OMG – this wine scored 100! I have to get some!
What does this score really mean and will you actually like the wine?
In the early 1980s, Robert Parker burst onto the scene with his 100-point rating system. Since then, his influence over the world of wine has been significant and transformative. Parker’s preference was for big, bold, fruity, high alcohol, oaky wines, and it is to this style of wine that he attached his highest scores. His highly scored wines sold out. The wine industry took notice and started adapting. New wine regions such as Argentina hired consultants to help them produce high-scoring, Parker-style wine. In established regions such as Rioja in Spain, some winemakers began making a “modern” style wine that was more extracted and richer than its traditional counterpart.
Has Parker been good for the wine industry? The answer is yes, and no.
Parker and the tradition of scoring wines led to the modernization of the wine industry as producers looked to get achieve scores for their wines. Production standards increased and, as a result, we have fewer "faulted" wines than we once had.
Parker has also helped the consumer since buying a bottle of wine is a little like placing a bet. The vast majority of consumers look to the experts to tell them whether a wine is good. A high score stacks the odds in your favour. I have been known to buy the occasional bottle based on score alone! It makes the decision easier.
The biggest negative for me is that chasing after Parker scores has led to the “Parkerization” of wine. Terroir, or regional difference, takes a back seat to homogeneity of style . The magic of wine lies in its different expressions based on where it is produced. And advancements in technology have resulted in wine that has become too perfect. I like a little bit of funkiness in my wine!
So what should you do? Try a little experiment. Find a wine that that you like that has several reviews and compare them. Are all the reviews similar? Is there an outlier? If you find one or two reviewers that you agree with on a regular basis, stick with them! But the most important thing is that you continue to experiment!
Here are a few reviewers to look for:
Robert Parker, Antonio Galloni, Jancis Robinson, James Molesworth, Stephen Tanzer