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August 02, 2011


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Out of curiosity, have any wines/beers gotten 100s here over the years? If not, what are the highest ratings that have been given?

Way to go Lenn!, I hate the 100pt system too.

Nice. Could never understand what makes a 91pt wine better than an 89pt wine or why some god awful plonk gets even a 75. I can say that I have never had a bad wine that is in the 90's, but have tasted many wines that I think should have been there and only averages a 85. I quit using the 100 pt. rating system to buy wines years ago. I prefer to read blogs or listen to consumers who just say "it's worth the price" or "it's a good wine."

I am 110 Points on the change!

Love the corks!


I like the change, if for no other reason , because you will be going back to a lot more reviews. Since I can't get out to many vineyards, I depend on these reviews to learn about new stuff.


Excellent. The old 5-star system always made more sense to me...it seemed to more accurately reflect the way people actually drink wine. Not many of us sit at the dinner table and say, "This wine is delicious with the fish. I rate it an 88."

5 corks for you!

You have a lot of supporters for your reversal to 5 corks so it must be the right move. To please your current readers is a positive step.... unless of course you would like to increase readership then it could be a negative. Why not go to the 3 'symbol' system as an Italian critic uses. I can think of myself saying "This wine is delicious with the fish. I rate it 3 fins."... or "This wine is delicious with the crab. I rate it 3 claws." Myself, and obviously, I enjoy the 3 Stooges system. ( http://tinyurl.com/y9wwdsh )

Clever, and a nice visual representation. But, what makes the difference between a 4 cork and 4.5 cork wine? What does a wine have to do to jump from 4.5 corks to 5? Corks or points, no scoring is perfect (as you pointed out), but is there a stark contrast that you're going to offer readers between 4 and 4.5 (or any half cork) that would be any clearer than 89 vs 90 vs 91 points?

Thanks for all the comments. I'm happy with this decision and look forward to employing it both with our wine reviews but also with our beer reviews and (I hope) our upcoming spirits reviews.

James: Great question and because we're not on the right kind of database here, I can't search to give you a definitive answer. But, I can say that from memory, the max wine score has been 93 or 94 I think. Beers are reviewed A-F and I believe Julia has scored a few A-.

Ryan: Also a good question. I hope that over time (and long-time readers will need less time to learn it) people will be able to tell rather easily from the written portion of my reviews why something gets the 'extra half cork.' As you said -- not perfect, but I think it's easier to understand the range that is represented by a half or full cork versus one or two points.

Like Ryan, I have questions as to how the cork system is much different from 100pts. Readers will likely see a benchmark for corks, like the 90 pt level, maybe 4 corks. And then they may ignore any wine without at least 4 corks. I think it will be very difficult too to differentiate in your review why something gets 3.5 corks vs 4.

In the end, the tasting notes are supposed to be key, so why have any rating system at all?

Richard: I think I covered why I "have any rating system at all" -- I think they can be valuable to my readers, many of whom read the site regularly enough and have tried enough of the wines I write about to know that my palate is aligned with theirs or it isn't.

As I said..it's not perfect, but I consider this an improvement.

Thanks for clarifying, Lenn. I agree that given the context of a review you'll definitely be able to more clearly define what notches a wine up that extra bit, versus trying to quantify a singular point. It seems the more I read, that context is really the most important thing after all. Look forward to seeing a revival of reviews with your new system.

Good choice! I think that the 100 pt system means that people discount a lot of interesting little gems that sit below 90. Far better to have a system that encourage trial of these wines.

I just want to note that beer reviews will be adopting the same system for consistency and clarity, though the switch from letter grades isn't as significant as the switch from 100 points (which I consider especially irritating for beer, with its myriad styles and kaleidoscope of flavor combinations). We'll be using a more beery symbol, though.

Much has been made of the "je ne sais quoi" factor that separates a great beer (or wine or spirit) from an extraordinary one, or a 99-point score from a 100-point score. By the same token, a product may be technically correct but simply unexciting (Orlando Bloom comes to mind as a physical example), and that's personal and impossible to quantify as well. Truly, on some level it's as subjective as falling in love; the reaction to "something special" about a crafted product depends so much on the person and the circumstances, and that is what makes wine and beer and spirits and food so much fun to write about.

NYCR is about this whole experience, believing that it takes more than a list of empirical scores to do justice to all the exciting things happening in this state and this industry, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we prefer to use evocative writing rather than numbers or scores to express what that X factor, if present, is all about. Is it more challenging for us than expecting our readers to know what an 87 or a 91 means? Sure. But we like it that way.

Julia makes a good point -- some wines/beers/etc do have a certain undefinable X factor. I assume that's why on some wine scoring sheets I've seen and used at competitions, there is a column for "overall impression" and the like.

That said, I think it's our job as writers -- if we care about our craft -- to TRY to define the undefinable.

Exactly. And readers might not agree, but they'll know what they're agreeing or disagreeing WITH; nothing makes me cringe more than customers at the store who want "a 90-point wine" but have no idea what that means.

So you'll use a 5-cork scale for beer too? (Or maybe a 5-bottlecap scale.)

Whoops - just re-read Julia's post about a more beery symbol.

Move along, nothing to see here.

I'm very pleased to see the ratings system turn back away from the ubiquitous 100 point scale. We are not WS or WA nor should we aspire to be either.

A fun experiment would be to write your reviews with a corresponding survey on what the readers thought you'd score it. And then reveal your rating and what the readers interpreted the score to be from your description the next day. Fun!

Lenn... when you use to do the 5 star system, I thought you had a legend of what the stars represented. Do you still have such a legend.
I don't really care to separate 4 corks from 4.5 or 5. But I am interested in what 1 and 2 corks means to you. Does 1 cork = god-awful, avoid at all costs? Or does 1 cork = not complex or special, but still worth trying.

You should switch to screw caps.


Actually I like Bryan idea a whole lot. Next tasting table, just give the notes, and reveal the numbers next day. Generally, I read a lot of positives, here and in othe rplaces like the Spectactor, and then the grade seems like it should be higher for wines that fall in the 85 range.

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