Wine Ratings: A Big Bunch of Readers
There is nothing more controversial in the world of wine, particularly among members of the trade and wine enthusiasts, than the 100 Point Rating System. Nothing else comes close to the controversy, discussion, vitriol, defense and words that the mention of this system for ranking wine can engender.
Since Gary Rivlin’s well done New York Times piece on wine ratings, their impact and their use was published last Sunday I’ve had links to it forwarded to me by 13 different people. I get stories e-mailed to me on a regular basis. But this is a lot.
Clearly, the piece made an impact.
The most interesting discussion of the article I’ve seen occurs (and is probably still occurring) at the wine discussion forum at eRobert Parker. In fact, between the robust defense of the 100 point scale and a number of critiques of the article, Mr. Parker and Mr. Rivlin had the chance to address each on the matter of the motives of the NY Times, the fact checking of the NY Times and the amount of wine Robert Parker buys versus gets sent to him.
It was all a bit off topic. However, that discussion and the buzz the article caused in this industry suggests that that many people have a great deal invested one way or another in this ubiquitous ratings system.
There are a few things about the 100 Point Scale Rating System that can’t be argued with:
1. 90 Points or above sells wine in a way 89 Points does not
2. The system works for most people because they intuitively understand the system
3. The points by themselves and without descriptions tell you nothing about the character of the wine
4. Point rankings are an essential tool for distributor salespeople without which they would have to re-learn the practice of selling wine
5. The near universal adoption of the 100 Point scale is in no way the fault of Robert Parker or the Wine Spectator. That responsibility must be laid at the steps of retailers and marketing types who have convinced consumers it is the best way to choose from among many wines.
One reason Rivlin’s article has stirred up so much controversy and discussion is the venue in publication in which it ran: The New York Times. Say what you will about the New York Times but it remains the most influential newspaper in the world. With a Sunday Circulation of 1.6 Million readers, not to mention the Internet readers, it’s easy to understand its influence. But you also have to consider WHO reads the NY Times. It’s one of those publications that people in authority must read and be familiar with because other people in authority are reading it.
Consider also that as of today, this article was the 7th most emailed article from the NY times over the past 7 days.
This means that it is likely that those who read this article on the 100 Point wine rating scale was noticed by the staff of the White House, the executives at the largest wine companies in the world, the top management at Microsoft and GM, the vast majority of those in the business of drilling for oil and the intelligentsia of America.
That’s why this was an important article. The matter of the 100 Point wine rating system just went global and went in front of people who make decisions.