My Hero

The measure of a person’s commitment to an idea must surely be the length to which they are willing to go to make their point. When a person is willing to go the distance, and do so with the kind of delicious satire that Darryl Roberts of Wine X Magazine does, you really have to step back and marvel at the brilliance.

As we recently heard, Roberts shut down his subversive Wine X Magazine after years of publishing. In doing so he criticized, shall we say, in no uncertain terms, the lip service we in the wine industry give to younger drinkers that doesn’t come with a commitment to support efforts to reach out to these consumers. In other words, they applauded Robert’s Wine X Magazine but never supported it with advertising. Darryl hit his closing volley into the cheap seats way up top. He minced no words.

He’s been criticized for this by a number of folks who thought his outburst was tinged with bitterness. Some pointed comments were aimed his way in the same acerbic fashion that Darryl level is aim at the industry.

Maybe his comments were bitter. But the real parting shot that Roberts has left the Wine Industry with is not his words of criticism but one of the most brilliant acts of satire ever to hit the wine industry.

But first some background.

For years Darryl has been out to get the 100 point rating system for wine. He’s mounted argument after argument about the way he sees it subverting the appreciation of wine. He’s ridiculed those who use it to rate wines and dismissed those who use it slavishly to buy wines as "wannabees". Few people have been as opposed to the 100 point system as Darryl. In fact, much of the message of Wine X Magazine was you only need your own palate. His unique, pithy, pop-culture-referencing reviews made this same point.

Still, it seemed the wine industry didn’t want Darryl’s message. They never supported the magazine and his message of personal liberation from the scores and the wine industry’s message that wine makes you a better person seemed to fall on deaf ears.

In the end, Darryl decided to give them all what they wanted: Scores. And not just any scores…we’reScores

Out of the ashes of Wine X Magazine came, the motto of which is "because nothing else matters." We are talking 99 point Sauvignon Blanc, 98 point Zin for $10, 96 point Grenache Rose. Why, it’s a virtual parade of 99 and 98 point wines coming out of It’s what everyone seemed to want. Well now they have it. A source for perpetually high 90 point wine reviews for nearly any wine you can imagine.

How do the proprietors of JustWinePoints justify this?

"we’ve decided to take a different road and value a wine
on what it’s supposed to be. For example: if we taste a Bordeaux that’s
a wannabe “First Growth” than we judge it against a First Growth ideal.
If it’s a $10 red blend from California that aspires to be a $10 red
blend from California, then we value it on that ideal. Honestly, why
judge a $10 red blend from California against a First Growth Bordeaux
if the $10 bottle just wants to be a nice, easy-drinking, everyday red
wine? If it lives up to everything it’s supposed to be, why devalue it
just because it’s not a First Growth?"

Read this carefully. It has the benefit of being both incredibly subversive and at the same time as fair as any wine rating system you’ve ever seen described before. And, it’s an approach to rating wine that lends itself to 99 point wines. It rewards how well the winemaker nailed their INTENTIONS for the wine, not the relative quality of the wine.

Knowing Darryl’s thoughts on the 100 point scale and understanding his view of the industry’s response to his original attempt to undermine the wine industry’s happy self perceptions, you have to admit that JustWinePoints is a brilliant piece of performance art that literally wreaks of irony and satire. It the kind of send off that only Darryl could deliver.

So those of you who dismissed Darryl as bitter, you’ve got to give him is due. This is man who knows how to make a point and is willing to go the distance to do it.  That makes him my hero.

18 Responses

  1. johng - March 7, 2007

    That’s pretty similar to my blog’s scoring system, except mine allows for scores above 100, which makes more sense to me.

  2. Randy - March 7, 2007

    Huh, the site seems legit enough to me. It offers a submission process for tasting and rating.
    I actually kinda like the concept, that you can score wines in different tiers, basically. Of course, it would be hilarious to see someone walk into BevMo with a list of 90+ scores from justwinepoints and say, “do you have this ?”
    You do best by tasting wine varieties that you like, then buying what tastes good to you. You end up finding excellent and affordable wine that way. But then, that’s perhaps too subversive…

  3. Dr. Debs - March 7, 2007

    It’s kind of just a logical extension of varietal characteristics to encompass not only what cabernet should taste like, but what a $10 NV red blend should taste like. Interesting approach.

