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Opinion 1

Do you need to be a wine expert to use tasting scores safely? (20-01-2003)

I am afraid the answer is yes.

Nowadays tasting scores are very popular, for many people these scores are a great help, offering an “objective” criterion in their decision buying a specific wine or not. In the utterly complex world of wine some help is very welcome to people who only want to enjoy wine without the necessity to make a complete study of it. I perfectly understand that.

On the other side of the spectrum a good score helps both the wine producer and merchant in offering a very strong and effective sales argument. This is the world has been waiting for so long, hence the enormous success and influence of wine scores.

But there is much more behind a wine score than you would think at first. Maybe you will realize a 98 points wine (scale: /100) is not two times better than a 49 points wine. However in our daily life numbers suggest you can calculate with them.

An 88 points wine is always less in quality than a 90 or 92 points wine. In theory this is correct, but not every body would give the 88 points wine 88 points, maybe more or even less points. So another taster could rate the same three wines very differently.

What are the tasters’ standards he measures a wine against? In what stage of development was the wine when the scores have been given ? When was this wine tasted (wines develop and go through many phases during their lives) ? You see, there is much more to it than just numbers.

If you have read my introduction on tasting notes and scores you will have learnt that tasting scores are the result of measuring the tasting impressions of a wine against a certain set of standards the taster considers important or valuable (is full-bodiedness important, if yes, how important, is colour important?, how important? is smoothness important? how important? etc.). Every taster has his own standards, how well trained he may be, how hard he or she tries to be objective, tasting and evaluating wine is always more or less subjective (as is for instance evaluating art). To a certain extend it is possible to be objective, but no one can be totally objective.

Tasting scores alone only gives you the information about the taster’s appreciation of the wine. Nothing else.

The written down taste impressions are far more important, I think they are essential next to scores. They limit the risk of wrong conclusions. Even with these tasting impressions you can go wrong, but the chances for this are greatly reduced.

The problem with tasting scores is not the score itself, but the universal use of these scores alone, too often seen in promotions. Both the sales and buying side of the spectrum like them, they are so easy and effective to use.

follow the scores, miss a lot
I prefer to judge wine myself, not following the preference and judgement of a wine expert. Following the judgement of a wine experts minimizes risks (not costs), but even if you share the same taste preference, you are guaranteed to miss out a huge number of interesting wines. Not all wines you encounter are tasted and judged by your guru. But the most sad thing of all is that you deprive yourself from developing your taste independently and while doing so miss the enormous excitement from discovering unexpected new smell and taste impressions that can be found in unknown or underrated wines.

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