Wine-O Adviser | Heard about the new Parker wine-rating system?
Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt was sworn to secrecy, but cleverly had his fingers crossed behind his back, so that makes it OK to tell it to you.
Pick of the week
Chateau Cashfleau 2011 Plonkitage; $7 (OBO)
CHATEAU CASHFLEAU sits on an island in the Gironde and makes this occasionally palatable red blend using grapes banned from both the left and right banks of Bordeaux. Best suited to those who don't mind a little funk in their bunk. (Distributed by Grape Explosions)
More April Fools' Day stories
MANY OF YOU, like me, have long followed the reviews of Robert Parker, arguably the most influential wine writer in the world. Parker's success has been built upon his 100-point rating scale, in which wines from around the world are given point scores as well as written descriptions.
For those unfamiliar with this system, it works like this. If a wine is rated 92 or 93, and you can find it at Trader Joe's for $5, it's probably pretty good. A 94- or 95-point wine, sourced from Costco for $8, is even better.
Wines rated 95 points and higher you can't find, and if you find them, you can't afford them, so forget about it. Wines rated any lower than 92 are in the "other" category, and no retailer worth his or her salt will touch them.
Despite its appealing simplicity, the 100-point scale has come under critical fire in recent years, especially from bloggers. More than 1,000 wine blogs are pouring all over the world, which guarantees that the best of them will have as many as 1,000 readers. Nonetheless, many bloggers feel left out of the game. They arrived too late to qualify for an actual paying job with a print publication. So, coupled with the intense competition for ever-more-wandering consumer eyeballs, they are hamstrung by a lack of any meaningful credential.
Recently, the leading bloggers got together and devised a two-step plan for world wine-writing dominance. Step 1: Denounce all print publications as dinosaurs and all established wine critics as irrelevant snobs completely out of touch with the almost-legal-drinking-age demographic. Step 2: Attack Robert Parker and the 100-point system as outdated, unfair, condescending, simplistic, demeaning and in drastic need of replacement.
Oddly enough, much of this is actually true. And, thanks to a serendipitous turn of events, I recently learned of some important new guidelines about to be introduced throughout the Parker universe.
You may have heard that Parker — whose taste buds have been photographed and framed for display in the Smithsonian cafeteria — has been peeling off parts of his empire and assigning them to a small army of reviewers. Our own Washington state has been turned over to David (you think gewürztraminer is hard to pronounce, try this on for size) Schildknecht.
Mr. Schildknecht recently made his first visit to Washington state, and I had the great good fortune to sit down with him at a tasting of 200 wines. A cordial, even voluble man with a genuine love for his subject and a flair for the interstellar adjective, he began philosophizing about his work for Parker around the 60th bottle. By bottle 100 or so, he acknowledged that he was less than gung-ho about the 100-point system himself.
By bottle 145 — a late-harvest Faberrebe as I dimly recall — he revealed that he and Parker had reached an agreement that would dramatically change their scoring methodology. I was sworn to secrecy, but cleverly had my fingers crossed behind my back, and Schildknecht had his nose so far down in the glass he failed to notice.
So I am able to share his secret with you. The upcoming reviews of Washington state wines will be rated with Roman numerals! The 100-point scale is now the C-point scale! So heads up; be on the lookout for those extremely rare C wines, and anything rated LXXXXVIII and above is probably worth grabbing — if it's under $15.