  4. Mark - March 7, 2007

    So if a winery intends to produce millions of cases of a varietal that is barely drinkable but worth every penny at the same price as a 40oz. malt liquor, and it does so, would it score high 90’s?
    Also, what is stopping a winery from declaring his intentions of what the wine was supposed to be like until after the wine is made?
    I wondered what was up with that site; very funny now that I get the point.

  5. Mr Vino - March 7, 2007

    This is absurd, just as the continuation of WineX was beyond a few issues. Out of touch and unwilling to accept his insignificance, Mr. Roberts should shriek away to obscurity… along with his magazine. Sure, he’ll claim millions of readers (seriously doubt it having been in the publishing industry) but his unwillingness to accept his insignificance makes him a laughing stock. The wine ratings are about par with the magazine.

  6. Jack - March 7, 2007

    “Roberts shut down his subversive Wine X Magazine” – Is “subversive” a new definition for “poor, mediocre, unwanted”? Or what?
    Those wine ratings set a new standard for laughability. If a $14 SLH riesling gets a 96, what do Z-H, Weinbach, Donnhoff, Kuenhof score – 150? 200? 300? Or is it that only wines that he scores 100 pts to are worth putting in your mouth?
    Frankly, Tom, I can’t believe you have another post on this non-story. I have to rate this post a bottom-scratching 53pts.

  7. ken - March 7, 2007

    D. Roberts, the boorish cardboard cut-out from Wine X, how can he be seen as heroic? He is the wine world’s Ann Coulter: all bitterness and ridicule with no substance.

  8. tom merle - March 7, 2007

    Darryl may be engaging in another facet of satire which you’ve missed, Tom. The points war is over and the pointalists have triumphed (think of Pooch awarding all those 94s at the California State Fair wine competition, and Charlie Olken having to capitulate over at Connoisseur’s Guide augmenting his puffs–three puffs much like three x’s–with a 100 point system). OK, so DR embraces, with scorn, the victors.
    However, people here and elsewhere chided Mr. Roberts for using an outdated medium, print, to promote his vision. Well, he’s now joined this crowd as well. A little coding/reworking of templates and a $8.95 URL registered through GoDaddy & voila and he’s once again a bona fide wine journalist/reviewer. Vanity press at its cheapest…. Of course, I’m just kidding, all you bloggers 😉

  9. tom - March 7, 2007

    It would only make this incredibly brilliant performance theater perfect if Darryl took his satire and placed it in print.
    I stand by what I said. If you know the history of the 100 Point scale, the history of Darryl’s involvment in attempting to wake up folks to other options for evaluting wine and the history of wine x then the only conclusion you can come to is that while some of this might be a result of bitterness it is nonetheless a beautiful send off of pure satire. I’m impressed. Plus it’s fun.
    The only thing that makes it better is that some folks are using these JustWinePoints in their marketing….OH my god. It’s delicious.

  10. AC - March 7, 2007

    hey Tom:
    if your hero hands you a cup of grape flavored Kool-aid and claims it’s a “95” you might want to think twice about swallowing it.
    I thought, at 1st, the just wine points idea came from you, when I read Michael Deloachs quote on their site.
    you are too funny!

  11. tom - March 7, 2007

    When you think about it…what is a 95 Point wine, AC? We have a good idea of what Robert Parker thinks it is, what many reviewers at the Wine Spectator think it is and what a number of other folks do.
    But can’t there be any number of criteria by which to judge a wine? I someone decided that richly extracted, hugely concentrated wines with heavy sweat oak influence and a big structure were the wines that deserved no more than 85 points because these wines struck them as uninteresting or obtrusive or simple?
    Why Not?
    What if someone decided that something close to perfection was a $10 Merlot that thew out attractive flavors of berry, had good acidity and simple floral and cherry aromas that didn’t overwelm….and of course it was ONLY $10?
    Why not?

  12. Tish - March 8, 2007

    If this really is satire, it strikes me as way too understated to make its point. It also suffers from the fact that apparently at least one major retailer — Sam’s — is actually USING justwinepoints ratings on its web site (for a 98 point NZ Sauv Blanc, I think).
    I’m all for poking fun of the perpetuators and addicts of the 100-point scale. We need a few more guerilla satirical efforts like this and we may yet be able to shift the tide toward common sense…

  13. Mark - March 8, 2007

    Wow, I can’t believe Sam’s is actually using some of these scores! I have to check out the Chicago store this weekend and see what they rate the Bogle Petite Syrah.

