The Scarlet Number
I came across the video posted below on the Wall Street Journal's website. It shows an inside look at how the people at Wine Enthusiast magazine go about their process for rating and ranking wines. At Bruliam we are always wary of numerical wine ratings. Everyone's tastes are different and how a magazine rates a particular wine is usually reflective of the tastes of the article's author or editors, and not necessarily an indicator of whether we readers are going to enjoy that wine. In fairness, many of the magazines do a good job of expanding on their numerical scoring through in-depth reporting on the wines and regions, but the reality is that the only thing that is typically remembered or discussed is "the number".
And the commercial power of "the number" is undisputed. For a large wine producer, the difference between a score of 90 and 89 on a particular vintage could easily translate into millions of dollars in sales. For a small producer like Bruliam, it often is the difference between instant success and lingering struggle.
Is that fair? Of course not. But it is what it is. That doesn’t mean that sub-90 point wines should be shunned or dismissed. In fact, as a consumer there is a significant upside to 89 point wines. We've had hundreds of wines over the years that scored below 90 points that we've enjoyed immensely. And, candidly, we'd have a whole lot of trouble picking out a low 90-point wine versus a high 80-point wine in a blind tasting. Yet, because these wines have been saddled with the scarlet number, they are often priced much more reasonably than their higher rated cousins.
If you are interesting in investigating 89-pointers, there is an entire blog site dedicated to them - the 89 Project.
Now, don't get me wrong. Should our wines ever get reviewed by the major publications and actually score in the 90's, we'll be marketing the heck out of that score (and, of course, praising the infinite wisdom of the reviewer).
You can view the video below or if you can't see it, please click here.
One final note on this - this is really their job and we are all in the wrong business.