I really love Catavino – it’s such an informative and innovative source of information on Spanish & Portuguese wines. The food of the region is key, but it’s just as vital to know about the great wines available too. This is the place to find out!
Jose Pizzaro http://www.josepizarro.com

We had five grapes before there were grapes! What’s the Point?

The Point

There is a storm a brewing. A storm that I tackled a long time ago right here on this blog back when Catavino still had a green backdrop and grape leaves overhead. The storm revolves around how wine bloggers can create a standardized wine rating system of their own, separate from the rating system used by the wine rags we hope to upstage one day.

Points are a sticky subject when it comes to wine, making for hot debates as to which system is better and why. And as a result of each blogger defending their own rating system, I figured, seeing that Catavino’s been using the 5pts/stars/grapes system recently proposed by the wine community, for what has been almost 2 years, I should give my reasons for choosing it in the first place.

But first: I HATE POINTS. There I said it, it’s true and it’s my belief that while in the beginning Parkers’s famous 100pt scale did a lot to help wine, it’s time has come and gone. I like Parker, and I appreciate what his scale has done for wine over the years. I believe it helped to wake up a whole industry and for a good part of the past 1/4 century helped to improve wine quality across the board. But all good ideas need to make way for even better ideas as time goes on. The idea of 100pts is one boat that I believe is starting to set sail, though I’m not sure how large the harbor is. Currently we have a generation of wine “geeks” who do not know what life is like without Parker telling them what to drink. For this reason many of these people, I believe, might not fully grasp what is to gain from moving away from the prophets system and instead into a new fresh vibrant world of 5pts. So here’s my reasoning that I went through a year ago as I left my comfortable 100pt cloak behind and moved to a much thinner wardrobe.

These are the questions that I want to ask or address with my points.

  1. First, did the wine have a flaw>?
  2. Second, was the wine poorly made?
  3. Third, was it good enough that most people would like it?
  4. Finally, was this a “special” wine?

Uh oh, you noticed it too? A four grape scale? What to do? What to do! Well, the truth is that in the beginning I wanted to get to a 3 pt scale, but thumbs up, thumbs down, and thumbs cockeyed didn’t really make much sense to me. Also, as I did this, I realized that the Sangre de Toro that I had last night really was a thumbs up, but the Dominio de la Vega Cava I had tonight also a thumbs up, though up a bit higher, finding myself running out of thumbs as I tasted better and better wine, I decided that I might need a touch more nuance.

Thus, I conceded that I needed to be able to communicate to people, “Here are your solid wines, rock solid, good everyday burger and pizza fare wines.” while at the same time, telling them, “This bottle is special and something that a few extra moments of thought should be given to.”
Because of this reasoning we now have the 5 grape scale we use today. As has been pointed out ad nausea, no one can tell a 91 pt wine from a 92 pt wine, but we sure as hell can tell the difference between a 90pt wine and 100pt wine, or at least we all hope we could.

Here is the scale we use:(disclaimer, during the writing of this I noticed that I still had 0 grapes as a possible rating. This has been removed as my current thought is that a 6pt(12) scale is not needed to express my thoughts on a wine.)
Catavino Rating system
1-5 grapes (worse-best)

1 grape – Flawed wine, corked, undrinkable, should be returned to retailer.
2 grape – Uninteresting, not particularly true to style, drinkable, but not seekable!
3 grape – Good wine, with varietal correctness, and good drinkability (Everyday wine)
4 grape – Rich layered, well made, High drinkability. If applicable to the wine’s style, it has potential to mature and develop.
5 grape – Special, unique in its perfection. Pushes the boundaries, in a good way, of what this style of wine can be. Depending on style, high ability to age

Yes I know some people think, this is really a 10pt system because we use half points. So what!? I think it’s much better than the 100pt scale or the 20 point scale. With the 100 point scale, I can’t tell the difference between 1pt’s worth of variation within scores, while the 20pt scale is basically a 100pt scale with number inflation. As EL Jefe points out, in the end it’s about the note, and I agree our notes are not doing enough for the wines we write about. I used to, and at times still do, take verbose notes, but I also take the quick short note with all my typical TN note tricks inside. Color, Nose, Tannin, Palate, Scoreâ€Â¦Tadaaa! When in reality, we should not be talking about the scale as much as the notes. Here’s a quick solution to the over reliance in points, use the points, but put them at the end of the note, where you can get to them after reading about the wine.

