Wine Rating Standards
We find the 100 pointer system a marketing ploy which brought fame and fortune to the early entrants to the field. Yet, it is ultimately pointless because almost no wine ranks below 80 in the Wine Advocate or in the Wine Spectator or in the International Wine Cellar.
We also find that established authorities give too little weight to a wine’s overall balance and too much weight to its color. While it is true that certain colors reveal that the wine is sick or over the hill, the reverse is not true. We do not understand giving automatic points to a wine with a “deep red garnet” which, by itself, does mean very little. We are also amazed by the sheer number of unbalanced, over-extracted wines which receive 90 or above scores in major publications.
It is interesting that, like in restaurant reviews there are quite a few bloggers who are more trustworthy than more “official” reviewers who taste far too many wine in one sitting (and then rate the degree of alcohol) or taste in committees. In the latter case a wine which is absolutely adored by some and hated by others will rank about the same as a wine which committee members place in the middle. How reliable are the scores then?
The system that Gastromondiale will adopt here is inspired by teachings at the university. This means that we will rank wine ranging from A+ to F. Everybody knows what these symbols mean.
Some caveats are in order. First admission is that the line between A+ and A is thin. The former is clearly extraordinary and the latter is outstanding. But judgment may be influenced by a contributor's record of experience in the same category. Vedat Milor indicates that the first time he started drinking great Burgundies (in mid 80s) or Bordeaux, he would have rated more wine as extraordinary but he knows more today that there are even better examples of the same category (a Clos de la Roche which is one of his favorite plots in Burgundy). What he thought was extraordinary turned out to be an outstanding bottle.
We must also confess that we do not think certain terroirs or grape varieties can create A level wines. So a B or B- rating which means good and above average denotes a very high ranking accorded to a Zindandel or a Verdicchio or a Carneros Cabernet. Conversely, a B- for a Romanee Conti is not very flattering.
Our final confession relates to the ageability of wines. Contributors may take some notes after uncorking bottles, also indicating their estimates for the wine to reach its peak. While a contributor's record is not worse than those who make pronouncements in their publications, and despite the fact that contributors may store wines as in perfect conditions as one can in big cities, they have been proven wrong far too many times. Some wines reached their peak much earlier than expected and others are still youthful despite the fact that they should have been over the hill according to personal notes.
Dear reader, remember that the real price of the bottle you are paying for is about the double of the price you have paid for. This is because too many bottles will prove to be corked, storage costs are high and many bottles which you like today will turn out to be dull an uninteresting and will never evolve as you expect them to. Please keep this in mind and don’t always buy into the vintage hype before you taste yourself!