The difference between rating wines and assessing their market appeal are two entirely different animals, if only in the fact that you have to look at the wine's QPR (quality-price ratio) and any other nuances that might be appealing to consumers - like limited availability or direct import or regionality, there are a host of variables.
Buying by the numbers is almost an inherent indication that the buyer (for a wine store, restaurant, etc.) is without any real palate or knowledge of their own. It's something I have learned over the years, thanks in large part to a great many individuals I have come to respect and admire - not only for their palates, but for their passion and desire for this business and for wine itself. My buddy Eric Jerardi was one who I feel unintentionally coerced me into exploring my own palate as I was building my first wine list at Cafe Boulevard in Dayton, Ohio (while I was bar manager there). People like Mary Kay at The Winds in Yellow Springs and the late, great Doug Simon of Arrow Wine & Spirits, who had a fairly innovative approach to how they selected wines for their respective stores. So many people I have met and worked either for or with over the years, have contributed to my own wine education, and I continue to learn each day.
Yet it is ironically, the artist in me that seeks out the unique, artistic expression in a wine before I really consider it for the store. As far as the scores go, I am unimpressed. The worst thing a winemaker or an importer can do when pitching a wine to me is bringing up the scores it received FIRST. Right there, that is a tell that the wine sucks and they can't sell it. A wine should be something that is almost too intangible to describe YET THEY FIND A WAY ANYWAY.
A great example is the first time I tried Verite - a big boy Sonoma blend from wine mastermind Jess Jackson. I was introduced to the first vintage - the 1998 - by way of an old friend, Rich Collins, who was working for Corterra Brands (the brokerage representing Verite, as well as Stonestreet, Cambria, and others - it's now called Majestic Wines). Sitting in the store with him and the brand manager - whose name escapes me right now - and tasting the wine, there wasn't a great deal of bantering. No need - the wine was ethereal. I actually told him it reminded me of a poem I continue to herald as one of my faves, by Pablo Neruda, called "Body of a Woman." One of the most sensuous works of the modern era, and the poem was pretty seductive too.
Years later, I was able to revisit the wine upon my visit to the winery with my wife. At this point, the wine was 8 years old. And it was even more remarkable than when I first tasted it. It literally stopped time.
Granted, this is a pretty exaggerated example, but you get the point. What speaks to me as a buyer is what's in the bottle. An Aussie blend that rocks, and it's under $10 - bring it on! A Bordeaux Superieur from a great vintage that drinks like a classified growth, and I can sell it for under $20. Rock on!
The point is that while everyone is up-in-arms over Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, the crux of the matter is that these guys are no different in being able to assess the quality of a wine than YOU are. Sure they have their magazines and their subscribers, but in the end, it's all about YOU. They could just as easily score Chateau Whatsits 2008 a 100-point wine, but you could buy it, try it, and think it positively sucks. That's just the way it is - taste is subjective. Only yours counts in the end.
And they don't really want you to realize that. Once you do, then you won't give a crap about anything they say.