Like it or not, reviews are critical to a winery, they are a stamp of approval from the folks that are paid (or should be paid) to compare what one winery makes in the context of a region and sometimes they are useful more broadly as a comparison with all the other wines available around. Here at Pacific Rim, we have been blessed to be, in most cases, fairly well reviewed by the wine press. We like the praises for three main reasons: firstly, it is great for our winemaking team’s self-esteem; secondly, it helps us determine if we might be “onto something” (from viticultural practices to more natural winemaking); and thirdly, it is undeniable that they invite customers to give us a try.
Just as wine reviewers can’t agree on many ethical aspects of their profession (can they have a personal relationship with a winemaker? Can they make wine themselves? Should wine be reviewed blind? etc..), wineries wonder how loudly to tout their reviews. Should a wine producer gloat based on the accolades his wines receive? What is the fine line between humbleness and shouting out positive reviews with a blow horn? You see, the rating machine is ruthless because wineries have so many internal pressures to show off – mainly in order to differentiate themselves commercially from the great wine clutter (all of whom are, of course, inferior to your special wine offerings). This thirst for recognition is compounded by the fact that reviews are also desired by wine selling stores & restaurants, all wanting to offer highly rated wines at the lowest price to their customers.
It is no surprise that everyone in the wine biz ecosystem wants to get a super-sized score for their wine and wants it as quickly as possible (no one wants an un-scored vintage on their shelves). Okay, I’ve said it: “score.” Let’s be clear, the market craves the score on a 100 point scale, no one remembers or requests the tasting notes. Yup, unfortunately, that is the genius of the “reductive rating”: one score to distill the essence of a wine regardless of age, place, practices, etc. Imagine if a winery sends a particular vintage to a wine critic too soon (or too late) and it isn’t in its prime? I am certain it happens all the time and that one little score sticks to that wine forever… I wonder what I would have scored when I was a kid? I think I had several 75 point moments (mum – no need to leave a comment about that) but I believe I had a few 90+ events in between. Boy, I hope that critic catches me in a 90+ moment, because you have only one swing at the “score piñata” in this fast paced world!
Now, I can’t complain because critics have been very good to us (see our most recent Wallula Biodynamic Riesling rated 95 in Wine Enthusiast) and, of course, I believe this is because of the quality of our wines! And are we hiding the scores – nah, we put them on our labels shamelessly – why not?
Regardless of what we think about scores, they are here to stay and yes, it is still amazing what a 90 point plus score does to wine sales – we’ve found many retailers that only want 90+ point wines – what is up with that insanity? Perhaps it is easier to sort through the vast sea of wine by letting someone else do the job of tasting them all? Well, tonight I’ll enjoy an 88 point Riesling from Pacific Rim and perhaps that 83 point Chinon I love, though the wine critic did not care for it but, it works just fine for me.