Unusually, the ratings will be the result of a two-reviewer process, according to a Wine Advocate press release:
"Haruo Matsuzaki did a first selection of sakes among 800 polished, pure rice sakes. Martin Hao, Asian Wine Reviewer at Robert Parker Wine Advocate, then distinguished 78 great sakes, noted on a 50 to 100 points scale."
I want to see something get a 50! But seriously, this is most likely a very good thing for the sake industry in the same way that Robert Parker's ratings of California wines in the 1980s were good for the California wine industry. These ratings should get sake attention from an entirely new audience: an audience affluent enough to support the production of fine sakes.
It doesn't really matter what the taste standards are for the Advocate. Seriously: they could throw darts at a bunch of labels and give the ones they hit 98, and that would be fine. Top quality sakes are the most underappreciated alcoholic beverages in the world. Sake is so marginalized among alcoholic beverages that the Advocate's attention can't help but rise the overall tide. I don't care who the winners are in the Advocate's ratings. I only care that there are winners: that there aren't a bunch of 88s and 89s and a dearth of high scores. Advocate followers crave high scores, and I hope tomorrow they get some.
There is one aspect to the press release that merits some thought.
"In an independent and separate manner, Acker Merrall & Condit, the world's leading auction house for wines and spirits, will hold a special "sake sale" of some of the sakes distinguished by the WINE ADVOCATE in its New York branch in mid-October."
It's a new type of business arrangement, having a single store (especially that store) set to profit from Wine Advocate's ratings. But the impending ratings still seem likely to be good news for sake.