I can understand why scoring is so often scorned. Making wines in a particular style to please famous palates in the hope of commercial success and having an industry built on selling wines purely on scores is not an appealing proposal. Scores are easily abused.
Probably this is the reason why many writers dislike scoring but then some of them throw out the baby with the bath water. We all have seen tasting notes that come not only without a score but also any assessment. You just can’t tell whether the reviewer thought the wine was good, excellent, poor, worth recommending or buying.
Scores are not the only way to address this problem but they can be useful, provided they are used carefully. And that warning has been there from the beginning; just take a look at the original one, the Wine Advocate’s description: “the numerical ratings are utilized only to enhance and complement the thorough tasting notes, which are my primary means of communicating my judgments to you”. He nailed it, I think.
On the other hand, I find that 100 point rating system unnecessarily wide. Why distinguish a poor wine from another poor wine? I like the buying perspective approach of The Big Red Wine Book more reasonable, so here is how I use the score ranges:
- below 80: mediocre or faulty, I don’t want to drink such wines.
- 80-83: acceptable, OK; simple wines, but having recognizable varietal or regional character; the basic AOP wines in France mostly fall into this category; I would probably buy if it’s cheap
- 84-86: a good wine, one that can be enjoyed and liked, but one for the midweek; if price is good, I buy several bottles; think a villages wine from a coop in France
- 87-89: very good wine: a mid-class wine offering a lot of enjoyment, I might even love it; would be Cru Bourgeois quality in Bordeaux
- 90-92: outstanding wine, it’s serious stuff; often the top wine of a good producer; rarely costs less, than 20-25 Euros; it might come from a premier cru
- 93-95: exceptional wine, grand cru quality; as good as it gets for most variety and wine region
- 96-100: legendary, the very best of the whole World