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When is 1 point worth more than 1 point?

“What’s the difference between 89 and 90?” Should be a question for a 6 year old. “One?” “Good boy, Johnny! Have a cookie.” But, when it comes to wine, that one, I mean that specific one, is so much more than the one between, say, 87 and 88, or 92 and 93. It is, after all, the difference between A- and B+. That is, some sort of A wine and some sort of B wine, and who wants a B wine when you can have an A wine?

This difference is so great that many sites that sell and/or market wine won’t even publish any score lower than 90. Turns out an 89 is detrimental to sales, whereas 90 is beneficial. That’s right, there’s no in between score that is neutral. What’s wrong with us? It’s just one point, on a 100-point scale (well, 50-point, really). Why can’t we just get over it?

Can I geek out on math for a second? Here’s 89 in binary: 1011001. Here’s 90: 1011010. When you look at it this way, the two are barely different.

Let’s have another visual.

You can’t tell me that you can actually see a difference between these two lines. But Wine A is 89 points, and Wine B is 90 points. Bet you thought the A Wine was the 90.

Ok, one more visual. Remember the number line? Here’s a normal number line:


Normal, evenly spaced. Here’s what the number line looks like for wine scores


Whoa, yeah, see that space between 89 and 90 is bigger than all the others. Well, that opens up this can of worms:

Pundits calculate their scores in different ways. For some, they taste the wine and the score just appears in their head (and I’m not even going to touch this right now). Others have a formula, such as 5 points for color, 15 for aroma, 15 for body and structure, 15 for overall impression. So, with this understanding that this point between 89 and 90 is so much more valuable than all the others, I ask which point is it that is worth more than all the others? Is it one of the “aroma” points? One of the color points?

“Look at that poor 89 point wine on the shelf over there. If only it had been just 1 point darker maybe someone would take it home…”


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