Dreaming of 89-point wine

Wine — By KF Louis on October 31, 2009 at 12:32 pm

In most ways, I wish every wine I ever liked had scored no more than 85 points by Robert Parker or Wine Spectator.  To a value wine hunter like me, it’s always a bittersweet experience to see 90+ scores.  I’m psyched for the winemaker garnering such acclaim, yet realize that particular value-wine love affair will likely end soon.

When a winery garners a few 90-point ratings – especially American ones – the market prices will most definitely go up and can really skyrocket if the wine in question falls in the $10-20 category.  It’s odd that many Spanish, French and Italian wines don’t seem to suffer as much from the “90-point markup” phenomenon that American wines do.  I think that’s because we Americans are hooked on Robert Parker’s 100-point system as the be-all, end-all determining factor for a particular wine’s quality…which to me is a tragedy.

There is also another tragic phenomenon that has resulted from the 100-point system:  The 89 Factor.  Gary Vaynerchuk said it best in an episode of  Wine Library TV—an 89-point rating is like placing a huge scarlet letter on the heart of the bottle.   Consumers don’t buy it.  It’s the runner-up syndrome.  There is even a blog dedicated to this travesty—The 89 Project, which encourages wine critics, reviewers, and bloggers to re-examine the 89-point wines.

To these issues, I ask my readers:  have you ever been guilty of snubbing an 85-89-pointer?

I’ll be first to admit that I snubbed the less-than-90 category for a few years in a row, until one day when I attended a blind tasting of eight syrah-based wines that rated between 85 and 95 points by one of the three major ratings groups.  The purpose was to determine if our experienced wine group could tell the difference and rank them in order of highest to lowest.

The findings:  none of us came close!

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