Posts Tagged ‘wine ratings’

Little Wine, Who Rated Thee?

June 29th, 2011 No comments

Whether or not we like to admit it, wine tasting is a subjective experience.  We all have different palates when it comes to food, music, movies, and entertainment, and we’re certainly not built alike when it comes to enjoying wine.  Confessing you dislike a 92 point wine is no crime, and it does not label you a philistine. 

It’s important to remember that wine ratings come from people.  Ratings are not the result of extensive scientific testing!  A wine’s rating is one person’s (sometimes a panel’s) subjective response to a given experience of that wine.  (Often, because of diversity within panels, wines come out with ratings lower than if they were tasted and rated independently!) 

This is where following a specific taster with similar preferences comes in handy.  Once you find a high-rated wine you really like, discover who did the rating and see if this individual’s other high marks give you similar satisfaction.  If so, follow this taster for wines you’re more likely to enjoy.  This is similar to keeping up with the releases of your favorite bands or artists; chances are good that you’ll like them or, at the least, find them worthy of some merit.  Equally important, learn who gave great ratings to wines you particularly dislike.  If you come across highly-ranked bottles by these individuals, you may think twice about taking a chance on them. 

Remember, you cannot reduce wine to a number.  The multifaceted, multivariable experience of wine tasting can never be adequately expressed by a double digit.  Remember our previous post, Fooled by Numbers: Wine Ratings and You?  Don’t let a wine’s rating impact your tasting enjoyment.  Follow the pathways paved by raters with similar tastes, but in the end let your tongue be the ultimate leader.  Cheers!

Two Different Wines with One Similarity…

Perhaps you’ve read our previous post, Fooled by Numbers: Wine and You?  If so, this short comparison between two very different wines compliments it nicely!

I recently purchased, for the same price, a bottle of El Salegar Tinto Fino 2007 and a bottle of the Maison Elise Richard 2008 Corbieres Red Blend, without knowing at their ratings.

El Salegar Tinto Fino 2007, image courtesy of

Maison Elise Richard 2008 Corbieres Red Blend, image courtesy of

Made from a promising blend of Carignan, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, the Maison Elise Richard 2008 Corbieres Red Blend was extremely slow to open, and its nose was very closed.  Even after opening, this wine’s nose was stubbornly elusive, being somewhat acidic and only sharing hints of black fruit and prunes.  Though the wine’s texture was not unpleasant, it was not very firm.  Its taste was earthy, but not robust.  Prevalent with brown and black fruits, including prunes, the wine also contained an aberrant licorice flavor which seemed to be an irksome “streak of independence” that divided the wine, rather than unifying it.  Rich with tannins, this is a wine that works best if paired with various potato dishes; I did not find it fully convincing on its own (it also cries for decanting).

In contrast, the El Salegar Tinto Fino 2007 made from Tempranillo grapes, had a delightfully aromatic nose, a very nice body,  and good color.  Containing earthy, herbal flavors including cherries, plumbs, and even some licorice, this wine was pleasantly well-balanced, and offered a robust, satisfying finish.  Unlike the Maison, the El Salegar demanded my attention immediately, and also did not have to rely on food to be enjoyed.

Granted, these are two very different wines, but it is interesting to note that they both were rated highly at 90 points each!

Fooled by Numbers: Wine Ratings and You

March 15th, 2011 No comments
wine rating

Wine Rating (image from Wikipedia)

Have you ever been browsing through a wine selection, and notice that some of the wines have a number rating displayed near them? Many of these ratings are given by fancy, highly paid staff from organizations like Robert Parker and Wine Spectator.  Sometimes, however, staff from the actual wine establishment where you find yourself may have given these wine ratings as well.  Here’s a quick summary of how many wine experts and wine aficionados rate wine: Wine is typically rated on a 100 point scale, although most rating systems regard wines under a score of 50 to be of poor quality. Rating systems usually award some points for appearance, taste, mouthfeel and finish. However, publications and individual reviewers have set their own rating scales and methods, so ratings are not necessarily consistent from one publication to the next.
Many factors contribute to a wine’s rating, and some wines receive higher scores because they score exceptionally well in select qualities; however, they could have missed the mark in others!  A wine may have a fantastic nose, for instance, but a very short finish.  Or, a wine may taste quite good but lack much depth and complexity.  Such catches inherent in this rating system are brought up in Leonard Mlodinow’s interesting-yet-pessimistic book The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Although a single number cannot convey all the nuances of a wine, it can help us narrow our selection at a glance.  Higher rated wines “tend” to make better gambles.  This can be good if you’re in a hurry to stock up for an impromptu dinner party. If you’re trying to decide between two bottles that differ by only a couple points, you’ll probably be pleased with either selection. Some publications rate wines partially based on how well they believe the wine will age, so you may wish to take that into account if you are considering a case purchase for your wine cellar.

Ever since the adoption of a number system to rate wine, many people–especially those new to the world of wine–mistakenly dismiss wines with less than 90 point ratings.  (This is where a blind tasting works well to overcome a preconceived numerical value.)  Having conducted some of my own research into these numerical ratings by not only trying wines with a wide range of ratings, but looking into how the professionals rate their wines, I have arrived at the following three conclusions:  First, a wine with at least a rank of 80 will be worth your while (as long as it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and if it does, you’ll want to lean toward the highest of ratings).  Second, if there is a rating next to a wine, it means someone actually took the time to pay special attention to that particular wine, so it’s likely to be worth your time to take a closer look as well. Finally, I have found it important to remember the context in which the wine will be consumed. Is this a wine to celebrate your 50 year wedding anniversary, or a wine to have with take-out dinner on a Tuesday night? Numbers by themselves are all relative, so use your common sense when you make your final selection.

How do you use wine ratings? Share your thoughts in the comments!