Bad Ego, Bad Science Bad Wine Ratings

Last June,The Guardian newspaper posted a story about the inaccuracy of wine ratings, specifically the inaccuracy of tasters’ – trained tasters, professionals – ratings.

So far, rather to my amusement the article and the research behind it has been greeted by stony silence from wine writers.

To be brief here are the facts:
– the 100 point system is bunk; the best you can hope for is +/- 10 point accuracy from any given professional including Robert Parker Jr.
– the only, and I do mean only, as in singular, wine tasting program of which I am aware that imposes any rigour on the tasters is the IVDP Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) of which I’ve written before. Not the French, not the Italians, not the Californians. Funny that. Given the proximity of Napa to Silicon Valley and given the extraordinary number of wine geeks amongst tech heads you’d think there would be some rigour. Not a chance.
– Your taste buds and mine change from time to time and from age to age. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Moreover your sense of taste changes with your moods. We are electrochemical beings and the chemistry is largely governed by hormones (and yes I’m including men in this). Had a shitty commute? Don’t expect to pick up the tobacco nuance in your Cabernet Franc.

So why read me and what can I offer you? I think a fair amount. I know more products than you and I can put them into context. Also, although I don’t claim to always having more accurate taste buds than everyone, the probability is in my favour and has been proved to my satisfaction many times. BUT I and every other professional taster in the country needs to acknowledge that we too can suffer from shitty commutes; worse still we are all aging. My sense of taste is not what it was even 15 years ago and I know it. To refuse to acknowledge this openly is to lie by omission to you and every other reader.

Frankly if you’re buying wine by wine scores you are foolish. The best I can do is a whole integer score out of five (i.e 3/5, 2/5 etc.). I don’t even aspire to the half stars that Hugh Johnson offered. If you trust Parker and the Spectator (The latter being notoriously fickle and inaccurate as I explained six months ago.) I wish you luck.

You are going to need it.

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