Wine & Fighting for Perfection

Wine lovers tend to get their capsules in a bunch when it comes to the issue of rating wine. In particular it is the issue of a 100 point score, a perfect score, that generates lots of controversy…and not a lot of scrambling to get their hands on the wine.

I thought it might be fun to take a look at another industry that places a similar type of emphasis on ratings: Video Games.

We are talking about a billion dollar industry when we talk of video games. A significant part of the marketing and sales of Video Games relies on ratings of the games by various media. Perfect scores for a game are rare. Even the vaunted "Halo", a game that clearly catapulted the Xbox to great heights, did not get a perfect score.

However, recently Official Xbox Magazine gave its first perfect score to an Xbox 360 Game: "Fight Night Round Three". FNR3 is a boxing game. I’ve played it. It’s fun. It’s engrossing. The graphics are…well, scary good. But Xbox Magazine was inundated with criticism, letters and great complaints, as well as lots of "well dones" as a result of giving a a perfect 10 out of 10 for the game.

In the on-line forums, gamers had lots to say. Some told XBox Magazine they want nothing to do with them anymore for this gross mistake of giving a Boxing game a perfect score.

The whole thing looks EXACTLY like the commotion that ensues when Parker of the Spectator give a wine a perfect score.

Now, this brings up a number of questions. Are wine lovers who closely follow the rankings and reviews of wine simply fanatics, a la gamers…who I can attest for having known a number are in fact fanatics? What is the nature of the stake wine lovers have in a wine that a perfect score for this or that bottle riles them up so much so that they will engage in passionate debate on the subject?

For me, the only issue I have with the idea of a Perfect Wine is the philosophical issue.

Without flaw?
Unable to improve?

Websters defines "perfection" thus:

1 : the quality or state of being perfect: freedom from fault or defect : FLAWLESSNESS b : MATURITY c : the quality or state of being saintly

2 a : an exemplification of supreme excellence b : an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence

It’s not that I’ve never tasted such a wine. It’s that the notion that nothing can exceed in quality and pleasure a wine that is deemed perfect is sort of offensive to the notion of faith and hope.

Xbox Magazine deals with this issue in an interesting way. They have a 10 point scale that also offers half points (8 or 8.5, for example). They describe the various levels in this way:

3.0 – 3.5: "It has some crippling problems"

5.0 – 5.5: "Very unspecial and average"

8.0 – 8.5: "A great game an a-list title, but it either has a niche appeal, suffers from minor technical  or design issues, or has peripheral problems like a crummy interface."

10: "Classic. One of the rare and very best of games. Every Xbox gamer simply must buy it and play it, whether or not they are a fan of the genre."

But now here’s where Xbox Magazine gets it right in a way that wine reviewers and raters don’t:

Their scale has an 11th Point: "Perfect. The Unicorn. Will never happen. Never."

I know….it’s rather witty and precious. But it also is an acknowledgment that perfection is something one doesn’t simply point to. You aspire to it.

Wine writers and reviewers will continue to offer perfect scores for the foreseeable future. It makes for outstanding copy, controversy and sell magazines. I just like the idea of their being a level…BEYOND perfect.

5 Responses

  1. Andre Ribeirinho - April 19, 2006

    Very good point Tom.
    Wine rating is as subjective as game rating. And the bigger the scale the bigger the “subjectiveness”.
    So I think it’s more difficult to consider a score bigger than 100 than a score bigger than 10.
    Do you you think a 10 scale is more understandable for everyone than the 100 scale?

  2. tom - April 19, 2006

    No, I think the 100 point scale is easier for people to understand. However, I think a 10 point scale is, ironically, more acccurate insofar as it implies the subjectivity of the subject matter better than the 100 point scale does.

  3. Andre Ribeirinho - April 19, 2006

    so the 100 point is easier for people to understand because it’s more well known and not because it’s better in addressing the subjectivity of the subject. Am I right?
    I asking this because I’m working on a new idea and I’m interested in knowing what scale could be better to allow users to rate wine on a large scale.
    and by large scale I mean the mix of users that come from the people that rate wine professionaly plus the people that rate wine personally.

  4. tom - April 19, 2006

    Exactly. The thing that strikes me, however, about group or aggragated ratings like you are talking about is that everyone involved really must understand the criteria for rating wines under the same scale. That seems essential.

  5. kompresör - October 31, 2023

    İşiniz için en iyi kompresörü burada bulacaksınız. Performansı ve kaliteyi bir arada sunuyoruz

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