So to wrap this up, I want to add few thoughts on the note itself and what we should all be looking for if we do rate a wine. First off, wine needs to be rated in peer groups. I’ve said this in so many forums over the years, and in comments around the blog-o-sphere, and yet people still seem not to understand me. Please let me know if I start making sense now. All wines, styles, grapes, and regions need a pinnacle to aim for – perfection for that type of wine, the ideal wine in its category. This ideal, needs to be a goal based on what the grape, region or style is capable of. Champagne cannot be compared to Argentine Malbec, though a correlation to Cava could be made. Why is it RP, WS, WE, and any other 2 letter wine critics only seem to give the infamous 100pt score to big, long lasting wines from regions that make wines so expensive only -1% of the planet ever tastes them?

I mentioned this idea recently in a post here and in response one person mentioned the idea of place and experience affecting the wines flavor. Yes it does, but I say no to the idea that a light white wine from the north of Portugal can never earn 100pt/5stars/two thumbs unless consumed in the idea conditions. All wines deserve to have a “perfect” score or an ideal. Wine rating should not be based on one set of criteria for all styles. If Vinho Verde was told it had to be “ageable” to get a 100pt score, it would have to be said that there would never be a 100pt version of this wine! Vinho Verde HAS TO BE DRUNK EARLY, that’s what makes it so friggin beautiful. Its freshness and ability not to age is what I love about it. I hear this argument all the time, “well, some grapes just make inferior wines”. Well they may make a style that is inferior to another grapes style, but they still have a 100pt example of the best they can be.

To clarify with an analogy, let’s take a Ferrari, a 100pt car – fast beautiful and damn sexy, but it’s terrible at towing trailers! Hence, as a construction worker, I prefer a MAC truck. 100pt car? Aside from the fact that one is a truck and one is a car, they both are automobiles and run on petrol. Neither are 100pt automobiles when judged by standards for which the automobile was never designed for. I guarantee you that I would never assume, nor judge, a MAC truck to go on the Autobahn at 200 miles an hour. Why? Because it wasn’t designed for that purpose and neither is an Vinho Verde elaborated to be a big, heavy, meat wine to be cellared for decades.

Hold on because my rant is almost over. I’m sure someone is going to have an opinion to post here, but this is the gist I want you to walk away with. If you are a blogger and want to accept the 5pt scale, and you don’t like the idea of half points, don’t use them. They are there for us who can never make up our minds. We can still have a 5pt scale though. Second, DO NOT PUT YOUR POINTS IN THE TITLE OR FIRST TWO THIRDS OF YOUR POST. Put them at the bottom, as an after thought. Make your comments the focus of your post then the price, and finally, the points. If we’re all so bothered by points, we shouldn’t make them so prominent. Oh, and please post some bad tasting notes. I know people want to remain positive, but nobody seems to post bad wine reviews. What kind of love fest is this? Don’t we want winemakers to make better wines? Shouldn’t we point out the bad ones?

Finally, think outside of the box and take notes as you drink the wine in a manner that actually tells your audience a little bit more about the wine, the experience, or the day. I’ll personally buy a wine that moved you emotionally more quickly than a wine that moved you to adjectives. Poems, videos, audio, or maybe pictures, I’m not sure if any of these are better or more helpful, but they sure are more fun. And in the end, isn’t wine supposed to be fun?

