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Vineyards ’03: 4/3
Medium bodied reds:
Rejadorada Tinto Roble, Toro ’05: 3/2
Zev Rovine is the sommelier and resident cheese monger at the Spotted Frog Bookstore Cafe and Wine Bar where he teaches weekly wine classes. His wine education comes from the American Sommelier Association in N.Y.C. and he tries his very best not to spill the Pinot on the bestseller section. If you have any wine queries or comments he is easily contacted via e-mail at email@example.com .