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NEW YORK, NY, APRIL 1, 2007 — Can you say, “90½ pointer”? Soon, that and many other fractionally enhanced wine ratings may adorn retail wine shelves. Wine Spectator Editor & Publisher Marvin Shanken announced today that his magazine will began appending fractions to its wine ratings starting with the May 15, 2007, issue.

In an exclusive interview with The Wine Skewer, Mr. Shanken said, “Our readers demand the most accurate wine ratings possible. We all know that not every 92 is exactly the same, and our editors are capable of expressing these important distinctions using fractions.”

When reminded of his comment that appeared in The New York Times last summer—“It’s a guide…not an absolute.”—Shanken, not stirred, responded, “Numbers are all anyone cares about. And the wine industry would be nothing if marketers couldn’t use our numbers to tell people how good their wines are.” The Wine Skewer had hoped to ask Mr. Shanken to clarify the difference between a 90¼ -point wine and an 89¾-point wine, but he hung up.

Meanwhile, back in the Spectator’s editorial fortress on Park Avenue, Executive Editor Thomas Matthews expressed full support for the decision to go fractional. Matthews said, “I will sleep better at night now that I don’t have to round up or round down when I am applying my incredibly acute senses to the serious task of scoring wines blind in a controlled, food-free environment that bears no resemblance to the way people actually enjoy wine.”

Not surprisingly, the Spectator’s announcement was followed by one from further upstate, where Wine Enthusiast Companies owner Adam Strum learned of the Spectator’s move while dining at his favorite wine-oriented restaurant, Olive Garden. He promptly declared, between bites of “endless” salad and soft, garlic-powdery breadsticks, “Well, we’re going decimal. People want more numbers, not fractions. They want to be drinking wines that rate 92.75, not 92¾.” 

“Take this wine for example,” the cataloger-turned-publisher continued, holding a Cavit 2005 Pinot Grigio up to admire its lack of color. “I personally gave Cavit’s 2001 91 points, bypassing my own tasting panel. This one, I would say, is a 90.625.” He took another sip, then added, “No, make that 90.6666666666666.”  

Mr. Strum, of course, is an expert in the so-called 100-point scale. Not only did his Wine Enthusiast magazine copy Wine Spectator after WS copied Robert M. Parker Jr.’s original use of the numeric ratings, but also Mr. Strum owns Wine Express, a retailer that specializes in selling obscure wines online using in-house “WEX” ratings that are always 90 points or above. Mr. Strum said he is so busy hiding this exclusive wine shop partner from the rest of the wine industry that he is still unsure whether Wine Express will go with fractions or decimals, or perhaps even a 110-point scale. But he did express glee at the thought that decimal extensions will give wineries even more impetus to buy promotional label reproductions that look like editorial endorsements in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s rarely quoted buying guide.

Mr. Strum waxed poetic about the prospect of an especially complex wine earning the score 99.π. “Perhaps that coveted rating will go to Clarendon Hills, a brand we both gave a Wine Enthusiast ‘Wine Star’ award to and sell at Wine Express.” Mr. Strum turned back to his highly rated Pinot Grigio as Olive Garden’s signature tiramisu arrived, spurning his well-trained waiter’s suggestion to enjoy the dessert with an unrated tawny Port.

Meanwhile, in Monkton, Maryland, legendary wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. emerged from his secluded home office to announce that he will not recalibrate his 100-point scale. Mr.Parker also rejected the notion that Dr. Jay Miller, hired in 2006 to review wines for The Wine Advocate, gets a bonus every time he gives a 98-point score to a Spanish wine nobody has ever heard of.

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For more humor pieces in this vein, go to:
Perfection Plus: Spectator Gives Out 101-point Score (April Fools 2005)
Marrying Wine & Food in San Francisco” (April Fools 2004)

And for Tish’s serious writing against ratings:
Ten Reasons We All Lose with Wine Ratings
Buying Guide Smoke & Mirrors
Dare We Rate the Critics? Why Not. 

 

 

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