Before the web, blogging, and micro-blogging, there were magazines and newspapers where people would read about ratings of wines. There were relatively few reviewers at that time. But now, anybody can review and rate a wine.
How do you choose a reviewer to trust? And what makes a good review?
There are well known people in the wine world, such as Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson. People have read their reviews and understand what/how they rate the wines (hopefully).
With new reviewers, and maybe even with the well-known ones, here are a few tips or ideas that might help you in your quest for a wine review you can trust.
1. Know the style of wines that a reviewer likes. Do they like fruit forward wines, or are they more into the structure of a wine and how the tannins / sugar / acid / fruit balance each other. If you are a person that likes fruit forward wines, try to find a reviewer with similar tastes.
2. Does the reviewer have any wine training / background? It’s true that there can be some people who are naturally talented and can become good wine tasters and reviewers, but I think finding someone that has been trained in how to taste and critique a wine, will give you an added level of assurance in what they say about a wine. I like my carpenter analogy here. I can build a house, but I’d trust a house built by a professional carpenter that went to Trade school, more than I would trust the house I build.
3. If you find a wine that you are considering purchasing being reviewed, check to see when that review was done. If the review is more than a year old, it is possible that the wine has since changed in the bottle (if it is a bottle with cork, not screw cap), so some of the aromas and flavours back at the original tasting, may not hold true now. One thing you can check is if that reviewer gave their opinion on how the wine will age, or how long it can age to reach it’s potential.
I did a test with 2 bottles of Altenbourg Riesling I had purchased a few years ago. I opened one up and wrote my tasting notes, then opened the other bottle a year later, and wrote my tasting notes, then compared the two tasting notes and there were differences.
4. This one is optional. But I’d recommend to find wine reviewers that specialize in different parts of the world. For example, for Australian wines, I may search the web for a wine writer in Australia that knows more than just the wine. The writer may actually go to the wineries, speak with the wine maker, and give you a more rounded picture of the wine and what the goals are of the winery. Someone from another part of the world, could give you a good review/rating of a wine, but maybe not the story surrounding the wine And sometimes that is just as interesting as the wine.
An additional thought on this is that if the reviewer doesn’t live in the region but has travelled there and spent time with wine makers, toured the vineyards, etc., they could give you a bit more insight or story around the wines that they are reviewing. I know when I travel to Oregon and California that I have a better appreciation for the wineries and the wines, and I can offer my readers more information about the wine and winery.
5. Understand the rating scale. Most wines are rated on a 100 point scale. Hopefully a 90 point wine is rated at 90 points by a majority of professional tasters. But it might not be. There can be tasters that prefer fruit forward wines. If a wine doesn’t have that characteristic, maybe the wine will get an 88 point rating. Try to understand the wine writer’s views on how they review wines and assign points.
I personally am not the greatest fan of assigning points to wines. I’ve tried to stay away from it in my reviews and just tell people what I taste and smell, if I like it, and if I think it can cellar for a while. I think people like this kind of information, but to try to differentiate an 89 from a 90 point wine, I think is hard, and for most of the people drinking wine for their enjoyment, are not going to be able to tell either. How does that sound to you?
I’d love to hear your feedback on this article. Maybe you want me to rate wine with points. Let me know. Cheers!