What Is A Critic Score
There are now many well-respected critics of wine that regularly publish their tasting notes and scores for a wide range of wines. In recent years new methods of critiquing have emerged enabling consumers to express their own opinion through social media, online community reviews and some retailers websites. What then is a valid review and what isn’t?
Here at 92 Or More we recognise a critic score to be from a professional wine critic who has an extensive knowledge of their subject, they taste and appraise wine in a professional capacity based on its aroma and flavour profile; awarding points based on appearance, quality, flavour and longevity, assessing the overall quality of the wine and its potential. A critic will usually express their opinion through a tasting note and numerical score.
The acknowledged critics write for respected wine publications and/or publish from their own websites. They are independent of both wine producers and wine sellers, their income is generated by offering independent reviews of wines that can be bought by subscribing to the website/journal they publish and perhaps by writing the occasional book. All wine critics and the entire wine trade (including us at 92 Or More) will advise you to read their tasting notes alongside their score, as a score in isolation tells you little about the wine other than a numerical guide of its standing when rated against its peers. That said we all recognise the consumers desire for a quick point of reference, which explains why the points system has become so widely adopted.
The matter is naturally controversial, so at 92 Or More we’ve outlined what we consider to be a valid critic score and what we do not consider valid critic scores so that our clients have full clarity and transparency.
The History of Critic Score
Authors such as the highly respected Hugh Johnson and Oz Clarke alongside others have been writing about wine for decades. Their input was highly informative and detailed but demanded time and concentration to get to know what was better than what, let alone your own preferences. There was no easy way to rate one wine of a style against another. In the late 1970’s a certain Robert Parker Jr emerged onto the wine scene with his newsletter (as it was then) The Wine Advocate. He may not have invented the 100-point scoring system, but he certainly brought his interpretation of it to the fore with the wine buying community. The system was as controversial then as it is now (for instance it starts at 50 and anything scored below 70 should only be used for acid/alkaline testing rather than in a glass with dinner!) but it assigned a number to the quality giving consumers a quick point of reference. Parker quickly became many a wine buyers’ principal guide.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Parker (in the USA at least) stood almost alone as ‘the wine critic’ with some winemakers accused of changing their style to appeal Parker in the hope of higher points and therefore a higher market value. Yet it wasn’t only Parker rising to prominence, on the UK side of the pond a certain Jancis Robinson MW was attracting attention, not least as the first person outside of the wine trade to become a ‘Master Of Wine’, she also co-wrote alongside Hugh Johnson and was named by Decanter as “the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world”. Robinson adopted the 20-point scoring system (arguably more/less intuitive to a consumer dependent on your perspective) so perhaps the stage was set for a confrontation with Parker. The inevitable eventually happened when both reviewed 2003 Château Pavie with very different opinions. Fortunately, the hatchet was buried a few years later and the two have spoken very cordially of each other ever since.
The world has now moved on, Parker has retired from actively tasting/scoring, and Robinson has expanded her team. Many more critics have emerged, each with their own preferred style so there are no longer any accusations made of winemakers trying to appease Parker. Most have adopted the 100-point scoring system hence here we are today with this online fine wine merchant only offering wines scored 92 points or more (16 or more for those who use the 20-point system).
What Isn’t A Critic Score
92 Or More does not publish scores from community reviews on platforms such as Vivino, retailer website community reviews, or CellarTracker community reviews (pro reviews are accepted). Although contributors to these platforms regularly publish brilliant reviews, often rivalling the quality and consistency of professional critics, we cannot hold them to the same account as a professional reviewer. Therefore, without any disrespect to these reviewers, we will not publish scores from these platforms.
Furthermore, we do not rate wines based on retailer purchase trends, such as “X% of people would buy this wine again”. For fine wine, a herd mentality is not necessarily appropriate since we believe that tastes are personal and as such one wine may be just perfect for you whilst another individual may disagree.
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