Friday, June 22, 2007

Wine Rating Systems

Seems there is a recent flood of articles and blog posts concerning Wine Rating systems. There is an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle titled "Are Ratings Pointless." One interesting point the article raised is that wines are generally only rated once, though wine does change over time. So, why isn't wine rated over time, to see how well it ages? No clear answer but it certainly raises a good point.

There is also a movement in the wine blog community to try to standardize a wine rating system just for bloggers. They want to differentiate themselves from the wine professionals, such as the Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator. Two bloggers, WineCast and Catavino, have addressed this issue. They are pushing for a 5 point/star system. I don't agree that a 5 point system is really that much better.

What exactly do we want our Ratings to accomplish? And are those purposes better off served in Tasting Notes rather than a rating? I think the basic purpose is to guide people to wines they will like. It is not to create a set of trophy wines that people will seek out, to the detriment of good wines that just don't happen to be the very best. The 100 point system is often cited as flawed because there are people who only seek wines rated 90 and above. They ignore good wines just because they are not rated high enough. Yet, a 5 point system is subject to the same problem, that people might only seek 4 or 5 point wines, ignoring all others.

The Real World Winer devised a very simple Rating system, which I still use, with only 3 categories.

1) Drink & Buy: A wine I recommend as worthy of buying.
2) Drink Not Buy: A wine that is drinkable but not something I would buy myself.
3) No Drink No Buy. A wine I would not recommend at all.

Everything else you need to know about the wine is in the Tasting Notes. My goal is to direct people toward certain wines, regardless of price. So, an excellent $10 wine or an excellent $200 wine could both be in the first category. The tasting notes will mention the price, and also whether I consider it a good value. Thus, people can enjoy good and superb wines, without just seeking the trophy wines.

I thus hope that more people will drink wines that would only receive good, but not excellent points, in other systems. Why miss out on so many good wines?


Brian said...

The problem with only 3 ratings is that I have to sift through pages and pages of tasting notes to find the wine that you found extraordinary. In a 5 point or 100 point system the top ratings are sure to only be used on wines that deserve them. I don't have any problem buying and drinking 80-point wines and I've sure drank many a 70-point and lower wine. But when I'm looking for that one bottle that will knock my socks off I would like to be able to find it quickly.

Richard A. said...

Hi Brian and welcome:
You do have a valid point. What the Real World Winers did is to compile a special list of our Highest Recommended Wines. These were the most exceptional wines we had tasted, and they were kept in one easy to find post.

You can find the list here:

Anonymous said...

Burgundy wine
(French: Bourgogne or Vin de Bourgogne) is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France.[1] The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as Burgundies - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from Chardonnay grapes. Red and white wines are also made from other grape varieties, such as Gamay and Aligoté respectively. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wine are also produced in the region. Chardonnay-dominated Chablis and Gamay-dominated Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names rather than as "Burgundy wines".

Burgundy has a higher number of Appellation d'origine contrôlées (AOCs) than any other French region, and is often seen as the most terroir-conscious of the French wine regions. The various Burgundy AOCs are classified from carefully delineated Grand Cru vineyards down to more non-specific regional appellations. The practice of delineating vineyards by their terroir in Burgundy go back to Medieval times, when various monasteries played a key role in developing the Burgundy wine industry. The appellations of Burgundy (not including Chablis).

Overview in the middle, the southern part to the left, and the northern part to the right. The Burgundy region runs from Auxerre in the north down to Mâcon in the south, or down to Lyon if the Beaujolais area is included as part of Burgundy. Chablis, a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes, is produced in the area around Auxerre. Other smaller appellations near to Chablis include Irancy, which produces red wines and Saint-Bris, which produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc. Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous and most expensive wines originate, and where all Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are situated. The Côte d'Or itself is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits which starts just south of Dijon and runs till Corgoloin, a few kilometers south of the town of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the Côte de Beaune which starts at Ladoix and ends at Dezize-les-Maranges. The wine-growing part of this area in the heart of Burgundy is just 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) wide. The area is made up of tiny villages surrounded by a combination of flat and sloped vineyards on the eastern side of a hilly region, providing some rain and weather shelter from the prevailing westerly winds. T

he best wines - from "Grand Cru" vineyards - of this region are usually grown from the middle and higher part of the slopes, where the vineyards have the most exposure to sunshine and the best drainage, while the "Premier Cru" come from a little less favourably exposed slopes. The relatively ordinary "Village" wines are produced from the flat territory nearer the villages. The Côte de Nuits contains 24 out of the 25 red Grand Cru appellations in Burgundy, while all of the region's white Grand Crus are located in the Côte de Beaune. This is explained by the presence of different soils, which favour Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where again a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced, although the appellations found here such as Mercurey, Rully and Givry are less well known than their counterparts in the Côte d'Or. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing large quantities of easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region, famous for fruity red wines made from Gamay. Burgundy experiences a continental climate characterized by very cold winters and hot summers. The weather is very unpredictable with rains, hail, and frost all possible around harvest time. Because of this climate, there is a lot of variation between vintages from Burgundy.
You can find more info at: