What do you think about the idea of a perfect wine?


Since our last discussion – “#winelovers and #winesnobs: What’s the difference?” was so successful, I decided to continue the trend and post another great discussion that took place on the #winelover group on Facebook.

1392581_10202257354703542_1530106143_nCathrine Todd, fellow MW student and a dear friend started this one…. so, to continue something that eventually is going to disappear….

Robert Parker talks about why he will give wines a perfect score. What do you think about the idea of a perfect wine?

No Parker bashing please!

Jef Pinxteren: Perfection does not exist and if it ever will it shall be intensively boring!
Sharon Parsons: Why not say some wines are perfect? Although some wine writers at #wbc14 suggested not to use such descriptors to describe wine. There are indeed some wines that “perfect”, “awesome” etc. are “perfect” descriptors!!!
While totally perfection does not exist touches of perfection here and there are – should I say “perfect”. There is a “perfect” wine on a hot summers day …….
Andrew Witter: I think a perfect score is great, just not sure we really know the difference between 98 and 100, but I’m sure Bib does.
Cathrine Todd: Yes, it is crazy the idea that a 100 point wine will typically increase significantly in price, even though a 98 point wine, which some would argue may be just as excellent, or perhaps even better to someone else, will cost a lot less. Are they not both ideal examples of that particular wine?
Jan Holmström: I love football, and there is nobody serious that would ever give a 10/10 to a player. Ever. I think that if you have a scale of a 100, of which you use 25, and give a 100 points, you have ruined your scale. To me the 100 points scale is pure rubbish. And anybody giving 92,5 together with a recipe for a fruit salad, should be scorned.
Luiz Alberto: Cathrine: I’m not going to bash RP here as you asked us not to do so… and this is not even about the 100 point system. It’s about the ability of people (those who give numbers to a bottle of wine) to be perfect in their decisions all the time. When you judge in wine competitions (I had the honor of judging with Jan Holmström once) you realize that the same judge gives different scores to the same wine all the time! For the sake of argument, let’s say that RP is a much better judge than most of us, but do you believe that if you give the same wine to him (blind) 10 times among dozens of different wines, will he be able to give the same score to that given wine all 10 times? I truly doubt it… Cheers!
Cathrine Todd: I agree Luiz. I actually have very different tastes then RP, but placed the note down to not bash him because I wanted us to have a “productive” conversation, which we have had… but I believe that you can question someone’s system without putting them down, which we have all done. And there is no doubt of his influence on the wine world. It will be interesting to see what happens through time, as he starts to have less involvement in the wine world, and many other voices become louder and more powerful.. it will be interesting.
Luiz Alberto: Yes… Time will tell my dear…
Richard Schnitzlein: As your question is not perfect, no answer could possibly be either. As for wines or anything else in this universe perfection is arbitrary at best. Parker is not perfect, nor is anyone else. However, the question is not about an individual, but is about whether any wine could be considered perfect. Or more to your question, is the idea of a perfect wine something anyone should consider? The simple answer should be yes. There is an “idea” of a perfect wine, but it depends on the person and their idea of perfection. Perhaps a better question would be – does any wine warrant a 100 point score. (any discussion here about the pros and cons of a 100 pt system is irrelevant) For the sake of some brevity I think I can sum up the whole quandary here by looking at 100 pts from a slightly different perspective. If you get 100 on a test, say true or false or multiple choice, it simply means you got all the answers correct, or better yet, look at it as you got nothing wrong. Can a wine be as good as that? Getting nothing wrong? In other words, to the taster the wine couldn’t have been better. From this perspective its a wonder that more wines don’t warrant 100 pts. What’s wrong with giving a wine, an athlete, a performance 100? If they did nothing wrong. Do we have to hold the line at 98 or 99 in case something better comes along? This is relative judging. 100 pt scoring does not have to be relative. It could be purely deductive. Perfection as an absolute is not worth, imho, worth discussing. My two cents.
