In the wine industry, we always tell people that scores don’t matter. We tell people that they should simply listen to their palates and drink the wine they like, not the wine that Robert Parker or James Laube tells them to like.
But the truth is that in such a crowded wine market, consumers crave and love scores. Sure, if you drink wine on a regular basis and have access to new wines from a fabulous wine shop (where they let you taste wines regularly), you probably don’t need the scores, but most consumers really want to know: what should I spend my money on? Particularly now that the economy is not doing as well as we all wish it would, we all want to know whether what we’re buying is going to taste good.
At a recent Pinot Days event, I poured three wines: one which had gotten 96 points, one which had gotten 92, and one which had gotten 91 points. I personally prefer the middle wine, which had gotten 92 points, and don’t care too much for the 96-point one. It was fascinating to see how consumers rated these wines when they were told the scores, and when they weren’t. When they weren’t told what scores the wines had gotten, many liked the 91-point wine. When others were told the scores, they immediately declared the 96-point wine to be the best. I hadn’t even meant to perform this experiment — I simply pointed out the scores to some people and not to others by accident — but it revealed to me that people should really trust their palates.
What I would caution any consumer is not to let the scores influence your own palate. If you taste a 96 point wine, and it doesn’t taste like 96 points to you, don’t think you have a bad palate — you simply have a different one and you should respect what you think. After all, you’re going to be the one drinking the wine!