Don’t be a score whore…

Wine critics such as Robert Parker and publications such as Wine Spectator Magazine have been hugely beneficial in increasing interest in wine in North America. They can provide valuable insights and information while allowing the wine enthusiast to keep up with the latest trends, up and coming regions and the hottest wines.

While Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator have had a positive impact on the world of wine in many ways, they have also created a new kind of monster…the score whore. Score whores lurk in the wine world and they look just like any other wine enthusiast, with one major exception…there minds have been corrupted by wine ratings. Score whores have abandoned rational and in-dependant thought and have replaced it with an insatiable thirst for ratings. Much like a zombie drawn to feed on human flesh, score whores feed only on wines that have received ratings of 95 points or more on the infamous 100 point scale from Robert Parker, one of his minions, or from the aforementioned Wine Spectator.

I ran into just such a creature at Bin 905 Wine and Spirits recently. I was first lulled into complacency by this particular gentleman’s request to see any new wines from the region of Barolo, which is in Piemonte, Italy. I could hardly contain my excitement as I showed this gentleman to the Barolo section and pointed out a new arrival, a 2003 Barolo from the producer Pio Cesare. Pio Cesare is one of the oldest producers in the ancient region of Barolo. They are regarded by most wine enthusiasts as a top producer in the region and have been making wine for so long a portion of the original wall around the town of Alba, built by the Romans hundreds of years ago, is still visible in the depths of their winery.

My excitement quickly dissipated however as the gentleman in question revealed his true nature by saying “I don’t drink Pio Cesare”. I was flabergasted! Although this particular Barolo is not inexpensive, coming in at a shelf price of $80.00, Barolo is an expensive wine by nature and $80.00 is not outrageous by any means for a top wine. “Why not?” I inquired, and with his reply the score whore revealed his true nature…”I only buy Barolo’s with good scores. If I am going to pay $80.00 for a wine, it better have a good rating!”

I was speachless. A trickle of rage made it’s way up my body as I tried to contain my annoyance. I have personally had this wine many times. I have had this wine from amazing vintages such as 1997/1999 and lesser vintages such as 2002 and it has always shown well. I figured surely at least this gentleman had based his decision on previous experience with this wine and it simply was not his cup of tea. Surely he couldn’t possibly be basing his judgement of this wine on an arbitrary score delivered as one persons opinion of this wine at the Wine Spectator. Obviously the score whore sensed my dismay and felt obligated to defend himself. “Don’t get me wrong…” he said “I’ve never tried the wine, but it doesn’t get good scores!”

At that point I had no choice but to walk away, with the alternative being a David Banner like transformation where in my skin turned green, I ripped through my t-shirt and threw the gentleman through the re-enforced front windows of BIn 905. Now everyone has their own taste and preference and I am not so ignorant as to believe everyone will enjoy the same wines I do, but I just could not comprehend how in true score whore fashion, this wine consumer who I am sure is otherwise a rational and intelligent human being, could let a number dictate his wine purchase. He did not think to consider whether this particular producer’s style of wine making fit into his preference, whether the taste profile of the wine would appeal to him or to ask about the reputation of the winery in the wine world. And the craziest thing is that if he actually took a minute to look at the history of scores and reviews of the Pio Cesare Barolo he would see that the wine has only scored below 90 points one time since 1995 and that was in the abysmal 2002 vintage in which most wineries did not even produce a wine! This is a wine that is consistently given equal or greater scores than wines three to four times it’s price.

So please, do the world a favour and don’t become a score whore. Wine reviews and ratings have their place, but at the end of the day it is just one persons opinion and 99 points is just a number. The most important question is whether the style of the wine suits your budget, the occasion and your individual tastes. Band with me to combat ignorance and the world of wine will be a better place.

Cheers,

Jesse

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