Till soon,

Ryan Opaz

  • Dr. Debs

    Ryan, this is very interesting and you're the first one to provide a possible rubric for the 5-star or 5-grape system. However. Your 1 grape rating is not necessarily the wine's fault and shouldn't, in my opinion, be used as a rating. If a wine is corked, it is different than if a wine is just a badly conceived wine made with bad fruit. Your bottle may be flawed, but mine may be fine. Most of the wines I drink would rate 3 grapes. They are everyday wines. I'm trying to promote everyday wine culture in the US consumer. However, with the use of the 5 grape scale, my guess is that most people would pass up on the 3 grape wines and see them as not as desirable. This would be a shame, since most of them are great values, go well with food, and are easy to find. I don't believe I've ever had a wine that fits into your 5 grape category, except possibly for a Silver Oak Cab and an aged Bordeaux. Not even a nice young Pinot Noir that I would say was excellent value, an excellent wine, and had excellent varietal characteristics would push the boundaries of perfection in the ways you describe. So for me this leaves me with a 3 point scale, with most of my wines falling on number 3 and 4. They would be doomed to the same dismissal as the 80-89 point wines by folks who are following scores. And 1/2 points don't help, in my opinion. I think it's great that we are all thinking about this issue, since it is an important one. But forgive me for believing that the implementation of the 5 point scale, with 1/2 points, may fall victim to the same problems we dislike in the wine magazines.

  • Ryan

    DRDebs, on my scale a 2 dollar sweet sparkling wine can get 5 stars, becasue it fits it's style perfectly. It's exactly what that wine should be. My scale would not work if you didn't give 5 stars to perfect wines, that are of all ranges and styles. "Special, unique in its perfection. Pushes the boundaries, in a good way, of what this style of wine can be. Depending on style, high ability to age" I never say it needs to be expensive, age a long time, or needs to fit any other categories. Only that it needs to be perfect for it's style. I've had many wines like this. To the 1pt rating problem, Yours may not be corked but if we use this, then over time when a bad batch of corks or oxidized wine hits the market, we can see it in the ratings. Sometimes flawed wine in one bottle is indicative of a problem in a whole tank/barrel/or shipment. There needs to be a way to note this. If we keep 1pt wines for flawed bottles we can then possibly see trends. They need to be acknowledged and not ignored, since a head in the sand doesn't make the problem go away. As to falling victim to the same problems as wine rags, I have to say, it's the attitude, and the way you use it that will be the main difference. As I say don't emphasize the points, use them as the final punctuation on your tasting note sentence. 1/2 points are not evil, just nuance! ;)

  • Dr. Debs

    OK, that helps a lot. For me the "perfection" phrase doesn't work as well as how you just described it, but that's apples, oranges, and grapes for you. I don't give 100 pts on papers, either, I should say, because I've never read anything that was perfect :). And I didn't say you had suggested it needed to be expensive, age, etc. I just said the only two wines I've ever had that I thought pushed the boundaries and was perfect were the two I mention. Still worried, though, but happy that you've actually produced a standard for what is supposed to be standardized ratings!

  • RichardA

    What exactly do we want our Ratings to accomplish? And are those purposes better off served in Tasting Notes rather than a rating? I use a very simple Rating system, with only 3 categories. I thought this would make sense, and avoid some of the issues of the other rating systems. 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 is said 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. One significant issue with having 100 point, 20 points, or even 5, is that people will only seek out the highest rated wines. Thus, they miss out on other good wines. Even at 5 points, you are still susceptible to people seeking only the 4&5 point wines. With my 3 point system, all the recommended wines come under the same point. Thus, there is no trophy searching. And maybe more people will drink wines that would only receive good, but not excellent points, in other systems.

  • Gabriella Opaz

    DEB: However. Your 1 grape rating is not necessarily the wine’s fault and shouldn’t, in my opinion, be used as a rating. If a wine is corked, it is different than if a wine is just a badly conceived wine made with bad fruit. Your bottle may be flawed, but mine may be I see what you're saying Deb, but I personally think we have to remember that each and every bottle is to rated individually, not as a critique of the wine itself. I think it is my responsibility to be honest about each wine, and comment if it is corked, as much as it is my responsibility to comment whether it is a stellar wine. However, I also think we need to try the wine a second, third and fourth time to see if there is consistency. If a bottle is always rated at a one by several people, it should alert the winemaker that we have an issue. If, however, I rate it a 1 at one tasting, and you rate it a 4 at another, it shows us that that the bottle I had was a fluke. By the end of the day, I like the 5 point scale because it both gives me more options, as much as it leaves the message clear and muddled.

  • RichardA

    Another interesting point I found in the original SF Chronicle article was that wines are really only rated once in their lifetimes. They generally do not get ratings years later, though wine does evolve over time. I always thought that many ratings were often predictions of how a wine might age. Yet does the wine live up to that potential? And why doesn't anyone track those changes?

