Monday, November 17, 2014

You Get a 100 Points! And You Get a 100 Points! And YOU Get a 100 Points!

“You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car! And YOU get a car! Everybody gets a car!”

The unforgettable opening show of “Oprah!” circa 2004. Oprah Winfrey giving away a car to everyone in her studio audience that day. The screaming materialists out of their minds with greed. Oprah as the Car Fairy. Just as DeBeers convinced everyone in the 1920’s that diamonds proved eternal love, because nothing says love like dead Africans, the car companies have shown us through game shows and talk shows that the jackpot in life is truly, “It’s a brand new car!”

In the wine business, we now have the largesse of Robert Parker.

“You get 100 points! And you get 100 points! And you get 100 points! And YOU get 100 points! Everbody gets 100 points!”

100 points is the Brand New Car! of the wine business. And just like a brand new car, once you drive a 100 point wine off the lot and take it home, it’s instantly worth a lot less. It’s instantly a 96 point wine, for the most part because the jackass that bought it knows almost nothing about wine, which devalues it immediately.

I’m the type of contrarian who thinks there aren’t enough wines awarded 100 points. In just the past month I’ve had sixteen wines I rated 100 points. That’s 16 out of the 20 I tasted. That seems about right to me. Now, many critics make the mistake of thinking that 100 points equates to “perfect.” Idiots. There’s no such thing as a perfect wine. If there were a perfect wine, I’d know about it. A wine that’s rated 100 points isn’t perfect any more than the clown who gave it 100 points is perfect. So I say give out more 100 point scores! 99 is so last century.

Everyone hates the 100 Point Scale. Everyone. We all know it’s stupid, but it has become necessary, so some people feel the need to defend it. Sort of like when George W. Bush was President. From every standpoint, its integrity, accuracy and honesty are indefensible. From a logical standpoint, from a scientific standpoint, from a practical standpoint, it’s nothing more than shorthand. We see it, we know what it means, we know how to translate it, it’s the coin of the realm. It’s easy to understand, which is its only redeeming value. Just like when someone gives you the finger. That’s shorthand, too, and easy to understand. In practice and in essence, the 100 point scale serves to give the wine consuming public the finger. Which, by the way, they richly deserve.

But like a lot of things we know are stupid but love—professional football, “The View,” Jim Carrey, the Academy Awards—the 100 point scale feels like a necessity. The argument in its favor always begins with, “The public loves it.” Like that’s a good argument. The public used to love a good public hanging. Many folks are still nostalgic for a good ol’ country lynchin’—witness Fox News talking about Obama. “The public loves it” is something Michael Vick probably said when he was busted for dog fights. The public “loves” the 100 point scale. Yeah, that’s a valid argument.

I wish there were more 100 point wines. A lot more. Ones I could afford. But not 100 point wines from all the wannabe critics. James Suckling gave 100 points to a piece of goddam luggage, which automatically disqualifies him from serious wine critic consideration, so his 100 point wines don’t count. I carry around my wine glasses in a beat to shit old cardboard box which couldn’t possibly rate higher than 72 on the Suckling/Ferragamo scale. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a brilliant idea to store wine glasses in fine leather—helps to disguise the Brett. Someone tell me with a straight face that Suckling rating the glasses he designed for Lalique, and the Ferragamo briefcase they fit in, 100 points isn’t giving us the fucking finger. Which, by the way, we richly deserve.

I only wish I were still a working sommelier and some guy (it could only be a guy—women only buy Ferragamo shoes) came into the restaurant carrying his wine glasses in a brief case. I’d immediately ask him, “Will your dummy need a chair, Mr. Winchell?” If you have wine glasses in a brief case, you’re an asshole. Period. Hey, have you heard? The people who make the Rabbit™ now have a new product called the Gerbil™. Guess where it helps you store your corkscrew.

And I don’t want any Tim Fish 100 point wines either. Or Burghound. No fish, no hound. Sounds like my love life. Burghound was duped by Dr. Conti, and you want his recommendations? That’s like asking for sex tips from the French diplomat in “M. Butterfly.” Hey, not me, I know boobs when I see ‘em. So did Rudy. Rudy and the French diplomat had the same problem in the end—they had to deal with a Koch.

Well, let’s be honest. I want a lot more 100 point wines from Parker. Not Laube, not Molesworth, not Tanzer, not Donner or Vixen. I’d like it if Parker threw 100 point scores around like wine competitions mint brand new Gold Medals. Anything under $30 and I’m in. I want to have a 100 point every night of the week, and I think it would be good for the wine business. Why is everyone so worried about score inflation? Shut up about it. You should be worried about score deflation. What if we wake up one day and the newest Wine Advocate doesn’t rate a wine over 85? Now what, wine marketing geniuses? Now how do you sell wine? On merit? On actual quality? On your own tasting acumen? Good luck with that.

So please, Bob, if you’re reading (yeah, right), be more generous with those points. Anything 95 and above, round up! (Wineries love Roundup.) As long as we have to live with the 100 point scale, make it a benevolent dictator. Everyone will complain at first, accuse you of having lost your mind and your palate, but they’ll come around. And if you do it, all the other kids will have to do it. The world will be awash in 100 point wines. Sounds like Paradise to me.


Charlie Olken said...

Back in the days when anybody would listen, I used to preach that what California wine needs is the equivalent of a good five-cent cigar.

Meaning, of course, that we do not do a very good job with inexpensive wines.

But I now see the error of my ways. Grade inflation can solve everything.

What California needs is more 100-point wines. 100-point Lodi Zin. 100-point Ribolla Gialla. 100-point Hearty Burgundy.

