The Grapevine

Critics, the 100-Point Scale, and Your Wine Shop Customers

November 22nd, 2017

Should you talk about how a particular wine scored in some magazine or website’s estimation? That depends on how you present those scores to your wine shop customers. [level-members]

Even wine lovers with a little confidence like the confirmation that an “expert” score gives them – it validates their opinion, good or bad, of a wine, increasing their confidence. (We won’t get into confirmation bias and other cheap psychological tricks our brains play on us.)

And a wine buyer without real confidence absolutely wants to know someone else thinks what they’re doing with their $12, $20, or $200 is smart.

So you may feel almost forced into talking about scores whenever possible. Even if they’re not asking, your customers want to know.

And yet, in doing so, you create other problems. Most importantly, not every wine you stock will have a rating. Wines without a number next to their names are immediately suspect to consumers if most of the other wines they’re looking at are rated.

The problem – and opportunity – this creates is a need to fill that gap. One way to do so is to make it clear that not every outlet has just one voice behind its ratings. The expert may vary from issue to issue or, more frequently, from region to region. It’s worth pointing out that consumers  have no way easy way of tracking this and are better off if they can get consistent ratings that they can gauge against their own tastes.

That’s where  you come in. If you feel the need to offer scores, then do so, but put them in some sort of context within your store. If you favor old-world style wines that tend not to score as well with some critics as the enormous “fruit bombs” that are still having their moment, make it clear why your rating differs from some popular publication’s.

And note that your rating doesn’t have to be numerical. You can sidestep the whole issue, to some extent, but offering shelf talkers that focus on the qualities that led you to stock a particular wine. That’s likely to be a more useful measure anyway, since we all know that a 90+ wine is only going to shine in the right circumstances. [/level-members]