Straight Talk About Wine Ratings

Whenever you are considering buying a wine, one thing that may factor in are wine ratings.

These are used by many people around the world to decide what wine ranks among the best.

However, relying heavily on wine ratings does come at a severe cost:

Critics of the ranking system say wine rating is responsible for the globalization of wine. They also state this practice effectively creates homogeneity among wines as winemakers strive to win over competition preferences, that naturally and inevitably converge over time.

A positive wine review is oftentimes responsible for a sudden surge in popularity of a wine. It can also result in a faddish recognition of a wine region, wine maker, or wine varietal in general.

Even wineries can be suddenly "discovered." But this may result in the neglect of other wineries that are producing wine on par. Their wine may go unnoticed because it did not receive its due recognition from a wine critic.

Should someone interested in wine consider wine reviews seriously?

If so, how seriously should you take them? Moreover, what system should you consult?

There is also the issue of which wine critic or critics are accurate. Before discussing any of this, it is essential to look first at the definition of wine rating.

Wine Ratings

What Are Wine Ratings?

Whenever you see a number on a bottle that is not the year or an address, chances are this is the wine rating.

A wine rating is a numerical scoring of a specific wine describing the quality of the wine – or at least that particular bottle of wine.

The number is the result of a wine critic or critic’s evaluation of a particular wine. This makes the process one that is both subjective and often highly questionable.

No single system of wine rating currently exists.

The two major systems utilized by current critics rely on a scale of 20 or 100.

One of the most well known wine critics, former lawyer, Robert Parker, relies on the 100 system. In fact, he is given credit for introducing this system.

Wine review venues include: The Australian Wine Companion (James Halliday), Burghound, Connoisseurs Guide, International Wine Cellar (Steven Tanzer), The Wine Advocate (Robert Parker), and magazines that focus on wines like the Wine Enthusiast, Wines & Spirits, Wine Spectator and Pinot Report.

Hopewell Valley Vineyards Has Fun With Wine Ratings...

As a small scale, family-run winery, it feels GREAT to receive positive reviews, awards, medals, or other honorary titles in recognition of the quality and heart of Hopewell Valley Vineyards wines.

Just like with any passionate venture, feeling appreciated for our products makes us strive even further - it fuels us, motivates us, humbles us, keeps us moving forward and upward!

But while it's fun for Hopewell Valley Vineyards to participate in various annual wine competitions alongside other New Jersey wineries, we also recognize that wine competitions, medals, and wine ratings are completely subjective entities - not science.

First WE have to love our wines...everything else follows suit from there.

The Trouble With Wine Ratings

Critics state several reasons why it is flawed. The reasons provided include:

  • It implies it is scientific. It is not. What it is measuring is not quantifiable. Moreover, the scientific method dictates that the same result can be reached no matter who replicates the experiment. Research indicates no two critics perceive the "quality" of wine in the same manner
  • They downplay the influence of terroir and individuality in wine making
  • In cases where reds are pitted against other wines, the reds tend to win. Critics are simply overpowered by the strong reds as opposed to the more subtle wines
  • Subjectivity – the rating of any wine is subject to the bias of the critic. He or she has a personal preference. He or she is influenced by external and internal factors
  • Change – Not every bottle of wine is going to taste the same as another bottle of the same wine by that winery. Aging can change the taste. Another bottle may be subtly different due to such uncontrollable variables as transportation conditions, season/weather during the tasting, what wines and flavors were tasted prior, etc.

Overall, we tend to agree with Joshua Greene, editor and publisher of Wine and Spirits.

He says, "Even though ratings of individual wines are meaningless, people think they are useful.”

While rating a wine may be helpful, it is not the be all and end all.

What is required is careful consideration and actual wine taste testing. It requires the personal input of our own senses to determine what the right wine is for us.

At the end of the day, we all have to trust our natural wine instincts and just follow them, whether they reflect current wine trends or not!

Trusting A Wine Rating

Whose wine ratings should we trust? Trust is a big word. But we really need to rely only on our own judgment.

Read the critics. See what they say and how they rate a wine, but 'USE WITH CAUTION'. 

No one will completely share the same views as you, but it is possible we will agree with one view more than another one. Take this information and apply it. We can use it to expand our wine knowledge and learn.

A wise person never accepts as absolute truth the words of a critic. Do not rely on wine critics to make the decision of whether you enjoy a wine or not. Let your taste buds decide that for themselves.

There are so many wines from so many wineries around the world waiting to be discovered. Go out and try them all!

Then you'll certainly be your OWN wine critic! 

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