Wine Critics and Protecting the Retailer’s Authority
A previous post on this blog in which I challenge the critics of the 100 Point Scoring system to make a compelling case against the system is up to 60 comments. What a surprise!!
While a number of very astute points have been made in the course of those 60 comments, one stands out as perhaps the most important thing a wine retailer or winery could take away from the discussion. The comment comes from Gregg Burke, owner of Maratene's Fine Wine in Waldwick, New Jersey:
"I own a small wine shop and I do not use points at all, for the simple reason that as the owner I can not afford to hand over my authority to a critic.The customer has to trust me, not a number."
This isn't an indictment of the 100 Point System, however it is a powerful reason for retailer not to use shelf talkers in their stores that display critics scores. The traditional appeal and great utility of a wine shop is that it is populated by wine lovers who love to sell wine and love to turn people on to the wines they love. That compulsion, when carried out with empathy and passion, is exactly what will keep the independent wine shop alive in a big box world that offers convenience, good pricing and pretty decent selection.
The corner wine shop, populated by the likes of Gregg Burke's, has for decades been the go-to place for wine lovers looking for camaraderie, new tastes, good taste and a relationship with an expert. And Gregg is correct. Giving over a shop to shelf talkers where the authority recommending wines isn't actually in the store negates one of great potentials of a wine shop.
Now, this is not to say that shelf talkers have not place in a well-conceieved wine shop. if it were me who owned the shop, I'd be writing my OWN shelf talkers, furthering my authority. However, in the course of writing those personal shelf talkers, I might mention a review of the wine by a critic I admire, but it would always come in a sideways manner to my own assessment and thoughts on the wine above the paper talker.
Many of those 60 some odd folks who have commented on the previous post concerning the 100 Point Rating System have suggested that consumers are to often mesmerized by the score without much concern for the words that always accompany the score. And I'll be the first to admit that all too often I see retailers who allow a shelf talker that simply states the score without the actual written review. I would agree that this practice can and does lead some consumers to buy only on numbers—something that while not evil in my opinion, probably is dumb and something that a good retailer shouldn't encourage.
But to return to Gregg's point, the practice is probably bad for business. The Wine shop that sells on scores is liklely little different from the wine shop down the street and maybe even less attractive.
Finally, Gregg had something else to say that bear repeating. Not because it's always true, but because it generates a damn good chuckle:
"I have always contended that critcs are just fountains of opinion and we all know that opinions are like A**holes, everyone has one and they all stink."
Well put, Gregg!