Monday, May 10, 2010

Oh, Those Points, by Teresa McDonald

Oh, Those Points
By Teresa C. Macdonald

Last Thursday as I navigated the over fifty tables at the Toast of the Town 2010 Chicago, I became embroiled in the proverbial point slang volleyed around the tables. Those mysterious phases “88 points”, “95 points”, “92 points” suggesting just as much as or as little as the size of my waist line. So what’s the point of these points anyway, especially since there are over eight point systems for wine?

The wine rating system, or points, was developed by the wine industry to place a “value” on a wine so it could be more easily traded, and has since expanded to assist novices in evaluating the quality of the wine. All wines are assessed and receive a score (either in barrel or when bottled), but basically the higher the score a wine has the greater its potential.

The two main rating systems for wine in the U.S. both use a 100 point scale. Perhaps the most influential is Robert Parker’s rating in the Wine Advocate ( For his system he evaluates wines in peer-group blind tastings and then awards a score. Wines that score a 50 are considered unacceptable and those with 96+ points are extraordinary. He is known for a discriminating palette which picks wines that age well.

The second most popular point system is the Wine Spectator’s. ( Wine Spectator enlists a team of editors who have an in-depth familiarity of specific regions that blindly review and score a wine. Wines that score 50-74 are not recommended and wines with 95+ points are classics. Since the editors know the regions they are able to taste unique subtleties and spot trends.

So how do I use the points? Generally, I use Robert Parker’s advice for the bottles I’m looking to lay down and Wine Spectator for everything else.

by Teresa McDonald for The May 11th Pipeline (article re-posted here in its entirety due to space constraints. The "READ ON" or "READ MORE" option seems to work better for reducing scroll fatigue.)

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