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    Ryan, this is very interesting and you’re the first one to provide a possible rubric for the 5-star or 5-grape system.

    However. Your 1 grape rating is not necessarily the wine’s fault and shouldn’t, in my opinion, be used as a rating. If a wine is corked, it is different than if a wine is just a badly conceived wine made with bad fruit. Your bottle may be flawed, but mine may be fine.

    Most of the wines I drink would rate 3 grapes. They are everyday wines. I’m trying to promote everyday wine culture in the US consumer. However, with the use of the 5 grape scale, my guess is that most people would pass up on the 3 grape wines and see them as not as desirable. This would be a shame, since most of them are great values, go well with food, and are easy to find.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever had a wine that fits into your 5 grape category, except possibly for a Silver Oak Cab and an aged Bordeaux. Not even a nice young Pinot Noir that I would say was excellent value, an excellent wine, and had excellent varietal characteristics would push the boundaries of perfection in the ways you describe.

    So for me this leaves me with a 3 point scale, with most of my wines falling on number 3 and 4. They would be doomed to the same dismissal as the 80-89 point wines by folks who are following scores. And 1/2 points don’t help, in my opinion.

    I think it’s great that we are all thinking about this issue, since it is an important one. But forgive me for believing that the implementation of the 5 point scale, with 1/2 points, may fall victim to the same problems we dislike in the wine magazines.

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan

    DRDebs, on my scale a 2 dollar sweet sparkling wine can get 5 stars, becasue it fits it’s style perfectly. It’s exactly what that wine should be. My scale would not work if you didn’t give 5 stars to perfect wines, that are of all ranges and styles. “Special, unique in its perfection. Pushes the boundaries, in a good way, of what this style of wine can be. Depending on style, high ability to age” I never say it needs to be expensive, age a long time, or needs to fit any other categories. Only that it needs to be perfect for it’s style. I’ve had many wines like this.

    To the 1pt rating problem, Yours may not be corked but if we use this, then over time when a bad batch of corks or oxidized wine hits the market, we can see it in the ratings. Sometimes flawed wine in one bottle is indicative of a problem in a whole tank/barrel/or shipment. There needs to be a way to note this. If we keep 1pt wines for flawed bottles we can then possibly see trends. They need to be acknowledged and not ignored, since a head in the sand doesn’t make the problem go away.

    As to falling victim to the same problems as wine rags, I have to say, it’s the attitude, and the way you use it that will be the main difference. As I say don’t emphasize the points, use them as the final punctuation on your tasting note sentence. 1/2 points are not evil, just nuance! ;)

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    OK, that helps a lot. For me the “perfection” phrase doesn’t work as well as how you just described it, but that’s apples, oranges, and grapes for you. I don’t give 100 pts on papers, either, I should say, because I’ve never read anything that was perfect :). And I didn’t say you had suggested it needed to be expensive, age, etc. I just said the only two wines I’ve ever had that I thought pushed the boundaries and was perfect were the two I mention.

    Still worried, though, but happy that you’ve actually produced a standard for what is supposed to be standardized ratings!

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    What exactly do we want our Ratings to accomplish? And are those purposes better off served in Tasting Notes rather than a rating?

    I use a very simple Rating system, with only 3 categories. I thought this would make sense, and avoid some of the issues of the other rating systems.

    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 is said 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.

    One significant issue with having 100 point, 20 points, or even 5, is that people will only seek out the highest rated wines. Thus, they miss out on other good wines. Even at 5 points, you are still susceptible to people seeking only the 4&5 point wines. With my 3 point system, all the recommended wines come under the same point. Thus, there is no trophy searching. And maybe more people will drink wines that would only receive good, but not excellent points, in other systems.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    DEB: However. Your 1 grape rating is not necessarily the wine’s fault and shouldn’t, in my opinion, be used as a rating. If a wine is corked, it is different than if a wine is just a badly conceived wine made with bad fruit. Your bottle may be flawed, but mine may be

    I see what you’re saying Deb, but I personally think we have to remember that each and every bottle is to rated individually, not as a critique of the wine itself. I think it is my responsibility to be honest about each wine, and comment if it is corked, as much as it is my responsibility to comment whether it is a stellar wine. However, I also think we need to try the wine a second, third and fourth time to see if there is consistency. If a bottle is always rated at a one by several people, it should alert the winemaker that we have an issue. If, however, I rate it a 1 at one tasting, and you rate it a 4 at another, it shows us that that the bottle I had was a fluke. By the end of the day, I like the 5 point scale because it both gives me more options, as much as it leaves the message clear and muddled.

