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Steve Slatcher

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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Steve Slatcher » Mon Nov 24, 2008 4:03 am

Brian Gilp wrote:It is difficult for me to accept a critics 90 point wine if I do not understand what is his 85 or 70 point wine and why.

Quite. And even if feel I am totally in agreement with their palate it is useful to know which wines they have tasted and dislike, and which they simply have not tasted.
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Daniel Rogov

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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Daniel Rogov » Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:17 am

I think one of the things that many people fail to realize is that serious critics may taste as many as 200 wines weekly and sometimes more. The tasting takes a good deal of time; formalizing tasting notes takes even more time than the tastings; and then posting them takes even more time. One tries eventually to "catch up", even at the cost of having an assistant who can help in posting and organizing but the writing itself must be done by the critic in question.

An example - last week at a local (i.e. Israeli) wine exhibition, I tasted 250 Israeli wines in 2 days plus another 60 import6ed wines. The Israeli wines, regardless of score (and so far they range from 65-93) will be formalized, put onto my data base, set aside for specific articles for my newspaper,set aside for inclusion in the 2010 edition of my book and yes, even posted on my little side of the WLDG forum. Notes from the imported kosher wines will all be formalized for possible inclusion in my new book about kosher wines. OInly the most interesting of those will make it into the book or being posted. Of the imported non-kosher wines all will be formalized and some will eventually appear in my columns and on my data base.

Since that two day tasting, I have attended 5 other tastings, have tasted some 130 wines in my own tasting room and even (this morning) attended a tasting of grappa.

Part of the question is how much time one has (physically, not metaphorically) and how much space, and of course deciding on which wines will be most interesting to those who read me.

Not making excuses. I feel no need for that. Simply explaining.

And last word (for now at least) on scores. I would not publish my scores except for one thing - both readers and thus editors demand them.

And now, after that grappa tasting, a nap is in order. This earlly evening to another tasting and then to dinner. Lord love a duck and forgive the critics.

Best
Rogov
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Florida Jim

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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Florida Jim » Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:20 am

Victorwine wrote:This is where the problem lies; everyone has their own idea what a passing grade is.

I would argue that there are numerous problems with such a system; but not in this thread.
And I am 61 and have taught school; I have a very good feel for the school system's grading system.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Florida Jim » Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:21 am

ChefJCarey wrote:This thread. Sigh.


May I ask why?
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Ryan M » Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:45 pm

Oswaldo Costa wrote:Without getting into the merits of grading systems (I don't care for them any more, but they were once helpful to me), I'd like to address the criticism that users of the 100 point system only use the upper deciles.

When grades are given with letters instead of numbers, nobody seems to mind that these letters don't go all the way from A to Z, and stop at C or D (or thereabouts).

WS and WA, when using the 100 point system, are, in effect, giving some kind of an A to wines scoring above 90, some kind of a B to wines scoring between 80 and 89, and some kind of a C to wines scoring below 80.

Nobody begrudges schoolteachers, college professors or rating agencies for not going all the way from A to Z, so why begrudge wine critics for what is, effectively, the same thing?


I agree with this, and I think it is the reason the 100 point system has great appeal to Americans. I think it also has appeal because, numerically, 100% signifies perfection or completeness in a special way, whereas 20, 25, etc. do not.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Oliver McCrum » Mon Nov 24, 2008 3:15 pm

I think David Schildknecht is one of the best writers on wine these days, and I'm glad his writing is widely available. If 'points' is the price, so be it.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Glenn Mackles » Mon Nov 24, 2008 3:23 pm

I find this thread interesting and entertaining but utimately inconclusive as indeed it must be. At the bottom of it all there simply is no way to put a truely objective ranking of any sort on a completely subjective experience. All that one can do is attempt to convey their subjective experience to others. If numbers help do that, great. Many people seem to like precision. Many people seem to find comfort in rankings... it justifies their decisions. I certainly have no objection to people, critics or others, saying which wines they like and that they like some wines better than others. Each and every one of us do that regularly even if we don't get paid for it. We do it each time we buy wine where we decide on one wine v. another based on what we like and what we are willing to pay. What I find particularly difficult about numerical scales is that I don't know what separates an 89 from a 90... while I guess it is clearer that the reviewer really liked a 95 a lot better than an 80. But again what I am being told is what that reviewer liked. Your personal mileage can and will vary.

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David M. Bueker

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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 24, 2008 3:37 pm

Glenn Mackles wrote: At the bottom of it all there simply is no way to put a truely objective ranking of any sort on a completely subjective experience.


