Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.
Robert Mondavi

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What exactly do wine ratings mean and are they accurate?

The 100 Point Scale
95-100 A classic truly great wine!
90-94 An outstanding wine that is superior in character and style.
85-89 A very good wine with a few special qualities.
80-84 A good, well-made wine.
75-79 A mediocre, but drinkable wine that may possess some minor flaws.
50-74 A wine that is not recommended for consumption (why waste your time and calories).

Try to remember this when you are walking down the aisle of your local grocery or liquor store and see one of those little signs placed below the different wines. Typically they will have a number falling into the 100 Point rating scale as well as a description. But who decides this rating and what is taken into consideration?

First off, there is the analysis of the wine. When the taster is assigning a rating, it is based off of the quality of the appearance, aromas, taste, balance and complexity, among a few other considerations.

Second, each of these ratings and descriptions are based off of the tastings of typically ONE person who happens to be covering the wine region that the bottle you are considering falls under. These tasters work for any of a number of wine publications (i.e. Wine Spectator, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, etc.). These wine experts who report are by no means amateurs. In fact, they have some of the most discerning palates in the world, they can tell the difference between mediocre and good as well as outstanding and truly great. However, in the end, everyone is going to have their own unique experience with wine.

Third, it is widely assumed that there is a certain amount of politics involved. I am not saying that tasters are going to overlook obvious flaws, but there sometimes some suspect ratings. Just remember that the wine community is tight group that you do not want to find yourself on the outside of if you are a publication or one of their correspondent tasters.

Finally, if the tasting is not done blindly, that is without seeing the bottles and labels from which it is poured, this may have a significant impact. If a professional taster views the label before tasting, they will know the winery, the vineyard it came from, the reputation, and the price range. These bits of information may lead to bias either for or against a certain producer/vineyard. For example, the next time I have a Duckhorn wine, my initial bias against it will have to be overcome before I can rate it accurately (refer to prior post). For this reason a good amount of the tastings for publications are done blind.

What should you take away from all this nonsense? I feel it is very important to have wine ratings, because they offer an indication as to the quality of different wines. I would not, however, take these ratings as word of God. Know yourself, know what you like and try to broaden your horizons. If you are trying to decide if a certain bottle is going to be as good as advertised, I would recommend using Cellar Tracker, which is a collection of ratings from various people who have owned, consumed and noted their tastings.

I figured that if I am going to be writing reviews and rating the wines I have tasted I should probably explain a little about the 100 Point wine rating scale and how the scores are assessed. I hope this helps!


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