The Grapevine

Wine Scores and Why They Matter

July 6th, 2016

You can hate them if you want, but wine scores aren’t going away anytime soon. And used wisely, they can make your wine shop marketing easier. [level-members]

In fact, making wine more accessible to consumers is what got us into this scoring mess in the first place. (If Robert Parker is to be believed that his motivation was “to empower consumers against the insular, elitist world of wine” and if you are on board with his really having started the scoring machine.)

But what does that mean for your shop, since everyone has access to the same scores? What they don’t have access to is any framework to put the scores into some kind of perspective.

First of all, not all 88-point wines are the same any more than all wines scoring 96 points are. Impressing on your wine shop customers that personal taste matters tremendously. (And if your tastes align with Robert Parker’s, that’s bad news for you since any wine that gets his stamp of approval is going to shoot up in price.)

That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the money. It just means there are other similar wines that are likely to be just as pleasing to you with lower scores and smaller price tags.

To say nothing of wines that aren’t made in whatever style is currently hot. When California “fruit bombs” are hot, more reserved Old World style wines aren’t going to score as well. (Famous French and Italian properties not withstanding.)

Instead of shying away from the numbers or bad mouthing them, embrace them. Discuss them with your clients. Create shelf talkers that compare similarly rated wines – or similarly priced wines that have gotten markedly different ratings. Do a series of social media or website posts discussing scores.

Make it clear that scores can be in indication of how “good” a wine is, but only if you have a solid frame of reference, if you understand who is doing the scoring, and if you recognize that there is no right answer. If you can get your customers to agree that wine is as much about the experience around the bottle as what’s in the bottle – meaning the food and company and occasion – they’ll trust your “scores” a lot better two little numbers