Would you mind telling that to my high school English teacher.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by JC (NC) » Mon Nov 24, 2008 4:57 pm

David, if she was grading on spelling, correct grammar, complete sentences, etc.--then it was objective. If she was grading your thoughts--then it becomes more subjective. (From a one-year high school English teacher and current teacher of preparation for the verbal part of the GRE.)
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:01 pm

JC (NC) wrote:David, if she was grading on spelling, correct grammar, complete sentences, etc.--then it was objective. If she was grading your thoughts--then it becomes more subjective. (From a one-year high school English teacher and current teacher of preparation for the verbal part of the GRE.)


He was grading on analysis of William Faulkner's The Bear, a work which I utterly loathed.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Rahsaan » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:09 pm

David, if she was grading on spelling, correct grammar, complete sentences, etc.--then it was objective...He was grading on analysis of William Faulkner's The Bear, a work which I utterly loathed.


Beyond spelling and grammar, analysis can still be graded in a relatively objective way by focusing on structure of the argment and use of evidence to support the argument.

It's not as simple as the answer to 2+2 being either right or wrong, but from my experience grading university student essays there is not much variation across graders on any given essay.

That said, there are always outliers who grade based on their prsonal evaluation of the student's argument and it sounds like that happened to David.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:19 pm

I was mostly yanking Jane's chain. My freshman English teacher was one of the best in my overall school experience. He taught me a lot of things that remained with me throughout my academic (and now professional & hobby) career. Freshman English was a bear for me, but the experience left me well prepared for sophomore-senior English.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Keith M » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:22 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:was one of the best in my overall scholl experience.

of using foot powders?
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:28 pm

Keith M wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:was one of the best in my overall scholl experience.

of using foot powders?


I said he was my English teacher, not my typing teacher. :wink:
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by Keith M » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:32 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:I sad he was my English teacher

Well you don't have to go and get all emotional on us, David!
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by David M. Bueker » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:36 pm

Keith M wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:I sad he was my English teacher

Well you don't have to go and get all emotional on us, David!


Jeepers...I have not even been drinking yet. Ugh.
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by JC (NC) » Mon Nov 24, 2008 5:51 pm

Glad to hear you had a good English instructor freshman year. I had an exceptional journalism instructor in high school who was Thomas Friedman's journalism instructor a few years later. He established a scholarship in her name at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism.
(BTW, Thomas Friedman seems to be omnipresent these days promoting "Hot, Flat and Crowded...")
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Re: Reviews for only wines that score 90 pts or more

by David Cobbold » Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:45 am

If you will accept a contribution from a European who writes on wine and uses different points systems to the 100 scale, I would like to add a few remarks.

Firstly I do not think that one should focus so much on the numerical aspect of wine ratings, although it is quite right to discuss their advantages and disadvantages. These numbers do have a function, and perhaps even a use, but I would suggest that attempts to describe a wine and the pleasure (or otherwise) that the taster gets from it are of more use to a reader than a points rating. Indeed, although not a reader of The Wine Advocate, I understand that this is also Parker's position. But the fact is that points, unhappily taken out of their context (ie the comments on the specific wine and even the peer group against which it is being judged) are now engrained in the consumers mind and it is not going to be easy to remove them.

A very interesting article by Professor Barry C. Smith recently appeared in Issue 21 of that excellent (in my opinion the best) magazine,The World of Fine Wine. Entitled "Is a sip worth a thousand words?", it is based on a paper that was presented at the 3rd International Conference on the Philosophy of Wine, and debates the pertinence and function of tasting notes. Although it speaks much more of words than of numbers, the latter are mentioned, as the following quote illustrates: "As for the arbitrary and personal nature of evaluations based on numbers, we should not get too carried away. Remember that the men who invented the numbers still produce detailed tasting notes to justify their scores. So while consumers tend to discard everything except a number in the 90s, the scorers are required to display their workings to tell us how they arrived at their results."

Personally I use, like most fellow Europeans, a 20 point system to add marks to my comments. But I would not go very far to justify this, except to say that it is based on habit of scholastic markings, as indeed is the 100 point system on your side of the Atlantic. I really think that I would prefer no points at all, or a 5 point system, so fine, so variable in time, and necessarily subjective can the distinctions between wines of similar type and quality levels be.

There is much more to be said on this issue but I have already probably been too long. Perhaps we could agree that points and words are, to some extent, complementary. Words being an honest (hopefully) attempt to transmit a blend of knowledge, sensation and emotion; numbers being a (probably vain) way of relativising degrees of pleasure. In both cases, it should be emphasized that all is subjective, and so linked to that particular author's faculties and experience. And yet, the greater the experience and discernment of the author, the more objective elements can be introduced into the subjective judgement.
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