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Monday, March 29, 2010

Thank you to all who came to the Kelseyville Olive Fest - it was a great event beyond all expectations. Pictures are up at http://www.kelseyvilleolivefestival.com/photo-gallery.php . Here on the ranch the the cover crop just went under, the vines and now olives are all pruned and the Spring calender is quickly filling up with important dates. Bottling whites is on the horizon in a month, and several pouring events will be taking place in a few weeks - we will post those soon.

In an attempt to seem timely, here a couple of thoughts on the wine scoring system conundrum that is still circulating. The 100-point system has taken a lot of flak as it probably should. A lot of that hinges on the hair-splitting difference between a 92 and a 93 score for example - not particularly problematic here, but some people get all weird over wielding such power over numbers. To play devils' advocate, most wine people could probably come up with a reasonable scenario in which they could convincingly state that a wine is one percent better than another. Quantifiable? No, but subjectively defensible at that moment, sure. Maybe the finish is a little longer, a little more mineral, the VA a little lower. These are plausable. Incidentally, feel free to ask your teacher exactly why your Honor's paper received a 92 instead of a 93. Sometimes, experts just know, and we have to trust them because all opinions are not equal. Not everythinhg is a democracy, nor should it be. Sorry.

The 20-point system's virtue is its inherent lack of precision in the context of the 100 point's inflated importance. By using looser standards the wider range is less definitive and more general - positive in some ways. But then does not the difference between a 16-point and 17-point score become even more contentious by beingh magnified? Again, usable, but far from perfect. A nice guide though for general use. The five-star system is a more reductionist version, often appropriately used in newspapers.

But, hopefully without copyright infringement, here is THE BEST system when you have a panel of reviewers. This is from Sommelier Journal. Every issue they feature a panel tasting and discussion. The scoring is statistically based with outlying marks noted but not included in the statistical range. This provides the range of the 20 point score with a more precise grouping range. You can see how tight or how broad the concensus really was on a particular wine, in some ways focusing on that magical precision between a 92 or 93. Again, not definitive, but a great option, though panel tastings are often impossible for a magazine with 500 reviews. And, it raises the whole problem with competition scoring: should you discuss scores openly and often change them slightly in the end due to consensus decision making or should they be definitively scored and then tallied later? That one is for another entry.

Postscript: Always a little behind. To read a very interesting paper and excellent blog post on this subject please visit http://www.redwinebuzz.com/winesooth/2010/03/29/ratings-serendipity-and-selling-wine/. Highly recommended. Arthur also wisely distinguishes between the subjective descriptive language in evaluation and objective criteria. The structuring of criteria is paramount. Are you judging clarity and VA level? Those can be measured. Or are you basing it on personal preference? Often it is both, one before the other. Discuss.

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