Monday, May 31, 2010


The 100-point rating system used by wine critics such as Robert Parker is either embraced or reviled.  I include myself in the latter group.

I think of winemaking as an artistic process.  Is it really possible to accurately describe a wine's value with a numerical representation?  I think not.  But there are many who would disagree with that viewpoint.

What if other art forms - music, for instance - were rated on a 100-point scale the way wine is?

Utilizing Robert Parker's scoring system, an assessment of the Rolling Stones' "Exile On Main Street" might go, as they say in the Poconos, a little something like this:

“I am giving this CD, as I do all CDs, a base of 50 points.

“The general color and appearance of the CD merit up to 5 points. With most CD artwork being produced by professional artists, most CDs receive 4 or even 5 points.

“In the case of "Exile...," however, I must insist that the cover artwork seems put together in what I will generously refer to as a haphazard way.  It actually appears to be the work of a rather disturbed child who discovered some old photos in the attic and made a collage from them.  I will award only 2 points for the disappointing appearance of this CD.

“The words and music merit up to 15 points, depending on the intensity level and dimension of the words and music as well as the cleanliness.

“First of all, I can only understand about half the words.  Those I can understand seem directed from the gutter.  While the lyrics seem delivered with a certain amount of fervor, especially in some of the faster songs, I feel some understandability is required.  The cleanliness level leaves much to be desired.  The music is written and performed in a professional style, in keeping with other rock CD of the Classic Rock variety, so I'll award 7 points.

“The sound and emotional impact merit up to 20 points.  I may not understand it, but it kicks ass. 17 points.

“Finally, the overall quality level or potential for further evolution and improvement merits up to 10 points.  The overall quality seems only moderately high, even given the recording techniques of the day.  Moreover, owing to the advancing age of the principals of this unit, I can't reasonable expect much improvement through aging.  3 points.

“Total score for 'Exile On Main Street': 79 points.”

Is "Exile..." really a 79-point CD?  If the critic isn't inclined to like the Rolling Stones, maybe it is.  But for those who do like them, and consider "Exile..." to be a classic of the rock era, what are we to make of the 79-point score?

The same questions can be asked about a wine's critical rating.  Is the critic simply not a fan of the winery or the vineyard from which the grapes are taken?  Does he or she simply not care for Grenache, Merlot or White Zinfandel?  Did the critic simply not wake up on the wine-appreciating side of the bed that day?

I would prefer to see wine criticism stated in words, not numbers.  I enjoy reading about what a taster thinks of different wines, but I have a hard time relating to a number score which leaves so much unsaid and open to interpretation.

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