Roving on Wine

Karl Rove, in his time spent as a political strategist for the Bush Administration is undeniably guilty of the most harmful form of politics: divide and rule tactics. Through the aggressive use of overblown rhetoric and doggedly focussing on contentious issues, the American public was made to feel more divided than they are in reality. In my time travelling from state to state I found that in character and personality the majority of people I met were all embracing, warm and friendly, irrespective of their political view points. FDR was a unifier and his legacy is testament to the power of unity amongst the most adverse conditions. Through unity, Americans went from being bankrupt to being the world’s most successful and powerful country, which is why Rove’s legacy of an American people at odds with each other is something that the next administration should fight against. The next president needs to be a unifier.

Unfortunately, every sphere has its Karl Rove, and I’m going to be bold and say that Robert Parker is the Karl Rove of the industry. It is precisely because of Parker’s ridiculous 100 point system that there is so much tension in the wine industry. Because there is indeed little to be gained from calling one wine a 91 pointer, and another a 93, and when one starts placing such arbitrary divides by privileging one style over the next, more harm is done than good. The perfect example of this is the wine ‘Barefoot’ which came out and had a gold sticker reading ’93 Points, Gold Medal’ emblazoned across the front, just below the $5.99 price point. If anyone were to take a closer look at the little sticker, it would seem that this award was given by the Kentucky State Fair, and in a shameless display of consumer-deception, the marketers slapped 93 Points on the wine and sent it out to market. Of course, for not much more money, one could have bought a wine other than Barefoot, from Spain or Israel or South Africa, and though there would have been no score across the bottle, you would have gotten far more bang for your buck.

Parker’s system started with the best of intentions, but unfortunately it has become a monster, hyper-inflating the price of some wines whilst causing entire regions’ pricing to plummet. Since the 100 point system came into play, things have not been much fun for producers who are given scores under 91. This is not to say that the consumer wouldn’t like these wines. In fact I’ve had plenty perfectly decent wines with scores of 84; and have sometimes been very disappointed by a 93, especially because of the extra money spent. One particularly amusing take on this is Just Wine Points, which, for anyone who’s ever worked in this industry, is simply laugh out loud funny and rich in cutting irony and scathing parody.

We don’t need any more wine critics, everyone’s a critic nowadays. What the wine industry needs is a unifier. At Grape Thinking we’re very close to a solution, and at the core of our business is the desire to help consumers discover their own taste. The wine industry has no space for more critics, what we need is guides. And in just under a month, we’re going live with a system that is going to let your own taste be your guide. A wine industry that is united and non-exclusive… I’ll drink to that any day!

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Posted in News, Thoughts, Wine | 4 Comments »

  • http://www.catavino.net ryan

    I think what RP did for the industry was GREAT, but I do believe we are at a stage that it has become outdated and not useful. What I think you don’t address though is that MOST people don’t know what the 100pt scale is. When I sold wine, so many people seemed confused by it anyways. Yeah the geeks ate it up, and the occasional “well it got 90pts it must be good” was often heard. But in the end it never the driving force to my wine sales. Big points meant a wine would sell out in a day or two to some UBER geeks, and then I would be back to selling the everyday stuff.

    I hate ratings, but I question why people like us, feel that they are so bad? Traveling to wine shows during this spring I hear PP(parker points) mentioned everywhere I go. If wineries rely on RP, they lose out when their wines are not rated, a lament I hear far too often.

    Maybe we need to be asking the wineries to NOT have RP rate their wines. Sell the wine on merit alone. Do tastings, parties, etc….

    hmmm sorry for the ramble

  • http://www.catavino.net ryan

    I think what RP did for the industry was GREAT, but I do believe we are at a stage that it has become outdated and not useful. What I think you don’t address though is that MOST people don’t know what the 100pt scale is. When I sold wine, so many people seemed confused by it anyways. Yeah the geeks ate it up, and the occasional “well it got 90pts it must be good” was often heard. But in the end it never the driving force to my wine sales. Big points meant a wine would sell out in a day or two to some UBER geeks, and then I would be back to selling the everyday stuff.

    I hate ratings, but I question why people like us, feel that they are so bad? Traveling to wine shows during this spring I hear PP(parker points) mentioned everywhere I go. If wineries rely on RP, they lose out when their wines are not rated, a lament I hear far too often.

