Philosophy and the 100-point rating system.

I read this very interesting review of a book called Questions of Taste. The Philosophy of Wine, by Barry C. Smith. Heady stuff about subjectivity and authority.

The review contains this lovely analogy about the excessive importance taken by rating systems like the Parker/Wine Spectator 100-point scale:

So the illustrious British critic Hugh Johnston scoffs, calling Parker’s system “pernicious and silly”, and frets proprietorially that something so facile and jejune “can only do harm to wine in the end”.

What harm is that? Well, perhaps next we shall have guides weighing up the collection of the Louvre on a similar scale, so that we can slide quickly by Hans Holbein the Younger’s “Portrait of a Young Girl Smiling”, a meagre if respectable sixty-seven, in favour of Raphael’s “La Belle Jardinière”, which scores a handsome ninety-two. Or is it a ninety-three? How, after all, are such judgements made? Are they not, among other things, absurdly fine-grained?

Indeed, that may be the main downside of numerical rating systems. If you won’t even look at wines that score less than 90 or, more generously, 86, you’ll be missing a lot of lovely little wines. Just as, when visiting the Louvre, focusing on the Mona Lisa will make you miss so many less known, yet very much worthy and often highly impressive or just nice, touching, good looking works. I do love great barolos and bordeaux, but a vinho verde on the terrace is great too.

Published in: on December 8, 2007 at 5:19 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I couldn’t agree more. The tasting notes are more important, & more informative, than the score. I have had plenty of wines, most recently the 2000 Anderson’s Conn Valley Dutton Ranch Pinot, that got a so called poor rating. This particular bottle received a score of 82 from Spectator. I thought it was an exceptional wine & they probably tasted it far too young. There are too many wines out there to strictly look for the 90 + pointers. Every wine has its place. I’m glad others feel the same way.


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