January 8, 2009

More from the Holiday Break

We drank these two as well (see the last report for context).

Drinking our way through all this Bordeaux gave rise to this idle thought:

Why is there a controversy about giving wine a score?

I'm curious about this debate. Mostly because I don't understand who has time to worry about it.

But maybe I don't get it. Maybe it's not like some 15 year-old pop star picking up a trophy at the Teen Choice Awards in front of a sea of confused and adoring fans and yelling, "You can't judge art!" Which is a great ideal to hold onto when you're 15. Not as great as, "Let's end hunger and poverty." But it's up there.

You can judge art. In fact, you have to. Otherwise, you're just a Golden Retriever.

I do understand that most anti-scoring sentiment is about Robert Parker. But I don't understand why people have time to worry about Parker, either. Unless this is their worry:

My palate is just like Robert Parker's, so I always seem to overpay for wine.

That would be a legitimate concern.


Edward said...

I used to have a golden retriever, and I'm sure he could judge (his food at least). . .

Managing Director, Labwork said...

Smart Dog.

Tyler said...

I think the controversy is that it's pretty hard to quantify a wine based solely on a number -- wine is an experiential good, not something with an absolute value. By way of example, I've had wine that I disliked intensely (too much alcohol, over-ripe fruit, not varietally correct) that I objectively scored very highly (based on the scale that I use in my day-to-day work at a major wine retailer; we've got a standard scale for scoring wine). The 94 I gave the wine doesn't mean I like it, or even that I feel it's good wine, but that it's powerful, has a long finish, etc.

Similarly, there've been wines that I've scored lowly, but that I've enjoyed immensely -- my favorite Cava, for example, is an 86 -- death in the wine world, it's below a 90! -- but I'd happily drink a case a month.

Ultimately, the argument against scoring, per se, is the same as the argument against criticism in general; it's hard to quantify everything about a wine, and it's all subjective anyhow.

Keith Levenberg said...

I think Edward's golden retriever gets the better of Tyler in this controversy. While it doesn't seem fundamentally objectionable to use a score as a shorthand for saying, "I like this one better than this one but not as much as that one," I haven't the foggiest idea who is being served by a score that measures certain characteristics of a wine ("it's powerful, has a long finish, etc.") that *admittedly* have nothing to do with whether it's any good or not. This is a classic example of using numbers as pseudo-science to mislead people. On what rational basis could someone surmise that the person who rated a wine 94 out of 100 "disliked [the wine] intensely"?!

Managing Director, Labwork said...

My scorecard gives another point to Edward's dog.