To paraphrase an aging politician, "It's the points, stupid".

Thanks for waking me up to that.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Puff Daddy,
The best way to get rid of the 100 Point Scale is to abuse it. It's what's happening to some degree anyway, though you and Stephen are steadfast at Connoisseurs' Guide--or, rather, just plain stingy.

The world is a better place with more and more 100 Point Wines! I think even the Average Joe or Jill should be able to drink 100 Point Wines. It would be a huge boost for not only the wine industry, but for the egos of every day wine drinkers.

In fact, there should just be two wine scores--100 points and 89 points. That would make all our lives simpler.

Mark Paley said...

From "Half-life": ‘Well sir tell the court in what way you have been damaged by the your wife’s being rated at 71 points. That is to say if 50 points is your average score she was actually given a compliment.’ ‘Your honor, I won’t even purchase a bottle of wine unless it’s rated at least 85 points.’

‘Sir before I let this go any further here is what the court rules. Since the defendant chose not to appear, on that technicality I rule in your favor; also court costs will be waived. Furthermore I’ve seen your wife. I’d give her a 65 tops. Case closed.’

Nigel said...

Why not increase the scale to 150?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I give your excerpt 100 Points!

See how easy that is, and how good it makes you feel. Like a goddam Suckling piece of luggage.

So scale inflation rather than score inflation...Interesting.

Though, of course, old common taters around here remember the HoseMaster's Million Point Scale, which, amazingly, never caught on. I fear the 150 Point Scale would suffer the same fate.

Brian Baker said...

As always HoseMaster, your laser like satire lights up my morning coffee like the glow I hope to see soon in the former Middle East...the 100 point scale is for low information wine drinkers (LIWD)...they gravitate to shelf talkers and eagerly scour the ParkMeister's diatribe each issue looking for only the big guns...
My favorite (LIWD) are those that throw "100 point parties" and when they find the 97 Harlan was corked--are shocked to find out the winery can't replace it...
Keep up the good work.

David Pierson said...

Ever see a lol SNL parody of Oprah's giveaways where a woman gets so excited that her head explodes.. kind of like how you feel after reading Walder's umpteen 9.5's or Wine Doody's A pluses.. hey gang, I'm off to the San Diego wine fest this coming weekend.. that Sat aft grand tasting is such a blast.. most fun I've ever had standing up with my clothes on.. so if anyone else makes it, let's meet and have a sip together..

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Brian,
Oh, man, in my heart of hearts I want to be one of those guys who gets to rate wines and whose scores generate huge demand. Have wines declared "HoseMasterized." Go to sleep at night after my latest scores had been published imagining all those wineberserker wannabes at their computers desperately imploring my newly crowned great wineries to sell them some wine. Sounds dreamy.

Thanks for the kind words, Brian. Hope all is well in your 100 point fiefdom.

Yeah, I remember that sketch. About Oprah's "Favorite Things" Christmas shows, as I recall. Funny bit.

Have fun in San Diego, David. If you ever find yourself in Sonoma, we can have that sip together. And say hi to any common taters you might meet at the Saturday tasting--you'll know them by the commemorative HoseMaster merkins.

Don Carter said...

With the 100 point scale so popular you probably think we need another wine rating system like we need another TV show about housewives. But I’m of the opinion that the wine trade can learn from the sports industry. The time has come for the wine industry to hand out a trophy cup. After all, tennis players have the Davis Cup, soccer players have the World Cup and baseball players wear a cup. And like baseball players, wine tasters will actually put their cup to good use.

Thomas said...

Cups, merkins--my, have we gone down a little at Hose's place.

Madame Harsh said...

Man, it's been a while since I laughed so hard reading an industry post. Brilliant! Bravo! Thank you for writing what I, in my professional capacity, must not.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

As long as the cup isn't made by Riedel, I'm on board.

There will come a day when the 100 Point Scale will be looked upon with laughter and nostalgia, a quaint sales device like "4 out of 5 dentists agree." I hope to live to see that day, but doubt that I will. 4 out of 5 doctors agree that I'm a dead man.

Hard to go down when we started in the cesspool. But OK. And "going down" isn't the best choice of expression. Or is it?

Madame Harsh,
If that's the case, you must be a regular reader here. But in my unprofessional capacity, I welcome you to being a common tater.

enobytes said...

I give this post 100 points

Charlie Olken said...



gabriel jagle said...

100 is the new 90!

David Rossi said...

A suckling piece of luggage? Is it made from baby pig?

Thomas said...


1t was the location of the cup and merkin that brought up the going down pun.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My last eight posts earned 100 points each. I'm on a roll! Thanks for noticing.

Or maybe 90 is the new 75.

I'd tell you, but I'm not allowed to squeal.

Yup. Got that.

Can one wear a cup and a merkin at the same time? Seems risky.

Thomas said...

as long as you don't dunk.

Joel Miller said...

In the spirit of "Spinal Tap", let's turn the ratings up to 110.

Excellent post, although I think you've under-rated your cardboard carrying case...

Randy Caparoso: said...

Bravo, Ron -- wishing you 100-point Thanksgiving!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I thought of that "Spinal Tap" analogy myself. Could work, only it would devalue all the old 100 Point wines--though they could be grandfathered through to 110. Nah, too confusing. Just give more 100's.

I call my cardboard wine glass case Oklahoma Ferragamo.

Hey Randy,
Thanks. I hope to have a 100 Point Thanksgiving, and a 100 Point Christmas, and a 100 Point IQ. I'll have to settle for two out of three.