Jan Holmström: I am flying to Bordeaux this morning, but I just want to say that my main trouble with the 100 scale, is that it’s gives the illusion of something exact. We all know that a bottle shared with someone you like tastes better than with someone you don’t like. Wine is about balance and feeling, it is not about so or so many percent dry matter, and – as with music – it’s not better because it is louder.
Jonathan Hesford: I don’t think there is anything wrong with a 100-point scale if you can accept assigning numbers to the amount of “like”. The mistake people make is in thinking that 100/100 means a perfect wine. It doesn’t. It means of all the wines tasted, these are the ones he liked the best. It’s the best score possible but it’s not the best wine possible. I thought the owner of the estate (Was it Harlan?) who made a wine receiving 100 Parker points was pretty arrogant when he said he had now made the perfect wine.
The second part of the article is probably of more interest, it suggests that the way that wealthy men in the US have used the points to bid up the price of Bordeaux now means that few winelovers can, or want, to buy those wines. When was the last time any member of this group bought some En-primeur Bordeaux with a Parker score over 95?
Thomas Meißner: I have no problem with the 100 points scale. For 100 points a wine should be perfect, but what means perfect? In my opinion, it means, that you can’t find anything, that could be better. If you can’t find something, for which you could lower the rating, then its 100 points. Some tasters may give different ratings at the same wines, but 1.) they have different palates (because of genetic (dis)advantage or because of more training) and 2.) they evaluate in a different way (some give more points for a long aftertaste then others). Jonathan Hesford: In the way you described the “illusion”, I agree with you, but good tasters always taste every wine under the same circumstances! And then your argument doesn’t count any longer.
Arnold Waldstein: Parker was brilliant, filled a hole in the consumer market and ran with it.
The market no longer needs this scale and honestly whether the core premise behind it matters, seems academic at best.
Perfection is the enemy of all pursuits.
Luiz Alberto: Cathrine: this seems to be another discussion that deserves to go to the #winelover‘s website as a blog… what do you say?
Cathrine Todd: If everyone who is part of this discussion is okay with it. I actually didn’t think this question would receive so many replies.. and also, other ideas that are interesting were addressed as well. I have learned a lot, and see many more aspects of this topic then I did before…thank you everyone.
Thomas Meißner: I am fine with it.
Luiz Alberto: Thanks Cathrine! So, whoever is against being included on a new blog post on the #winelover website (like this one: https://www.winelover.co/winelovers-and-winesnobs-whats…/ ), please say something now… or forever hold you peace!
Dominic Lombard: Surely perfection is a personal point of view. Very small minded comment.
Pallavi Vatsa: A certain imperfection in a wine combined with its aroma and palate sometimes can be the USP of the wine!
Jonathan Hesford: We said in another post that the greatest wines have a number of imperfections that make them great. So the concept of a perfect wine is flawed. What is odd is that nobody has a problem with a wine scoring 5 out of 5 stars. The issue here is that the 100-point scale implies a precision and the number 100 implies total perfection. 100% is somehow better and more precise than 5/5 or 20/20. Why?
Thomas Meißner: 100 might be not preciser than 5/5 or 20/20, but 98 is preciser than 4/5 or 19/20….
Dominic Lombard: I think you could see the massive flaws of this perfect system when Jay (no pay) tasted wines in Spain and Neil Martin tasted the same wines a year later and the scores where completely different in many cases and they publish both results on the website. People have different tastes and that’s what makes us all brilliant. The system is good up to a point of wine education but then it comes down to personal taste. Mr. Parker of course doesn’t like people having personal taste.
Cathrine Todd: I am a fan of Jamie Goode and I like all the points that he made about the 100 point scale back in March http://www.wineanorak.com/…/the-100-point-rating-scale… He uses it, because he feels this scale will register with most consumers, but discusses the issues of using this system. And he also talks about how this system was initially helpful to him in the 90s. But he does make an interesting point about the idea that most of the scale is not used today. At one time, a wine that was a good value in regards to price that was rated a 86 was considered a good wine, and now it is considered a “major fail” no matter the price. In a 5 point system or 20 point system one would argue that you are more likely to use the whole scale. I really think he shows the negatives and positives of both sides of the argument. I know from my experience selling to consumers that when they see a wine that is below 90, they ask me what is wrong with it. It seems that many consumers will break up the 100 point scale into wines worth buying (90-100) and wines not worth buying (1-89)
