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Poking More Holes in the Ratings System

by David on January 20, 2007

Ran across a couple of posts that re-confirmed in my mind that there have to be better ways than wine scores to wade through the sea of wines and make a selection. Dr. Vino was tasting with a critic who uses the numerical system in his work, because it’s required, but revealed that he thinks “it’s stupid” because it gives a false appearance of objectivity.

And then Beau in Basic Juice described the changing flavors of an inexpensive Spanish wine he tasted a few minutes after opening it and at different time intervals up to about an hour. His notes evolved considerably along with the wine in that hour. If a $10.00 bottle shows that kind of evolution, imagine what something with more complexity might do!!! I can’t be certain, but I imagine that tasting panels such as those at the Wine Spectator don’t have the luxury of spending that kind of time with the wine. Their site explains that “Each flight may consist of 20 to 30 wines, and no more than two flights are tasted by a taster each day.”

At a seminar by Karen MacNeil, she stated unequivocally that she doesn’t think we give the wine a chance if we don’t spend a couple of hours with it. That’s a great assignment for those of us who “rate” wines over dinner with friends. For those in the business of cranking out wine ratings on a frequent basis this isn’t so practical.

And, of course there was Gary on Wine Library TV, tasting through and talking about the vast gulf separating the Wine Enthusiast and the Wine Spectator ratings of 4 different wines and offering his own opinion. Who are we supposed to believe?

One of my favorite ways to evaluate from way back (having been spoiled by the insider discounts):

  • I’d pay full retail for it: truly yummy stuff! The ultimate accolade.
  • I’d buy it at inter-winery price or a trade discount: pretty good stuff.
  • I’d drink it if someone gave it to me: clean, OK wine; nothin’ to write home about.
  • If someone gave it to me, I’d give it away: speaks for itself, and not a very generous impulse. ;-)

But would you agree with me, having tasted the same wines?

Numerical ratings:
Snappy way to make a decision? Definitely. Genuinely helpful? Guess the jury’s out.

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