Uncorked: What's the point?
The point system is a great reference but should it make or break a bottle? Alasdair Nicol thinks otherwise...
It seems that every time a new Bordeaux vintage is released, it’s lauded as ‘the vintage of the century’ by the producers – and, with this, comes the hyper-inflated prices of the fine wines from the region. One person who has a substantial influence on sales, however, is world-renowned taster and critic Robert Parker whose scoring system directly correlates with prices that any given château can charge for a wine.
Parker’s scores are based on a 100-point scale where all wines reviewed start with a minimum of 50 and further points are then added for colour and appearance, aroma and bouquet, flavour and finish, overall quality and the potential for improvement through ageing. While his scoring system is a fair barometer of a wine’s general characteristics, it’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, it’s just one man’s opinion.
Take for example the 2007 Bordeaux vintage, which received low scores from almost every Western hemisphere wine writer out there, including Parker (okay, so maybe it can be various experts’ opinions). I, for one, however, think 2007 was a great drinking vintage and also concur with fellow aficionados that it’s not a bottle you can cellar for a long time. But so what? It drinks fantastically now, did last year and will do so next year. The reasoning behind the low rating is that Parker’s system gives 10 points for the cellaring potential of a wine. So a vintage from 2007 that receives 90 points is, in effect, a potential 100-point wine if you drink it young.
The irony of ratings is that, when you take into account the ageing potential (which is just one anomaly in this ranking method), the higher the score, the less drinkable the grape is in the short term. These wines are really only designed for investors as no-one in their right mind would be drinking the 2009 Bordeaux vintage right off the bat, at the top end of the points scale, when it’s still tannic and harsh. It will take a good decade or so for these ‘high score’ tipples to be drinkable. Have fun waiting…
In short, points are great talking points but not a lot more. Many of the low score wines I have tried have actually been more enjoyable and approachable (not to mention affordable) than those illustrious bouquets with above-95 ratings. So if you’re out looking for a nice drop of Bordeaux, take the points with a pinch of salt and don’t be afraid to go for the ones with slightly lower scores in the 85-89 range. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. After all, the real point to drinking is finding something you enjoy.