Cathrine Todd: So is the system itself completely faulted? Or is our perception of it faulted?
Luiz Alberto: Cathrine: First of all, something doesn’t need to be “completely faulted” to be rendered useless, does it? But, to answer your question, I would like to know first how you would answer this one: Is perfection conceivable?
Ciprian Haret: of course it’s not conceivable, talking about perfection is purely philosophical
Cathrine Todd: Luiz I would have to think about that one. I’m not 100% sure if perfection is conceivable, because not everyone believes in perfection, and if they do, it differs for each person. So I think I can only answer if I think perfection is conceivable, and honestly, I would have to get back to you about that idea.. something to think about..
Luiz Alberto: Take your time…
Ed Hodson: I’ve probably had this exact same discussion about Parker’s 100-point wine scale at least 500 times over the last twenty years, so personally –and this is obviously subjective– my interest in hashing out the pros and cons of the scoring system yet again is at about a 71.
Cathrine Todd: Okay, an answer to the question: Is perfection conceivable? I would never use the term “perfect wine”… I have used it for “perfect on a summer day” ect, ect.. but I don’t believe in a perfect wine..so I would answer no..and in all of my professional/personal tasting notes I have never called a wine perfect. But I would not argue with someone else about using it. I have a lot of respect for RP, he is certainly an expert on certain regions, and he makes no bones about giving a wine a score based on how much enjoyment he receives from it. I don’t have to agree with someone to respect them. I am a much more moderate, and maybe even boring in my tasting notes.. but I’m a very moderate person, the little nerd making my notes and always trying to see both sides of the argument and keeping away from absolutes. I am being true to myself, and I don’t know RP, but maybe he is being true to himself by using the word “perfect”, and he has certainly connected with many consumers using terms such as that one. My attitude is that you will always have your critics in life, and life is short, so you may as well be true to you, because either way, you will probably be criticized for it.
Ed Hodson: I guess it all depends on how you define “perfect.” The dictionary goes with “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” I’ve had many wines that were without flaw and were as good as they could possibly be. It can be as simple as “Does the wine have any flaws?” and “Can this wine, for what it is, be improved upon in any way?” If you “no” to both questions, congratulations. You’re in the presence of what, to you, is a perfect wine. It might not be from your favorite climate, grape variety, or vintage, but if it can’t be improved upon and lacks flaws, well, that’s perfection.
Luiz Alberto: …and that’s a great answer, Cathrine. I would even dare to say that “the right answer” (to challenging questions, be that about describing a wine that is possibly faulty or, like in the case here, a philosophical question ) is what makes of you a #winelover. Someone with the will to try to find the bright side for any situation… Not that you needed… but you have proved to be a #true #winelover! #hatsoff#respect
Magnus Reuterdahl: A thought due from this quite interesting discussion, partly on empirical evidence, when you have tasted wine for a long time, lots of wine as RP there might be a risk due to the fact that you have tasted a lot of wine that you would be more sure of your own taste and perhaps therefore more willing to give perfect scores. Perfect scores due to what you want.
This might be part of an explanation of more perfect scores.
Personally I don’t like to give scores at all, due to the fact that they them self tend to get higher and higher. It does not really matter if it is a 5 point scale, a 20 point scale or a 100 point scale. The scale within the scale tend to get more narrow. At one point 85 might have been good today a 90 is a disaster etc.
I believe it’s better to describe the wine from the wine itself with no points, because in the end is a personal description or valuation. If RP is your guy you will love his 95-100p wine, if Tim Atikin is your guy you will love his ratings etc. Wine scoring/reviewing is like music or literature a matter of taste – if you find a reviewer that has the same or a similar taste as yourself then you can trust him or her – then you can follow their wine travels.
