Jefford Needs to Get Out More

bubble boyIn an otherwise reasonable post about whether wine scores should take into account the price of the wine, Decanter’s Andrew Jefford makes a comment that makes me question his sentience if not his sanity.

If you are rigorously honest about the level of attainment of the world’s finest, then the wines of “up-and-coming” regions, even the most successful, would be condemned to scores of less than 70 points, since they are comprehensively adrift of the quality summits. By any universal scale, few wines of regions of ordinary attainment could hope to score much more than 80 points. It would be hard for any wine from a non-classic region (or a ‘non-noble’ grape variety) to obtain a perfect score, or even a score in the high 90s.

Huh? The wines of up-and-coming regions condemned to scores of less than 70? This is complete bullshit. Firstly, most publications never publish scores below 80 because wines that drop below 80 are flawed and virtually undrinkable. Even very ordinary supermarket wines made from generic grapes harvested from California’s Central Valley routinely score in the low 80’s. To claim that the best wines from Virginia, New York, or Arizona are unworthy of lowly $5 plonk in the supermarket is just tripe. He seems unaware of what his own publication is doing. Decanter recently gave Belwether’s Sawmill Creek Vineyard Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes a 94, a score which it richly deserved!

I travel extensively through these emerging regions in the U.S sampling the best wines I can find and I almost always find some wines worthy of scores in the low 90’s. Granted the best of Virginia or New York may never compete with Lafite or La Tâche, although given the progress they’re making this cannot be ruled out. In any case, 100 point wines should be exceedingly rare if the 100 pt. system is to have meaning. But making wine worthy of scores in the mid 80’s is now routine for most emerging regions with some exceptional producers doing considerably better with their best cuvees.

I have always admired Jefford for his writing talent, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm for wine. But I’m afraid his bubble has become impenetrable . Perhaps he pines for the “good old days” of a rigid wine aristocracy before the rabble learned the mysteries of fermentation.


  1. Agreed. I think Mr. Jefford was just looking for something provocative to write about. Emerging regions in the U.S. as well as South Africa, Chile, Israel and others all have a number of top wines that deserve excellent scores. So, this is not a useful contribution of his at all, or maybe he just doesn’t know better. One actually has to taste global (and very local) wines extensively to have a real picture of the current quality situation.

    1. Hi intastebuds…

      I’ve thought about this quite a bit. Scores don’t begin to capture wine quality but lots of people find them useful and they do yield some information. They basically tell you how much the critic liked the wine in comparison to others on the occasion it was tasted. As long as people take them to be providing a rough assessment of quality I think they’re harmless. (But of course many don’t take them that way) The problem with Jefford’s comment is not that he referred to scores but that he seems to wildly misjudge emerging regions regardless of the mode of communication

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