Wine Ratings: A Hint of Hype, A Taste of Illusion
In the November 20, 2009 Wall Street Journal, Leonard Mlondinow wrote, “They pour, sip and, with passion and snobbery, glorify or doom wines.” However, studies say the wine-rating system is badly flawed. There are many factors that contribute to the wine rating system’s demise. Mlondinow reflects on why the wine rating system was created in the first place, explores how scientific research has debunked the consistency applied by humans, as well as the psychological factors that come into play when wine experts are rating wine.
Consumers being misled and sold humble wines for more expensive wines was the biggest cause for the creation of the wine ratings system. In fact, in June 1973, French Tax Inspectors worked on a tip that a winery that had operated for over 155 years was selling a less expensive wine for robust Bordeaux. Eventually eight men were prosecuted and convicted. During the trial it was reported that wine merchants regularly defrauded foreigners. The target market, felt more willing to purchase a less quality bottle of wine, was America. The Bordeaux they sold as fake was reported to be five times the cost of the wine the eight men actually sold to consumers. This drove Robert M. Parker Jr. to create a rating system that would protect the consumer by developing a hundred point rating scale.
Wine ratings are applied by judges that are appointed to various panels around the world. Judges apply their human perceptions and the ratings are applied to wine. As one would expect, the rating scale had a tremendous impact on the wine industry. The most significant and influential impact is the fluctuation in price based on the correlation to wine rating. Higher rated wines have the ability to exponentially charge much higher prices then their counter part, with a much lower rating. According to a 2001 study of Bordeaux wines, a one-point bump in Robert Parker’s wine ratings average equates...