    Maybe we need to be asking the wineries to NOT have RP rate their wines. Sell the wine on merit alone. Do tastings, parties, etc….

    hmmm sorry for the ramble

  • http://RuarriRogan.com Ruarri

    You’re completely right Ryan – Parker did do a great thing for the industry, however, it has run its course. We both know what its like to go half the way round the world, coordinate delivery of wine and book hotels in order to stand at a trade fare for a day and have people come up to you and look over your portfolio, the first question being ‘what are the scores?’

    And coming from South Africa, there is much ruckus about the recent visit of James Molesworth coming to the country – as in of all the wines he tasted, only 2 got 93, and about 4 got between 90 and 92. That’s worse than a death sentence.

    I’ve been to places, the Westchester Wine Warehouse for example, where I’ve had the buyer spit wine on my shoe when he heard it was an 87. And 87 from Wine Enthusiast no less – how dare I take his time? So, perhaps the point system did make me bitter – but I really think the consumer loses out. Firstly because certain prices become overinflated, and often comsumers get ripped off by buying for points instead of quality. Higher points rarely means greater enjoyment. I think that’s why it became fashionable in LA for a little while to bring 2 buck chuck to a smarmy dinner party… stuff like ‘Crane Lake’, which people quaff and have a jolly good time over – and spend less and 20 bucks on wine for the whole evening.

    I’m happy for the wines that sell out after getting big points. But I think it can be damaging. Purely because it sells out to the international market, and everyone pulls up stock and sends it to America. But the following year, the next vintage scores dismally, and they’ve gone in and begun micro-oxygenating and using specific yeasts – only to find that they have to go back to the local market with their tale between their legs, and their wine has lost its original character. Homogeneity.

    Christian Eedes, deputy editor and blogger for Wine Magazine, South Africa’s monthly publication, laments that after Moleswoth’s visit, South African producers may start trying to reverse engineer their wine making style and cater to Molesworth’s palat – which would be like David Lynch making movies for Ebert and Roeper after not getting the standard ‘two thumbs up.’

    Anyhow – I like your ideas. Fancy a glass of wine next time I’m in New York?

    Ruarri

  • http://RuarriRogan.com Ruarri

    You’re completely right Ryan – Parker did do a great thing for the industry, however, it has run its course. We both know what its like to go half the way round the world, coordinate delivery of wine and book hotels in order to stand at a trade fare for a day and have people come up to you and look over your portfolio, the first question being ‘what are the scores?’

    And coming from South Africa, there is much ruckus about the recent visit of James Molesworth coming to the country – as in of all the wines he tasted, only 2 got 93, and about 4 got between 90 and 92. That’s worse than a death sentence.

    I’ve been to places, the Westchester Wine Warehouse for example, where I’ve had the buyer spit wine on my shoe when he heard it was an 87. And 87 from Wine Enthusiast no less – how dare I take his time? So, perhaps the point system did make me bitter – but I really think the consumer loses out. Firstly because certain prices become overinflated, and often comsumers get ripped off by buying for points instead of quality. Higher points rarely means greater enjoyment. I think that’s why it became fashionable in LA for a little while to bring 2 buck chuck to a smarmy dinner party… stuff like ‘Crane Lake’, which people quaff and have a jolly good time over – and spend less and 20 bucks on wine for the whole evening.

    I’m happy for the wines that sell out after getting big points. But I think it can be damaging. Purely because it sells out to the international market, and everyone pulls up stock and sends it to America. But the following year, the next vintage scores dismally, and they’ve gone in and begun micro-oxygenating and using specific yeasts – only to find that they have to go back to the local market with their tale between their legs, and their wine has lost its original character. Homogeneity.

    Christian Eedes, deputy editor and blogger for Wine Magazine, South Africa’s monthly publication, laments that after Moleswoth’s visit, South African producers may start trying to reverse engineer their wine making style and cater to Molesworth’s palat – which would be like David Lynch making movies for Ebert and Roeper after not getting the standard ‘two thumbs up.’

    Anyhow – I like your ideas. Fancy a glass of wine next time I’m in New York?

    Ruarri

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