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Great Advice from the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer on Interpreting Wine Scores

Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator recently wrote an article about what he likes to tell people who are new to wine appreciation. (What Should Newbies Know? If you were teaching newcomers to wine, what would you tell them? by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator, 15 March 2011) It’s a great read, and I thought I would share with you his advice on how to interpret wine scores because it struck a chord with me.

Deduct two points from any score over 90 and add three points to any score over 80. This always gets a laugh. And sure, it’s meant only half-seriously. But it’s not bad advice all the same.

Everybody knows that only scores of 90 points and higher have power in the marketplace. So an awful lot of really good, worthwhile wines find themselves in the limbo of, say, 88 points. Like the Federal Reserve, folks who give scores have to worry about inflation. So they try to hold back on that precious 10-point spread between 90 and 100 points.

Consciously or otherwise, an awful lot of really good wines don’t get the benediction of a 90-point-or-higher score. Inevitably, perceptions get skewed. Life is unfair.

So my advice to newbies is to muffle the siren call of those 90-point scores by deducting two points and to increase the potency of the 80-point range by adding three points. Voilà! That delightful Bourgogne rouge that received “only” 88 points suddenly becomes an irresistible 91-point beauty—one that probably has an invitingly low price, too.

Sure, it’s a game, like choosing the third least-expensive bottle on a wine list. But I don’t see much of a down side (the 90-pointers will still be in the running), and there’s a helluva upside for many of today’s best wine deals.

Sometimes I still struggle to get my head around the fact that a bottle of wine costing $150, for example, has the same wine score as a bottle costing $20. I could be stating the obvious, but I think you have to read wine scores and price together. A $150 90 point wine is usually in a whole different (read better) category than the $20 90 point wine. Although I should preface this comment by noting that some critics taste wine blind and have no idea of the price point for the bottle when writing their review.

Wine scores are useful for comparing similar types of wines in the same price bracket or different vintages of the same wine.  What do you think? Personally, I pay more attention to what the critic has to say about the wine than the point score!

Photo Credit: Wine Rating, Wikipedia

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