Wine Ratings and You (and me)

It has been a while since I have done a blog post that had a bit of controversy thrown into it. Truthfully I have been thinking about doing this post since last December but I didn’t quite know which direction to steer the conversation in. Obviously there are two very distinct groups that get in on this topic: those for and those against this particular medium. I am going to try to cover both, but my own opinion is going to be pretty prevalent.

I will start with this – I do think wine ratings do have a purpose, but that purpose is pretty finite. If you are just getting into wine and you don’t have a good source of recommendations, they can give you a ballpark to start with. After that you have to decide whether or not you are playing the same sport.

For me the whole wine rating thing is entirely arbitrary. Attaching a number to a wine that is being tasted by one person, or group of people, in one situation means nothing at all. Publications, both digital and in print, always claim that their methods are objective; which is completely bass-akwards because wine is an inherently subjective thing. There is no right or wrong answer despite what anyone might tell you. I have always been a proponent of the “just decide if you like it” method but to each their own.

Somewhere near the beginning there was the creation of a term: Parkerization or the idea that wines are being tailored to particular publications to get higher scores. For whatever reason wine producers decided that ratings were important and started making wines to get ratings And so the vicious cycle began. Producers started touting their accolades and trained us wine consumers to think that ratings are important. Wine writers had producers by the balls because the producers thought they needed high ratings to sell wine. Now make no mistake, when any of the major publications throw out a 100pt score inventories do tend to deplete at a greater clip. But if you have never tasted that wine before does that 100pt score mean that the wine is good based on your taste buds? No. The cycle expanded to retailers and restaurateurs because consumers wanted to see ratings because producers thought they needed to see raings. There one thing that I can say came up in nearly every conversation on the road with my old day job (not my own project luckily) working with accounts and distributors: “What was it rated?” or “What awards has it won?”

To be fair that term was created by, and usually utilized by, those who don’t necessarily read WA but if you are a part of the vicious cycle that is popular wine media you don’t have much of a choice but to own it and continue to try for “better” ratings.

To be extra fair there are some great accounts and distributors out there who do more than worry about accolades. Much MUCH more in fact because they actually care about the product that they have in front of them and how it is going, or not going, to fit into their business.

I get it! Ratings sell wine. Are they selling and promoting wines for the right reason? That reason being: will you like it or not. Is a rating a recommendation holds weight? You could argue that sales are sales; who cares what the reasons are? Fair enough. This little project of mine wouldn’t be going anywhere if it wasn’t for you folks who like what I do; and as a result buy some wine (I know it isn’t because of ratings because my wines don’t, and won’t, get rated “professionally”).

Now, when it comes to my own wines if you decide to buy a bottle then write a blog post or attach a rating, whether it be points, stars, happy faces or whatever… great! Some of you reading this right now have done just that, and I love it! For me that carries much more weight than anything the powers that be could possibly write. It is real people talking about their real experiences and giving a personal recommendation to their friends and family.

Is there a difference between the two? I think so. I could be wrong though. It might be nice to see or hear someone drone on about the hints of berries, cherries, cassis, subtle oak and spice notes that meld perfectly into an elixir of the gods that earned a coveted 99pts. *cough*bullshit*cough*

The stories behind why a wine was made or why a label was started are far more interesting than what the wine tastes like.

If wine ratings are your jam I won’t tell you that you are wrong, just don’t expect me to tell you that you are right either.


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