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    Another interesting point I found in the original SF Chronicle article was that wines are really only rated once in their lifetimes. They generally do not get ratings years later, though wine does evolve over time. I always thought that many ratings were often predictions of how a wine might age. Yet does the wine live up to that potential? And why doesn’t anyone track those changes?

  • Dr. Debs

    Gabriella: I see, but I disagree. Corked wine should get an F for flaw, in my opinion, not a number. At CellarTracker they use this system so that your FLAW comment is registered, but doesn't effect the CT average score. RichardA: People are tracking these changes on CellarTracker. You should check out the site if you are interested in this. People taste Bordeaux practically every week and you can see the numbers go up as the wine ages, and down as it enters the dumb period, then up again as the wine continues to develop.

  • Pingback: Anonymous

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    Gabriella: I see, but I disagree. Corked wine should get an F for flaw, in my opinion, not a number. At CellarTracker they use this system so that your FLAW comment is registered, but doesn’t effect the CT average score.

    RichardA: People are tracking these changes on CellarTracker. You should check out the site if you are interested in this. People taste Bordeaux practically every week and you can see the numbers go up as the wine ages, and down as it enters the dumb period, then up again as the wine continues to develop.

  • RichardA

    Thanks Debs! Good to know.

  • Pingback: Unified Wine Blogger Wine Rating System

  • http://passionatefoodie.blogspot.com/ RichardA

    Thanks Debs! Good to know.

  • Gabriella Opaz

    First, allow me to make a correction in the last line of my post when I said that "as much as it leaves the message clear and muddled", because I meant to say "unmuddled". Secondarily, maybe I am naive on the topic, but someone please explain to me why a 1 and an F are different. A score communicates the quality of the wine not only based on my individual perception, but also on a standard created by the community. For example, let's take the US version of grading based on the A-F system. A meaning fantastic work and F meaning poor work. If I am grading an essay from a child who is typically an excellent student but just so happens to write a horrific essay, should I give the child an "OD" because they were having an "off day" or should I give the child an "F" for writing a bad essay. What if this happens several times and the quality of that was once spectacular work is now quite poor, should I just keep giving "OD" to salvage his/her grade point average or should I give an "F" to communicate to the child that they need to get there head in the game? A major part of winemaking is consistency. If a winery is constantly making bad wine, the average score should communicate this inconsistency. As taken from Mark Squires Bulletin Board: <a href="http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.ph…“><a href="http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/show…burgundy ” target=”_blank”>http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.ph…burgundy The vintages that are mentioned the most often regarding the issue of premature oxidation of white Burgundies are 1996 and 1999 (to this list the 2000s will soon be added, IMHO), and, to a lesser extent, 1995. 1996, 1999, and 2000 were years that set records for production in Burgundy. Yields were so high that producers asked for (and received) the right to produce 40% above the legal limit. Even so, many vignerons harvested much more wine than they were allowed to and the excess was delivered to distilleries (including such brilliant winemakers as Coche). Extremely high yields are, in my opinion, a serious culprit in regards to this problem as they translate to low “matière” (or “stuffing”) as the French would say. In short, many of the wines lacked the concentration of fruit for long-term cellaring. Premature oxidation = a flawed wine Should we give an entire vintage an "F" or should we make an impact on the average score of the wine?

