A few days after posting my article about the $2.99 bottles of wines by Three Wishes, I read Gregory Dal Piaz’s piece about the fallacy of wine ratings. In a way, that piece lent credence to my comments about Three Wishes. One of my points was that most people in wine growing regions don’t drink grand wines every day. And I add that people who live in wine regions have daily access to inexpensive wines for daily use.
The Diaz piece rightly explains that 95 points does not mean 95 points. Different tasters have different reactions. A 95-point Pinot Noir cannot accurately be compared with a 95-point Cabernet or a Riesling to a Chardonnay.
But it’s my belief that most average consumers don’t pay much attention to points, other than to feel that if a wine has a lot of points it must be good. I’m occasionally approached by other customers in a retail store — perfect strangers — asking if I have any suggestions. Some of them are attracted by the plastic bottle carriers I brought home from France which, I suppose, makes them feel I may know something about wine. But even without them, conversations are launched. Seldom do I betray that I have spent decades touring wineries and hammer out a dozen columns a month on the subject.
In Costco last week, for example, a couple pointed out to me the two cases of a seven-dollar Spanish wine they were taking to their vacation home in Maine. “It’s as good as any wine we’ve ever had,” they explained, “and it only has 90 points.” In today’s world, I’m afraid, if a wine doesn’t score at least 95, it is second-rate. We all know, for example, that in school it is easier to make an A from Mr. Smith than it is from Mr. Jones. Same subject. Same textbook.
Overall, though, we are a numbers-oriented citizenry. My guess is that most people, writers included, fit Diaz’s “laziness” category. It is easier to ascribe a number than to define a quality or a characteristic. Retailers, of course, like numbers. When I ask a retailer how the SPECTATOR or Parker ratings affect sales, they inevitably say highly-rated wines fly off the shelves. But those wines are bought by customers who read those publications. Most consumers, while most likely impressed by high scores, seek flavor and appeal ahead of those big scores.
That’s why I can sample a Three Wishes wine with a clear conscience — and a clean palate, which in the long run is the only judge of wine.