  14. Nia - March 10, 2007

    Tom, thanks for this writeup on WineX. I was a fan from when it first started, and I agree that the way it had to end sucks for everyone involved. I really thought that FINALLY we were to see what a publication that marketed straight toward this “coveted generation”, if you will.
    I’ve been on both sides of the fence in the wine industry for some time now, handling both marketing and advertising, and also sales. Companies whine about how they know they’re missing the boat with this generation (one I belong to, might I add); but they won’t take a stand and do anything about it. The most creative thing they’ll do these days is turn their wine into some sort of gimmick via the packaging.
    The most important thing I read into his slamming the 100 point system was to get everyone to THINK FOR THEMSELVES. What a shocking idea – NOT follow certain people and publications blindly, but to simply make up one’s own mind based on factual information about the wine and of course, one’s own pallete. Imagine that.

  15. Jenna - March 12, 2007

    For those who think that justwinepoints is a joke aimed at the wine industry, or that it’s a bitter satirical play by Darryl Roberts, you’re wrong. We’re dead serious about this site, the concept and its position amongst wine reviewers/publications.
    Jenna Corwin & John Thomas

  16. vinojoe - March 12, 2007

    ho hum. Darryl’s mantra was interesting for the first five years, then it became a stale, overoxidized whine (pun intended). Maybe it was the emergence of Gen-Y and the maturation of Gen-X that killed WineX?
    As far as ratings go, for years (shameless plug) has been including points for value in the final score. So a $10 wine that drinks like a $20 one can have a higher score than an overpriced bottle, regardless of Cru. Kind of the same idea as justwinepoints.

  17. SickofWineX - March 12, 2007

    First of all, Tom, it’s a bit disingenuous that you have failed to mention twice now that you are the former PR rep for Wine X. Does it matter? Not so much, but perhaps if you weren’t so intimately involved you would have more perspective on their demise.
    The problem with Wine X was not that it didn’t get enough support from the wine industry. Why would the industry support it? It didn’t serve the wine industry’s interests and missed the mark on the audience it claimed to serve.
    At the end, the magazine was terrible and they seemingly gave up a while ago. Worse, Wine X failed to make a connection to the wine lifestyle. Yes, they reviewed wine. But that was buried under mountains of crappy, disconnected, self-important commentary about music, politics, food, travel, celebrity worship, decorating tips and anything else they could possibly find that had very little to do with wine, enjoying wine, discovering more about wine or learning about wine regions.
    For the record, I am smack dab in the middle of their “youth consumer” wheelhouse. They were ostensibly targeting the magazine to me, while in practice they were targeting it at an impossibly miniscule niche of people who have interests that match exactly to those of the middle-aged Darryl Roberts.
    They obviously and clearly were left woefully flummoxed by the Millennial Generation. The magazine drips with a stunning lack of relevancy for the very market they are supposedly representing.
    A good magazine adapts to fit the times. Wine X just became more irrelevant. On the very first page of their last wine reviews, they included “pop culture” references to: Led Zepplin, Riverdance, Marilyn Manson, Jefferson Airplane and “Bennifer” (which virtually always refers to the long-dead Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez relationship). The only thing even close to being current were the Daisy Duke (being generous) and “Beauty and the Geek” references, but even those come off as pathetic, outdated and sad.
    Futher, it never published on a reliable, regular schedule. You can get one issue, then it might be a month, six months or two years before you get the next one.
    There’s a reason the issues aren’t dated in any way, shape or form, just given seemingly arbitraty “volume” designations. I believe 6.2 was the last one, and the prior release (that I received, anyway) was marked 5.6. More interesting is that the first was 2.1. So they published maybe four years’ worth of issues in 10 years? Did they release six issues a year? Three (using only even numbers)? Two with arbitrary issue numbers? Did I just not get half of them? I never figured it out and assumed they just went bankrupt several times.
    Finally, if Darryl Roberts were truly interested in serving the interests of his readers, he wouldn’t be selling them out so he could get in a final petty satirical stab.

  18. archlord gold - March 21, 2007

    i like ur blog ,it make me anther feeling

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