  • Gabriella Opaz

    First, allow me to make a correction in the last line of my post when I said that "as much as it leaves the message clear and muddled", because I meant to say "unmuddled". Secondarily, maybe I am naive on the topic, but someone please explain to me why a 1 and an F are different. A score communicates the quality of the wine not only based on my individual perception, but also on a standard created by the community. For example, let's take the US version of grading based on the A-F system. A meaning fantastic work and F meaning poor work. If I am grading an essay from a child who is typically an excellent student but just so happens to write a horrific essay, should I give the child an "OD" because they were having an "off day" or should I give the child an "F" for writing a bad essay. What if this happens several times and the quality of that was once spectacular work is now quite poor, should I just keep giving "OD" to salvage his/her grade point average or should I give an "F" to communicate to the child that they need to get there head in the game? A major part of winemaking is consistency. If a winery is constantly making bad wine, the average score should communicate this inconsistency. As taken from Mark Squires Bulletin Board: <a href="http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.ph…“><a href="http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/show…burgundy ” target=”_blank”>http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.ph…burgundy The vintages that are mentioned the most often regarding the issue of premature oxidation of white Burgundies are 1996 and 1999 (to this list the 2000s will soon be added, IMHO), and, to a lesser extent, 1995. 1996, 1999, and 2000 were years that set records for production in Burgundy. Yields were so high that producers asked for (and received) the right to produce 40% above the legal limit. Even so, many vignerons harvested much more wine than they were allowed to and the excess was delivered to distilleries (including such brilliant winemakers as Coche). Extremely high yields are, in my opinion, a serious culprit in regards to this problem as they translate to low “matière” (or “stuffing”) as the French would say. In short, many of the wines lacked the concentration of fruit for long-term cellaring. Premature oxidation = a flawed wine Should we give an entire vintage an "F" or should we make an impact on the average score of the wine?

  • Gabriella Opaz

    First, allow me to make a correction in the last line of my post when I said that "as much as it leaves the message clear and muddled", because I meant to say "unmuddled". Secondarily, maybe I am naive on the topic, but someone please explain to me why a 1 and an F are different. A score communicates the quality of the wine not only based on my individual perception, but also on a standard created by the community. For example, let's take the US version of grading based on the A-F system. A meaning fantastic work and F meaning poor work. If I am grading an essay from a child who is typically an excellent student but just so happens to write a horrific essay, should I give the child an "OD" because they were having an "off day" or should I give the child an "F" for writing a bad essay. What if this happens several times and the quality of that was once spectacular work is now quite poor, should I just keep giving "OD" to salvage his/her grade point average or should I give an "F" to communicate to the child that they need to get there head in the game? A major part of winemaking is consistency. If a winery is constantly making bad wine, the average score should communicate this inconsistency. As taken from Mark Squires Bulletin Board: <a href="http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.ph…“><a href="http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/show…burgundy ” target=”_blank”>http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.ph…burgundy The vintages that are mentioned the most often regarding the issue of premature oxidation of white Burgundies are 1996 and 1999 (to this list the 2000s will soon be added, IMHO), and, to a lesser extent, 1995. 1996, 1999, and 2000 were years that set records for production in Burgundy. Yields were so high that producers asked for (and received) the right to produce 40% above the legal limit. Even so, many vignerons harvested much more wine than they were allowed to and the excess was delivered to distilleries (including such brilliant winemakers as Coche). Extremely high yields are, in my opinion, a serious culprit in regards to this problem as they translate to low “matière” (or “stuffing”) as the French would say. In short, many of the wines lacked the concentration of fruit for long-term cellaring. Premature oxidation = a flawed wine Should we give an entire vintage an "F" or should we make an impact on the average score of the wine?

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    First, allow me to make a correction in the last line of my post when I said that “as much as it leaves the message clear and muddled”, because I meant to say “unmuddled”.

    Secondarily, maybe I am naive on the topic, but someone please explain to me why a 1 and an F are different. A score communicates the quality of the wine not only based on my individual perception, but also on a standard created by the community. For example, let’s take the US version of grading based on the A-F system. A meaning fantastic work and F meaning poor work. If I am grading an essay from a child who is typically an excellent student but just so happens to write a horrific essay, should I give the child an “OD” because they were having an “off day” or should I give the child an “F” for writing a bad essay. What if this happens several times and the quality of that was once spectacular work is now quite poor, should I just keep giving “OD” to salvage his/her grade point average or should I give an “F” to communicate to the child that they need to get there head in the game? A major part of winemaking is consistency. If a winery is constantly making bad wine, the average score should communicate this inconsistency.

    As taken from Mark Squires Bulletin Board: http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=162&highlight=rovani+burgundy

    The vintages that are mentioned the most often regarding the issue of premature oxidation of white Burgundies are 1996 and 1999 (to this list the 2000s will soon be added, IMHO), and, to a lesser extent, 1995.

    1996, 1999, and 2000 were years that set records for production in Burgundy. Yields were so high that producers asked for (and received) the right to produce 40% above the legal limit. Even so, many vignerons harvested much more wine than they were allowed to and the excess was delivered to distilleries (including such brilliant winemakers as Coche). Extremely high yields are, in my opinion, a serious culprit in regards to this problem as they translate to low “matière” (or “stuffing”) as the French would say. In short, many of the wines lacked the concentration of fruit for long-term cellaring.

    Premature oxidation = a flawed wine

    Should we give an entire vintage an “F” or should we make an impact on the average score of the wine?

  • Dr. Debs

    Gabriella: A "1" and an "F" are different because if you average out a "1" and a "5" you get a "3." If you average an "F" and a "5" you get a "5" along with with a note that there have been flawed bottles tasted. There is a difference between bad wine and a corked bottle. In Ryan's rubric above, he lists corked and should be returned to seller. These indicate a bottle problem–not a vintage problem like the one above. Premature oxidation can be a result of a bottle problem or can be the result of a bad vintage. I don't believe it is the merchants fault that 1996, 1999, and 2000 were bad vintages. You should not return the wine to them for refund. I don't believe you should return the bottle to the merchant it you left it outside in the hot sun for 2 days and decided it was "cooked." I do believe that you can and should return the bottle to the merchant if it smells like wet cardboard, since that is a cork flaw and not your fault. All I was suggesting is that if the wine rating system is used to AGGREGATE SCORES ACROSS BLOGS then it might be a good thing not to conflate flawed wines and flawed/corked/cooked BOTTLES.

  • http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com Dr. Debs

    Gabriella: A “1″ and an “F” are different because if you average out a “1″ and a “5″ you get a “3.” If you average an “F” and a “5″ you get a “5″ along with with a note that there have been flawed bottles tasted.

    There is a difference between bad wine and a corked bottle. In Ryan’s rubric above, he lists corked and should be returned to seller. These indicate a bottle problem–not a vintage problem like the one above. Premature oxidation can be a result of a bottle problem or can be the result of a bad vintage.

    I don’t believe it is the merchants fault that 1996, 1999, and 2000 were bad vintages. You should not return the wine to them for refund.

    I don’t believe you should return the bottle to the merchant it you left it outside in the hot sun for 2 days and decided it was “cooked.”

    I do believe that you can and should return the bottle to the merchant if it smells like wet cardboard, since that is a cork flaw and not your fault.

    All I was suggesting is that if the wine rating system is used to AGGREGATE SCORES ACROSS BLOGS then it might be a good thing not to conflate flawed wines and flawed/corked/cooked BOTTLES.

  • Ryan

    Debs, I disagree with the no return policy on oxidized wine. That can be the fault of the wine shop, importer, and winery…it could also be your own fault, but I hope you would notice that you did something wrong and have enough sense not to return the wine. On the other hand we need "1" to average out in the score, because if one or two bottles are corked a "1" won't hurt the average that much, but if there is a trend towards bad bottles from this producer, vintage or bottling, then that wine becomes a "risky" wine to buy. I would hope that a wine who used a bad batch of corks, was given too much sulfites, a brett infection, reduction problems, or showed oxidizedation on a large scale(all faults that deserve a 1 score)would see it's overall score drop. Going back to my car analogy, if you know a type of car has had a bad reputation with brakes, with one in 3 cars needing new brakes just after purchase, that would be a flaw that should show in the "ratings". Now if one new car of this type had a bad set of breaks, but it was not a regular thing with this model…well the law of averages would smooth out that one bump. I took back as a merchant MANY bottles of 1996, Burgundy, and my distributor, who was working with the importer and winery, gave me money back. YOU SHOULD return wine that is has a large scale problem, or is heat damaged or oxidized badly, if you just bought it. These are flaws, abuse or otherwise. Wine makers and their wines need to be held accountable if they choose not to take precautions to make sure the wine arrives in good shape to the consumers.

  • Gabriella Opaz

    I agree with Ryan. Accountability is the key here and without it, I feel that scores don't hold the same value or weight.

