Monday, May 28, 2018

Rant: A 100 Point Sake? More Stinkin' Scores From Wine Advocate


The Wine Advocate is back at it, scoring Sakes, and their newest article is moving toward the worst elements of the wine scoring system. I continue to vehemently disagree that such scores are helpful in promoting Sake and have seen no evidence that the Wine Advocate's articles have helped the Sake industry. Even the Wine Advocate readers rarely discuss Sake on their forums and there haven't been any posts about their new Sake article and reviews. This new article is their first Sake-related item of 2018.

I've ranted about this issue numerous times, as far back as 2013, and you can check out the progression of my previous posts: Rant: Sake Don't Need No Stinkin' Scores!Rant: Sake Still Don't Need No Stinkin' Scores!Update: Sake Still Don't Need No Stinkin' Scores! and Ugh! More Stinkin' Scores For Sake From Wine Advocate

In the newest issue of the Wine Advocate (April 2018, #236), Liwen Hao, their Asian Wine Reviewer, once again wrote a brief article about Sake as well as reviewing 24 Sakes. Generally, I've enjoyed Hao's prior Sake articles, which have usually been informative, but this issue's article disturbed me. It begins with an exchange about the search for a 100 point Sake and Liwen writes, “The image of a perfect sake is getting clearer,” I explained, “and I’m sure it’s there somewhere, waiting for me.”

Perfect for who? Perfect just for Hao's palate, or does he have some "objective" standard for evaluating what would be a perfect Sake? Would another reviewer also agree if Hao scored a Sake with a perfect 100 points? Is that the purpose of all of Hao's Sake reviews, to find a "perfect Sake?" Are general consumers seeking a "perfect Sake?" Would Hao's time be better spent addressing different aspects of Sake? Yes, there are so many better topics Hao could address rather than a search for a 100 point Sake.

In his latest Sake reviews, Hao awards two Sakes his highest score yet, 99 points, besting his previous high of 98 points. The Asahi Shuzo Dassai Migaki Sonosakie Junmai Daiginjo (about $750) and the Takagi Shuzo Juyondai Ryusen Junmai Daiginjo (about $4500) both scored 99 points. Based on those prices, the average consumer will probably never get to taste either Sake. Such reviews are catering more to the wealthy, who'll probably buy up all of the available bottles to display as trophies in their cellars. Such reviews won't cause more average consumers to try Sake for the first time, and might even turn them away.

The rest of Hao's article discussed how he and some friends decided to sample some of the most expensive Sake bottles available, which is how those selections ended up on his list of reviews. And they intend to drink more of the pricey Juyondai Sakes later this year, which could eventually lead to the "100 point" Sake. Why does that have to be their objective? It might be a checkmark off Hao's bucket list, but does it do a service to the readers of Wine Advocate? Does it do a service to the Sake industry?

As I've said before, Sake articles and reviews are great, but we don't need scores. Such scores cause more harm than good and tend to turn away more consumers than they attract. The Wine Advocate does a disservice to the Sake industry, appealing primarily to the wealthy who want trophy Sakes. It doesn't have to be that way. And it shouldn't be that way.

Sake Don't Need No Stinkin' Scores!


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