I would say today you have a bigger chance to find a or several reviewers that is compatible with your taste – lots more so than 30-40 years ago. RP was great of defining and putting his thumb of the North American taste – he was new and he created something that we live with today; the 100 p scale – but today we have many more opportunities of pinpointing someone with a more personal taste – may it be a blogger, an instagrammer, a twitterer or a journalist – but calibration today is better than yesterday if you just want to look for it.
Magnus Reuterdahl: I would also say that this a conversation that would fit the #winelover webpage – if all agree! Thanks to Cathrine Todd and all participants!
Cathrine Todd: Yes! I could have never come up with all this on my own… why is it so important that we have these discussions with other #winelover-s.
Ciprian Haret: That’s interesting: how can you tell that a wine can be improved or not? Obviously, all is reduced to subjective taste and personal vision upon one wine or another. RP WAS a great taster, in my opinion. Not anymore, the man is not a robot and he is getting old. I’ve tasted some wines literally banished by RP and I found them to be great for my personal taste. What’s bothering me is that RP seems to have succumbed to his own cult; sometimes, he gives the impression of living in his own bubble, where he is the absolute king of taste and his critics should be impaled…
Magnus Reuterdahl: This is when groups like these are at its best – numbers of views, lots of good input and just interesting. When we have these published on the webpage it is a good way of keeping them alive in more lasting form as the group discussion – as these tend to disappear into the great facebook nothing after a while
Magnus Reuterdahl: Ciprian Haret that is what I mean with finding your taste – I believe RP in a way still is a great taster, but he might not be be the great taster anymore – as you decided on greatness you decide on what is great and you don’t need to look no more – you ‘ve found your juice. One definintion of a winelover is that you seek kicks, new wines, new adventures, new tastes – if you found your 100 p wine why would you? I still look for it and I hope I never find it #wineloverquest
Dominic Lombard: Magnus it’s been proved that with age your tasting abilities drop considerably and Parker ain’t no spring chicken
Sean Piper: Robert Parker is one man. He seems to own his opinion and his numerical system. But, again, Robert Parker is one man – and there is no such thing as a perfect man. Is there a perfect wine? Only if you believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, assigning numbers to a belief is always subjective and divisive.
Matthew Rosenberg: If you haven’t seen mondovino, watch it. Not a great light shed on Parker and his cohorts. Not a fan of the man myself, especially one who has such incredible influence on the industry. He can literally make or break a wine with his scores. Too much subjectivity in wine.
Cathrine Todd: Matthew, I feel Mondovino was a very one sided movie that was edited in a specific way so it would be controversial. I completely respect that you don’t like RP and the idea that no one man should have that much power, but I just have a problem with painting a picture, which I think Mondovino paints, that if you are very successful and making a mass appeal wine then that makes you a bad person or company. I love niche wines and support the small guys, but through my own professional experiences I have seen good and bad with small guys working in the wine world and larger companies. Plus, I feel you can edit anyone and make them seem like an extreme caricature, and twist their words to mean something that they were not suppose to mean. Sorry to go off topic, I just thought Matthew brought up an interesting point.
Ed Hodson: Putting the scores to one side, which I’ve never really cared for, what I’ve always personally respected about Parker are the tasting notes. He really took describing what he’d tasted to a level few if any had reached before. When I was a kid reading his stuff in the 80s, I’d want with all my heart to taste something as wonderful as the wines he described. Our palates may differ, but through his descriptive power Parker really helped me understand wine’s potential to delight, inspire and enthrall.
Cathrine Todd: Ed that is a great point. I think it is also a great idea that you can learn a lot from someone you may not always agree with… or have a different palate, ect.

Jonathan Hesford: Good point Ed. Parker did not become influential by luck.


Already many good comments… but please feel free to continue the conversation! 🙂



Luiz Alberto, #winelover