Last week, Tom Wark published an extremely interesting and enlightening analysis of wines rated 100 pts – a perfect score – by Robert M. Parker Jr. If anyone needed an argument to say that point scores are just glorified opinions, rather than actual “objective” analyses and ratings, this is an excellent one.
Out of 224 wines scored 100 points by Mr Parker, 69 (30%) were from the Rhône, 53 (24%) from Bordeaux, 45 (20%) from California, and only 3 (1.3%) from all of Italy. 68% of the wines whose maturity level (ranging from Young to Late, in Mr Parker’s system) was provided were either in the “Young” or “Early” category. The four most frequently used descriptors were: rich, intense, concentrated and spicy.
So the typical perfect wine, according to Robert Parker, is a young, rich, intense, concentrated and spicy wine from the Rhône. Is anyone really surprised by that?
It almost feels like something from Bobby Parkerchuk, the Gary Vaynerchuk/Robert Parker fusion character whose Châteauneuf-du-Pape 20007-imbibed tweets are some of the funniest wine stuff in social media.
However, can anyone really assert that Rhône wines hold such a stranglehold on superlative wines? Is Italy, from Barolo to Brunello, from Sassicaia to Massetto, from the power of Sagrantino to the subtleties of nebbiolo, almost twenty times less likely to produce perfection than the Rhône region by itself? All of Spain, another huge producer of wines, with the combined firepower of Rioja, Priorato and Ribera del Duero, could only muster 8 perfect scores: should it bow in submission in front of the vines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte-Rôtie?
Clearly, personal taste is the only thing that can explain such a concentration of perfect scores in a single region. Meaning that even 100-point scores, the pinnacle of wine scoring, the score-heard-’round-the-world of wine reviews, are just one man’s opinion. They are the wines that he thought were perfect, not perfect wines.
In Mondovino, Michael Broadbent argued that Michel Rolland, a Pomerol man, was in many ways turning all the wines he consulted with into pomerols, turning his own personal point of view into a universal approach to winemaking. However successful that approach may have been, it remains one way of seeing things, and not gospel truth.
Of course, if you like those styles of wines, then by all means, feel free to follow Parker’s imprecations and ratings. Just don’t think – or argue – that it’s the only way to go.
Further pointless arguments
I’ve argued before against using ratings to review wines, both on this blog and in a point-counterpoint match with W. Blake Gray on Palate Press, so reading Tom Wark’s post only reinforced existing ideas. However, I find the subjective nature of Parker’s “perfect” wine selection particularly revealing of the great limitations of any scoring system, and of the problems of having a single voice carry so much weight, within the infinite diversity of the wine world. It’s only an opinion, from a singular point of view, not an absolute truth or a divine judgment, people!
That latest blow to the value of ratings, beyond its commercial impact, is far from the only one. Inspiration to deride the points system is also easily fueled by James Suckling’s video antics on perfection, and his latest video explanations as to how he scores wines. As Dr Vino put it so well in a recent tweet:
Suckling responds to critics who say he pulls scores out of thin air–by detailing *how* he pulls them out of thin air http://bit.ly/huv7Kn
Maybe it’s hard to describe one’s wine-rating analysis in a short video, but after watching that latest attempt at defending the approach, I’m only more convinced to forgo scoring. Or to put it another way, I’m 100 pts on not scoring wines.