Is Wine Score Inflation Really A Thing? (How To Cause A Row Between Two Wine Loving Friends)
This one really splits the wine community, some are convinced wines are receiving more generous scores than they did years ago, some disagree, but are they, and if so why?
When we get asked if there are more wines scored ‘92 Or More’ available now than there were 10/20 years ago we answer “yes”, “Ah Ha” gets joyously exclaimed “so wine score inflation is true” and a smug expression takes hold of the askers face, “Not so fast” we reply “you haven’t really thought it through have you?” to which the expression of smugness changes to something quizzical.
There are a number of logical reasons why there are more highly scored wines available today than there were historically, including:
i) As wine consumption continues to grow there are more and more getting made to meet demand, some of which are worthy of high scores.
ii) As interest in wine grows the number of professional critics has also grown so more examples than ever are getting scored.
iii) Wine makers are constantly learning and improving their craft so their product rightfully gets a higher rating.
iv) With more wines deservedly getting high points, those who achieve 89 or less are now less likely to advertise that achievement meaning those lower scores have become less visible to consumers.
All of these factors, especially when experienced together can make it very easy, from a consumers perspective, to perceive that there’s some sort of ratings inflation going on when the reality includes a wider variety of wines and improved production.
If the ‘grade inflation’ argument sounds familiar it’s probably because a very similar argument perpetually rages within education. Perhaps that’s not surprising as Robert Parker modelled his 100 point system on the American High School grading system of the time (we have no idea if High School grading still follows the same system). As teaching methods advance and improve students achieve higher grades, not because the exams get easier but because because students are better skilled. Similarly a greater and greater proportion of new cars get top ratings in NCAP crash testing, not because the tests are getting easier but because cars are getting safer. Advancement and progression are generally good for us.
But what about the wine critics we hear you cry, don’t they just compete with each other to give the highest score so they’re the one quoted? An interesting argument we’ve seen raised many times but have never seen backed up by more than anecdotal soundbites. Perhaps various critics can be perceived to favour some regions/countries/grapes over others, however look more closely at their score vs the quality of the vintage over a number of years and you’ll find them rise and fall consistent to the vintage conditions and success (or not) of the individual wine that year.
Concise thoughts on the subject:
Is there points inflation going on? – No
Is there an ever increasing variety of well scored wines available? – Yes
Should wine drinkers be happy with this? – Yes
Are they? – No!