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan

    Debs, I disagree with the no return policy on oxidized wine. That can be the fault of the wine shop, importer, and winery…it could also be your own fault, but I hope you would notice that you did something wrong and have enough sense not to return the wine.

    On the other hand we need “1″ to average out in the score, because if one or two bottles are corked a “1″ won’t hurt the average that much, but if there is a trend towards bad bottles from this producer, vintage or bottling, then that wine becomes a “risky” wine to buy. I would hope that a wine who used a bad batch of corks, was given too much sulfites, a brett infection, reduction problems, or showed oxidizedation on a large scale(all faults that deserve a 1 score)would see it’s overall score drop.

    Going back to my car analogy, if you know a type of car has had a bad reputation with brakes, with one in 3 cars needing new brakes just after purchase, that would be a flaw that should show in the “ratings”. Now if one new car of this type had a bad set of breaks, but it was not a regular thing with this model…well the law of averages would smooth out that one bump.

    I took back as a merchant MANY bottles of 1996, Burgundy, and my distributor, who was working with the importer and winery, gave me money back. YOU SHOULD return wine that is has a large scale problem, or is heat damaged or oxidized badly, if you just bought it. These are flaws, abuse or otherwise. Wine makers and their wines need to be held accountable if they choose not to take precautions to make sure the wine arrives in good shape to the consumers.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    I agree with Ryan. Accountability is the key here and without it, I feel that scores don’t hold the same value or weight.

  • bbennett

    I was leaning towards Gabriella's argument until arithmetic reared it's ugly head in the discussion. It is absolutely true that 'F' is not a number and therefore "flawed" bottles would not be included in any calculation of the relative merit of a wine (regardless of whose fault it is). It is imperative that the flawed bottle be included in any overall rating of that wine. We also need to consider the wide range of people that will use the scale, and their differing levels of wine tasting experience. A newcomer may taste a bottle and know that something is wrong, but may not know why. Therefore, instead of having to make a judgment that "the wine is corked", they can simply rate the wine as a 1. Since wine tasting is so subjective, why add yet another level of complexity by requiring the declaration of a corked bottle with a separate designation? The whole point of collective wine rating is to average the subjective reflections of the myriad tasters into a shared construct of the wine's overall rating. If the wine is flawed, do as Ryan suggests and be specific about the flaws in the tasting notes. To me, the only issue I have with the scale is that it's more difficult to slot wines into a specific order of preference. That is where the 100 point scale is more effective. It allows the best wine to be on top numerically. So, if I drink 5 3 Grape wines, the only way to distinguish one is by awarding another 1/2 Grape to one. But what if two of the wines deserved another 1/2 Grape, but I enjoyed one more than the other? Putting that preference in the tasting notes is not sufficient, in my opinion, because of the flood of wines that will come after. There is no arithmetic way to compare that written preference to the next set of wines that come along.

  • bbennett

    I was leaning towards Gabriella’s argument until arithmetic reared it’s ugly head in the discussion. It is absolutely true that ‘F’ is not a number and therefore “flawed” bottles would not be included in any calculation of the relative merit of a wine (regardless of whose fault it is). It is imperative that the flawed bottle be included in any overall rating of that wine.

    We also need to consider the wide range of people that will use the scale, and their differing levels of wine tasting experience. A newcomer may taste a bottle and know that something is wrong, but may not know why. Therefore, instead of having to make a judgment that “the wine is corked”, they can simply rate the wine as a 1. Since wine tasting is so subjective, why add yet another level of complexity by requiring the declaration of a corked bottle with a separate designation? The whole point of collective wine rating is to average the subjective reflections of the myriad tasters into a shared construct of the wine’s overall rating. If the wine is flawed, do as Ryan suggests and be specific about the flaws in the tasting notes.

    To me, the only issue I have with the scale is that it’s more difficult to slot wines into a specific order of preference. That is where the 100 point scale is more effective. It allows the best wine to be on top numerically. So, if I drink 5 3 Grape wines, the only way to distinguish one is by awarding another 1/2 Grape to one. But what if two of the wines deserved another 1/2 Grape, but I enjoyed one more than the other? Putting that preference in the tasting notes is not sufficient, in my opinion, because of the flood of wines that will come after. There is no arithmetic way to compare that written preference to the next set of wines that come along.

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