There’s an interesting discussion on Twitter, concerning the scoring of wines. It was prompted by a Decanter blog by the usually brilliant Andrew Jefford here. Jefford starts off on fire:
“Scores for wines are philosophically untenable, aesthetically noxious – but have great practical value.”
That’s entirely my view. I hate them. But I use them. Those who don’t use them frustrate me deeply because I never know exactly how much they liked the wine. If I score a wine 93, you know that I thought it was pretty serious. If I score it 95, you know I think it was VERY serious. If I score it 98, it is utterly mind-blowingly fabulous – one of the best wines I have ever tasted.
This is where the controversy comes. You will see from my comments that I use an absolute scale. I like a 94-point Beaujolais as much as a 94-point first growth Claret, or Grand Cru Burgundy. If I score a Portuguese red 95 and a Bordeaux 91, I’d prefer to drink the Portuguese red.
Jefford advocates peer-group scoring, as does Robert Parker (although in practice, I think Parker scores more absolutely, otherwise his 100 point tastings would be odd). Jefford makes out that peer-group scoring is the only sensible way to rate wines.
I disagree. Peer-group scoring protects the established, famous appellations. It patronizes ‘lesser’ wine regions. It’s silly and retrograde. Absolute scoring means that if someone on Tenerife has an amazing terroir, interprets this sensibly, and makes a stunning wine, it can compete with stunning wines from anywhere. I love this. If I encounter a profound wine, I’m not afraid to score highly, wherever it is from. Absolute scoring allows my readers to catch my enthusiasm. They know how much I like the wine. If I give a Tenerife wine 95 points and I am working on a peer-group scoring system, then you, as a reader, have no useful information at all.
Scoring wines is silly, but it is useful. It is our duty as writers to make it as un-silly as we can. That means a score is a score wherever the wine comes from.