How I Rate Wine

I find that most of the systems in use today to rate a bottle of wine really miss the point – pun intended. For the most part they work on a 20-30 point scale. Jancis Robinson does 20 points straight out following the standard Amerine and Roessler scale from UC Davis. With Robert Parker, even though his scale ends at 100, his scale officially stars at 50 – but from 50-80 he basically has  3 tiers – 1 at each 10 point marker – and even from 80-85 – you can really call a single category (barely above average). For the most part, they amount to the same. Within this type of system qualities such as color and appearance play a factor – and “potential for further evolution and improvement—aging—merits up to 10 points”. Which automatically gives a predisposition for wines that are geared towards  “ageability”.

Parker himself in the above linked page reduces it down to a letter system from A-F (6 possible grades) and then says the following:

Scores are important for the reader to gauge a professional critic’s overall qualitative placement of a wine vis-à-vis its peer group. However, it is also vital to consider the description of the wine’s style, personality, and potential. No scoring system is perfect, but a system that provides for flexibility in scores, if applied by the same taster without prejudice, can quantify different levels of wine quality and provide the reader with one professional’s judgment. However, there can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.

The emphasis there on the last line is his –  and I couldn’t agree more.  What I take issue with is the possibility of a taster not having prejudices. EVERYONE has prejudices regarding taste (probably none more so documented than Parker himself)  – the only question is – are we self aware?

[A great paper on the history of scoring,how it came about at UC Davis and how it was NEVER meant to be used in the way it currently is can be found here.]

If you read my about page – my goal is to not run away from prejudice or subjectivity. The scores are according to my palate and my preferences. As an example – and I plan to be up front on this when I write – I don’t like many Sauvignon Blancs. I don’t find myself enjoying anything that smells like urine – human OR feline .  That is me – I cannot pretend that I am going to be impartial about that. You might agree or disagree – OK. But my rating is going to be based on that prejudice. Period. Pretending otherwise is simply either dishonest or delusional. I hope to soon write a post about the subjectivity of taste in general and why wine is no different than anything else we taste.

All of this is a premise to introducing my rating system. The system will be in place for wines that I write formal notes on and that I can spend some time with. If I am at a larger tasting or an RCC where I really can’t give a wine my complete attention and taste over the course of a few hours if needed, I might right a short note, but you won’t get a formal rating. I intend to write a few  short paragraphs for each tasting note. The paragraphs will describe the setting that I tasted the wine in and if I decanted it, the makeup of the wine and it’s vintage history if I know it  and a short description of how the wine tasted to me including general descriptors and a few words about body, acid and tannin. after which I will present “Bottom Line” summary that looks something like this:

Bottom Line:

  • Price: How much I paid for the wine in question or how much it normally sells for if I didn’t buy the bottle in question
  • For Aging: Do I think there is anything to be gained by putting this bottle away to let it develop  – and if so, for how long. NOTE – I am not a big believer in modern day prophecy. These are guesses at best and should be taken with a grain of salt. I have been surprised both positively and negatively about a wines development and longevity. Overall, once a wine tastes good without the need for real decanting, I believe in drinking it.
  • Would I Buy Again: There can be a number of reasons the answer is no here  – and you will likely be able to understand the reasons from the rest of the scoring
    1. Sometimes a wine is absolutely great but SO expensive that I just can’t justify it’s purchase of more than one or two that I already have. Loved it  – but I can’t afford it.
    2. Sometimes a wine isn’t stratospherically expensive, but just really poor QPR  – doesn’t mean it’s a bad wine – just overpriced and I won’t buy again.
    3. This could also mean that I think a wine is near the end of it’s life and it’s not worth buying again.
    4. Could just mean its a wine I didn’t enjoy
  • QPR Rating:  QPR stands for Quality to Price ratio. This can be explained as the RELATIVE value/quality of the wine to it’s price in the the marketplace. Some people mistakenly refer to good QPR wines as cheaper wines. This is incorrect. You can have a cheap wine of NIS 25 that is poor QPR because it is undrinkable. You can have a NIS 150 bottle of wine that is excellent QPR because wines with similar qualities sell for double the price and so on and so forth.
  • Taste/Depth/Quality:  This will take that paragraph on desctoption an compress it into 1 or two words. Here I will be giving one of the following grades sometimes with a plus (+) following it if it is in between:
    • Excellent
    • Very Good
    • Good
    • OK/Average
    • Poor
    • Bad
  • Overall Rating  (1-5): This takes EVERYTHING above into account

Again – all of the above is SUBJECTIVE. If after reading a few of my notes & tasting the same wines you feel that your palate matches mine – GREAT – fell free to follow my posts and use them as a guide for what you might like. If you find yourself disagreeing – GREAT – discard everything I say. I don’t pretend to be a professional wine critic. These are just my opinions and as my grandmother used to be fond of reminding me and my siblings when we would argue about food : על טעם וריח אין להתווכח.

Happy drinking!